The America’s Cup Victory and the Immigration Debate

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

The Oracle USA America’s Cup winner could stand as a model for business leaders advocating relaxing some of the country’s immigration laws, especially in California’s Silicon Valley.

Many Americans who don’t know a catamaran from a Boston whaler are aware that the USA made a stunning comeback trailing 8-1 in a best of 17 sailing competition to capture the America’s Cup, a true world series of sailing dating back 162 years. But how many know that of the 11-member crew making up the winning USA yacht, only one was actually an American?

There was no nationality rule enforced in the most recent rendition of the sailing race, although organizers could do so. Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, who funded the Cup defense, chose the best sailors he could find from around the world. The ship’s captain is Australian; the tactician is British. The one American, Rome Kirby out of Newport, Rhode Island, a trimmer on the yacht, helped adjust the sails during the race.

Choosing the best sailors from around the world to produce a winner is not a foreign concept to Ellison or anyone else who makes their fortunes in the Silicon Valley.

Most Silicon Valley leaders rank immigration reform as their industry’s number one issue. They want the American government to ease up on the cap for H-1B visas to allow immigrants with special knowledge to ply their trade in the U.S.

Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, argued in a Washington Post op-ed for a relaxation of the H-1B visa caps. He asked: “Why do we offer so few H-1B visas for talented specialists that the supply runs out within days of becoming available each year, even though we know each of these jobs will create two or three more American jobs in return? Why don’t we let entrepreneurs move here when they have what it takes to start companies that will create even more jobs?”

The idea behind the H-1B visa reform—what advocates argue is behind immigration reform in general—is to allow those who want to share their ideas, knowledge and enthusiasm in America should be welcomed, which in return will make the economy and the country stronger.

Cheering on Oracle Team USA to victory, considering the way in which the crew was assembled, is like cheering on a vision of America in which those from other lands come together, become part of the USA and help build a winner.

Don’t be surprised if the make-up of the Oracle Team USA makes it into a few political arguments when immigration reform is discussed on Capitol Hill.

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