COLUMBUS -- Members of a new state coalition want policy-makers to make easier for immigrants with high-tech and other skilled backgrounds to enter and remain in the country legally.
The new Ohio chapter of the national reform group Fwd.us includes business people, academics and others who say immigrants help to bolster the economy.
"We make it very difficult for high-skilled immigrants to stay in the state," said Carl Ruby, executive director of Welcome Springfield, a group that supports immigrants. "There are other countries that actually provide economic incentives and are paying these graduates to relocate in their countries and yet we have a system where they have to jump through lots of hoops, they have to get in long lines back in the countries where they're from."
Ruby joined other members of the new state coalition during a morning press conference at the Statehouse Wednesday. The larger national Fwd.us group was founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and more than a dozen other tech-company owners, with a focus on advocating for immigration reform.
"We do not, in this country, have awareness of the positive impact that immigration makes," said Josh Davda, owner of Optimum Technology Inc. in Columbus, noting that the founders of Apple and Google were both children of immigrants. "We only hear the noises about the border and Muslim ban and all the rest."
Among other reforms, the new Ohio group is calling for a streamlined process for high-skilled immigrants.
"To me, the immigration policy needs to ask the question, what do we need economically?" Ruby said. "What number of immigrants do we need to function at an optimal level economically and then we need to make it as easy as possible for those immigrants to come to our country quickly and to contribute back to our economy."
The group also backs border security as part of comprehensive immigration reform.
"It's a very high priority, make sure that our borders are secure and that we know who's coming into our country and that we're keeping track of people so they don't overstay their visas," Ruby said.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.