FWD.us, CFDA release new joint report; call for critical immigration policy reforms to drive innovation in fashion and create jobs for American workers

Posted by FWD.us on 04/10/2017

Today, FWD.us and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) held a joint press conference in New York City to release a new report about the impact of immigration policy on the United States’ fashion industry, and its role in creating American jobs. Speakers included CFDA Chairwoman and renowned fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, CFDA President and CEO Steven Kolb, FWD.us President Todd Schulte, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Fashion and tech leaders and elected officials highlighted critical policy changes that would aid the innovation economy, promote industry growth, and create opportunities for international designers and investors to come to the U.S. and create American jobs. They also highlighted reforms to address the legal status of the majority foreign-born workforce of seamstresses, tailors, and garment workers, many of whom are undocumented.

“I left Europe and arrived in New York with a baby in my belly and a suitcase full of little dresses made in Italy. With these dresses I lived an American dream,” said renowned fashion designer and CFDA Chairwoman Diane von Furstenberg. “Young people from all over the world come to America in search of those same opportunities, and young people with limitless talent and potential will continue building and innovating in our industry as long as we put in place immigration policies that allow the U.S. to remain a magnet for them.”

“The CFDA’s mission is to strengthen the influence and success of American designers in the global economy,” said CFDA President and CEO Steven Kolb. “In order to continue the U.S.’ success and influence in the fashion industry, we must recruit the best talent from all over the world. If the United States wants to lead the world in fashion innovation, we need immigration policies that embrace the talented foreigners who come here to build and grow.”

“For over a century, immigrants and their children have built world-renowned fashion houses here and created thousands of American jobs,” said FWD.us President Todd Schulte. “We need to reform our immigration laws to protect American workers while boosting our ability to bring in the best and brightest from around the world so we can continue driving the U.S.’ global leadership in fashion and multiple other industries.”

“New York is the fashion capital of the country and, indeed, the world.  Our fashion sector employs 180,000 people and generates $11 billion in wages every year. This industry depends on immigrants who bring their innovative designs and talents to New York City,” said U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12). “Immigrants are part of what makes our fashion scene unique and keeps it thriving, whether we’re talking about designers who come to take advantage of New York’s creative milieu, the models who grace our runways or the garment workers who bring the designs to life. Making it more difficult for skilled foreign workers in the fashion industry to enter the United States will make it harder for the industry to survive and will do irreparable harm our city’s economy.”

“Immigration and industry have long been intertwined and in few places has that link been more apparent than in New York City’s fashion world. Protecting our immigrant communities contributes to the growth, creativity and uniqueness of our City’s fashion industry,” said City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “As the report highlights, creating barriers for immigrants hurts our economy and weakens fashion businesses. It is essential to keep finding new ways to empower our immigrant communities and I applaud the Council of Fashion Designers of America and FWD.us for bringing attention to this pressing issue.”

Today, more than 900 fashion companies are headquartered in New York City, employing 180,000 people — roughly 6 percent of the city’s workforce — and generating $10.9 billion in total wages. Our broken immigration system is increasingly slowing the innovation fueling the fashion industry, particularly as fashion houses compete for designers, scientists, and researchers to develop groundbreaking new products like wearables and smart textiles. When talented immigrants come to the U.S. to work in fashion, they bring new business and creative ideas that ultimately create jobs for American workers in manufacturing, fashion merchandising, marketing, graphic design, sales, and advertising, among other areas.

The report released today by FWD.us and the CFDA outlines two key hurdles impacting the fashion industry: access and retention of top talent, and the difficulty and high cost of navigating the United States’ badly broken immigration system. The new report also makes several recommendations to remedy these concerns, including: reforming and expanding the H-1B and O-1 high-skilled visas, creating a startup visa so that foreign-born entrepreneurs can build companies and create American jobs here, and establishing a process for hardworking undocumented immigrants to earn legal status after successfully passing a background check.

Commonsense immigration reform that revamps the visa system, strengthens border security, and creates a path to legal status for the undocumented community would grow the United States’ economy by roughly 5% in GDP.

See photos from today’s event here:

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H-1B Application Period Closes Within Just Five Days for Fifth Consecutive Year

Posted on 04/07/2017

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the United States reached its annual visa cap on petitions for high-skilled workers, just five days after the H-1B visa application window opened on April 7, 2017. There are 65,000 available visas in fiscal year 2018, and another 20,000 for applicants who hold advanced degrees. The arbitrary visa cap hurts U.S. economic growth and job creation for American workers.

FWD.us President Todd Schulte released the following statement:

“For the fifth consecutive year, the H-1B visa application window closed in just five days, showing that demand for talented high-skilled workers continues to dramatically outpace supply. The arbitrary cap means that talented individuals who would otherwise be helping to grow our economy are kept out of our country – and that the U.S. loses out on the creation of American jobs, rising wages, and economic growth. Each year, only around 30% of all applicants “win” the H-1B lottery, keeping thousands of the best and brightest high skilled immigrants from around the world out of our U.S. workforce. FWD.us continues to call on Congress to reform the H-1B visa to crack down on bad actors and to lift the arbitrary visa cap that is stifling wage and job growth for U.S. citizens.”

ICYMI: Pat Robertson tells President Trump to Protect Dreamers

Posted by FWD.us on 04/05/2017

Regent University founder Pat Robertson today urged President Trump to “do something to help” Dreamers, saying that “these people are not criminals. They’re teaching kindergarten, for heaven’s sake. They ought to stay. They enrich our society. They bless our society, and what have we got to lose?”

Robertson acknowledged that the future of Dreamers “now depends on what President Trump will do.”

“I really think we ought to do something to help those people,” he said in a segment on the Christian Broadcasting Network, adding that “they’re certainly not criminals.”

 

Below is the text of Pat Robertson’s comments on Dreamers:

“There is one thing that is coming up that touches your heart, and you just question whether our dear president has got it right in relation to what are called the Dreamers. These people they’re young illegal immigrants, who came into the U.S. before their 16th birthday, and President Obama gave them temporary protection. And their future now depends on what President Trump will do.”

“I really think we ought to do something to help those people. If somebody comes to this country and has children, and the children are born here, they’re citizens. They have a 3-year-old child who wasn’t born here, who has lived his whole life here, he is not a citizen. That makes no sense. And they’re certainly not criminals. … But these people are not criminals. They’re teaching kindergarten, for heaven’s sake. They ought to stay. They enrich our society. They bless our society, and what have we got to lose? I think the Donald will do the right thing when that word is brought to him.”

Bay Area entrepreneurs call for reforms to high-skilled immigration system

Posted by FWD.us on 04/04/2017

On Monday April 3rd, FWD.us and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce hosted a panel discussion with Silicon Valley business leaders and immigration policy experts to discuss the current state of the H-1B visa and the path ahead for high-skilled immigration.

The panel coincided with the H-1B visa filing period, which opened Monday. Last year, U.S. employers filed a record 236,000 applications for 85,000 available visas that would allow high-skilled individuals to come here and create jobs for American workers. It was the fourth year in a row in which the H-1B visa cap was met under a week.

Participants called for reforms to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest engineers, scientists, and researchers to create American jobs, as well as to stamp out abuses and better protect American workers:

Despite attending high school in North Carolina and graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Angie Gontaruk initially lost the H-1B lottery and was forced to return to Argentina with short notice, leaving her small company behind without a creative producer.

“High-skilled immigrants come to the United States to give our expertise and diverse, innovative, and creative solutions and add a huge benefit to companies across all industries. Every single immigrant adds something unique and necessary,” said Gontaruk, now a creative producer with the CSpence Group in the Bay Area. “I choose to be here because this was where I was brought up, where I studied, and where I get to do a job I truly love. I chose to stay here because I wanted to focus my time, energy, and expertise in a country that has given me so much, and where I want to give back. ”

 

“The beauty of America itself is the fact that it was built by immigrants. Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery for any country,” said Avinash Conda. Conda graduated with a masters degree in applied computing from Eastern Kentucky University in 2010. He is now at the beginning of an 8-year wait for a green card.

 

“This country has an untenable ability to attract some of the best people in the world. Our university system serves as our generation’s Ellis Island. There’s this passion, hunger, drive, or ‘the adversity muscle’, that immigrants can tolerate anything and they’re not going to stop until they accomplish it. I’m a firm believer that immigrants are the heartbeat of entrepreneurship. Let’s preserve the innovation economy,” said Manan Mehta, founding partner with Unshackled Ventures.

 

“There’s got to be a doubling down of investment on education and public education, in addition to immigration reform. We have to protect our Dreamers alongside the repairs needed for the H-1B system,” said UnitedSF Executive Director Laura Moran, who worked to bring in bilingual teachers on H-1B visas to head up the ESL program at Oakland and San Francisco schools. “And it’s clear: we don’t have enough doctors, enough teachers, or engineers. “In the Bay, there was a real shortage of teachers who are bilingual, who can teach in dual immersion programs, or foreign language programs. Nothing is worse as head of HR when you go into a classroom that doesn’t have a teacher. These teachers were a small but valued part of our community. “

 

“If you’re a foreign founder, immigration is an important factor in how investors view you and your business and its long term viability. If you don’t have a future immigration status here in the United States, you won’t have a viable company for investors. And this is where we hit a hurdle because of our existing immigration framework,” said Ann Cun, Managing Attorney with Accel Visa Attorneys, PC.

 

“Our visa system is half a century old and Congress has failed to update our high-skilled immigration system since 1990. This woefully outdated system harms the American economy by inhibiting its capacity for growth. High-skilled immigrants grow the American economy, create jobs for Americans and boost wages for native-born workers,” said FWD.us Northern California Director Mark Ranneberger. “We need to work towards commonsense immigration reform that would reform and expand the H-1B visa and OPT program, and create a startup visa to help the U.S. stay competitive in today’s global economy.”

 

“The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce represents more than 2500 member business organizations and their employees to support local business, promote commerce and cultivate a dynamic economy. Our business partners are from every sector – the tech industry,  retail, manufacturing, financial services and small business – and at the heart of all them is maintaining a thriving and diverse workforce. Immigration provides a competitive advantage to businesses who can recruit employees who are at the top of their fields and can ultimately create more jobs here in the U.S,” said Tallia Hart, President & CEO of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce

High-skilled immigrants provide incredible contributions to the United States’ economy, particularly in Silicon Valley. In addition to boosting wages for native-born workers, they create employment opportunities for U.S. citizens and fill a critical skills gap in the labor force for rapidly-growing companies.

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Business leaders and immigration policy experts discussed the current state of the H-1B visa and the path ahead for high-skilled immigration at a panel Monday evening co-sponsored by FWD.us and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. (Photo credit: FWD.us)