More than 100 Chicago tech execs sign letter urging immigration reform
State's GOP delegation told of need for foreign engineers, scientists
More than 100 Chicago technology executives have sent a letter to the state's Republican congressional delegation calling on them to pass immigration reform, citing a need for foreign engineers and scientists and the positive impact those immigrants have on the U.S. economy.
Todd O'Hara, 31, a derivatives trader who founded startup Toodalu, which was acquired last year, circulated the letter on behalf of FWD.us, a bipartisan political advocacy group co-founded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other prominent Silicon Valley leaders.
"To be very honest, this was not an issue that was on my radar until I got in the tech community," O'Hara said. "I'm a Caucasian guy from Minnesota. I'm not directly affected by immigration reform. But once I immersed myself in the tech community, it became clear that some of the brightest and best minds in the community were from abroad. ... And after we educate them, we tell them they can't stay here. We can't reap the benefits of our own intellectual property."
There is a chronic shortage of computer engineers, software designers and other tech professionals. More foreigners with expertise and visas, as well as paths to citizenship, would help fill the need. And basic economics says that if the supply of talent increases, then the price of acquiring that talent falls.
The FWD team warned O'Hara that gathering the necessary signatures "could take a couple of months." O'Hara said he replied that it would take only days. He was right.designers and other tech professionals. More foreigners with expertise and visas, as well as paths to citizenship, would help fill the need. And basic economics says that if the supply of talent increases, then the price of acquiring that talent falls.
"They would open up the email and reply, 'Yes,' and basically it was that quick," he said. "No one said, 'No.' Maybe a name or two never got back to us. And probably that name or two will, I'm sure, read this article, and give us a call, saying, 'Ah, so sorry.'"
Among the signatories: 1871 CEO Howard Tullman; Motorola Solutions CEO Greg Brown; Shradha Agarwal, chief strategy officer of ContextMedia; Craig Ulliott, chief technology officer of Belly; Eric Lunt, CTO of BrightTag; and Katy Lynch of SocialKaty.