PolitiHacks Digest – 22 April 2013 – Want to learn how we get a startup visa win?

These folks want your support:


  1. #iMarch—Fix immigration for startups with Mayor Bloomberg and Brad Feld
  2. Fix the DMCA—Own your electronics, legalize cellphone unlocking
  3. Women In Tech—Crowdsourced book on struggles of women founders
  4. Fix the CFAA—Beat back a bad proposal to expand the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (Internet Defense League alert)

Got a cause you want to share? Tell me.

Reading List—Theme: Immigration/Startup Visa


  1. Senate Judiciary Committee: Hearing Testimony—Testimony given by 23 experts across the immigration spectrum for tomorrow’s hearing
  2. Memphis Commercial Appeal: Greg Siskind on the immigration bill—Last major reform in 1986, last big tweak in 1990, why we’re long overdue for an update
  3. PolitiHacks: Startup Visa Legislative Analysis—Policy details for founders
  4. Politico: How the immigration deal got made—Political overview of the moving parts
  5. PandoDaily: Everything you need to know about the immigration bill—Hamish covers the 101 of immigration reform
  6. SFGate: Ron Conway says “You have chosen…poorly” to Senators who kill gun safety bill—Notable VC vows to topple Senators

Political issues affecting startups: 


Winning immigration: Metrics to track

To win a legislative fight, one needs more votes than the other side. The modern Senate generally requires a supermajority of 60 votes, while the House can require either a 218 vote majority or a 290 supermajority. Right now, we have exactly eight Senators’ confirmed support. Lots of work to be done.

The Senate will be moving first on the immigration bill, and they are expected to have a final vote by July 4th. We’re expecting a chance of success around 60%.

On the right, look to Sen. Sessions (R-Alabama) to lead the opposition from the anti-immigration perspective. Sen. Grassley (R-Iowa) will be a bellweather voice based on his level of opposition, generally in defense of American workers, though he’s also lately been referencing the Boston bombing to oppose immigration reform.

On the left, look to grumbling from the Congressional Black Caucus over the elimination of the diversity lottery. I don’t expect this grumbling to turn into outright opposition.

A winning coalition will provide sufficient reasons for conservatives to vote for the final bill, while not losing liberals. We’ll be tracking and reporting.


Immigration timeline: Win by summer’s peak or not at all

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins its major discussion and review of the bill. This committee oversees immigration laws on behalf of the entire Senate.

From there, the committee will put the bill through a markup process, where amendments will be proposed as the bill is ripped apart and put back together by the committee editing process. These amendments will range from poison pills, whose passage would cause a number of supporters to flip to oppose the bill, which killed the previous attempt at immigration reform. Sen. Leahy (D-Vermont) is chair of the committee, and he plans to schedule markup hearings every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays (likely adding Wednesdays) once the initial hearings are complete.

The deadline to keep in mind is the month-long August recess, which will kill the bill’s momentum and traction should it not pass the Senate by then. Look to the July 4th recess as final GO-NO GO checkpoint to evaluate its chances of success.


Proposed: Green cards for entrepreneurs and researchers and lots more

PolitiHacks did a deep dive analysis into the startup visa proposal shortly after the immigration bill was announced. The bill proposes about 95% of what the startup community has been asking for since Paul Graham’s essay in 2009:

  • Startup Visa—fast track to green card for successful startup founders
  • STEM Green Card—not quite a “staple a green card to a CS degree” as was ideal, but basically that for PhDs, though undergrads and Masters are excluded
  • Undergrads would be allowed to intend to stay in the US after graduation
  • One line for green card applications—status quo is China and Luxembourg have separate lines and the same number of green cards for each
  • Merit-based, points-system green card—game changer, for the first time since at least 1965, potential immigrants will be able to apply on their own merits

Cybersecurity bill, CISPA, passes House again—improves on last year’s margins

The cybersecurity bill, CISPA, seeks to allow greater information sharing against black hat network intrusions between private companies and the government to decrease effective response time.

Privacy advocates (including PolitiHacks) oppose CISPA because it allows violations of user privacy through sharing personally identifiable information.

The bill easily passed on a final vote in the House. Notably, it improved on its margin from last year by about 40 votes switching from NO to YES, mostly among Democrats despite a renewed threat by President Obama to veto, or kill, the bill.

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