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Economy & Business

Pittsburgh Business Leaders Urge Federal Lawmakers for Immigration Reform

More than 700,000 international students enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2011-2012, up 31 percent over the last decade. Pennsylvania business and faith leaders met with members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation today to discuss immigration reform and how it can benefit the state.

When an agreement was reached to end the partial government shutdown, President Obama called on Congress to make immigration reform a top priority.

Representatives from the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with lawmakers and discuss how to motivate international students to remain in Pittsburgh - creating more jobs and boosting economic growth.

“It’s pretty important for us when we attract all the diversity that we do across all the universities in our region [that] we do what we can to keep them here,” says Pittsburgh Technology Council President & CEO Audrey Russo, “they’re actually doing, many of them, advanced studies in innovation and leveraging intellectual property that could certainly drive the next transformation of our economy.”

Officials from organizations such as the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association and Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry joined more than five hundred advocates from across the U.S. to urge lawmakers to enact immigration reform

“The kind of legislation that you know we’re particularly interested in is making sure that when people actually graduate out of our universities that they have an opportunity to get a green card so that they can stay,” says Russo.

The advocates hope for reform that will have easier to obtain temporary visas, increased border security, online verification of immigration status, and a solution for undocumented immigrants who have grown up in the United States.

One problem that Russo believes immigration reform can help resolve is a shortage of software engineers. A field that she says is suffering from a worldwide shortage.

According to Russo, immigration reform is not meant to take jobs away from current citizens, it is meant to attract entrepreneurs who will create new jobs and businesses in the Pittsburgh area.

“We’re looking at growth we’re looking at you know the importance of immigration and entrepreneurs in terms of building companies and building jobs, not replacement, this is not taking away jobs this is building companies.”