BOISE -- Immigration is one of the hotly-debated issues on Capitol Hill right now. And, it's always a big issue here in Idaho.
"Everybody does agree something needs to be done," said Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo.
Nothern says almost everyone agrees immigration reform is needed, but not just for low-skilled workers, for those in the tech industry too.
According to labor statistics, there are tens of thousands of open high-skilled tech jobs in the U.S. at places like Idaho tech giant Micron. Micron already employs about 342 people in Idaho by way of work visas, according to FWD.us.
FWD.us is an organization started by leaders in the tech community like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. It's pushing for, among a few things, immigration reform. Those at FWD.us says American tech companies are having trouble filling high-skilled tech positions, mostly in engineering, and have to go overseas to fill them.
Rich Stuppy, chair of the Idaho Technology Council says, "To keep America's tech industry in a position of global leadership, the U.S. needs to attract highly educated immigrants that can meet the demand for talent."
That issue is addressed in the much-debated Senate immigration bill that will hit the floor in the next two weeks. That legislation would almost double the number of high-skilled work visas.
"Generally speaking, folks that come in with the high-tech sector are not entering the country illegally, as some other folks are," said Nothern. "And, everybody is in agreement that the industry can use the help."
Nothern says while there are some very controversial elements to the immigration debate, this is not one of them. "There are a lot of openings that many folks here in Idaho just can't fill, and the industry needs to look outside this country for help."
Why aren't there enough high-skilled workers right here in the U.S. and Idaho? Tech leaders say not enough people are pursuing that type of education, or it's not readily available to students. That's why those leaders are also pushing for education reform.
Again, the Senate's bi-partisan immigration reform bill is expected to be debated on the floor in two weeks. Nothern says it has a good chance of passing. But, the bill faces a much tougher test in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.