What Does Bill Gates Get Wrong About Immigration?

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

When Bill Gates joined fellow businessmen Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson in a New York Times op-ed about immigration reform, he ignited understandable backlash and disagreement. In some ways, the article reflected the frustration with Congress that so many, average Americans, immigrants, and others alike, are feeling. Yet it simultaneously takes on a tone of arrogance funneled through a narrow viewpoint, ultimately producing an argument that falls a bit short.

The piece begins with a critique of Congress, saying that, “They are telling us that immigration reform — long overdue — is now hopeless. American’s deserve better than this,” nothing particularly unique or informatory compared to your average fed up official. But then they round out the claim, arguing that, “The three of us vary in our politics and would differ also in our preferences about the details of an immigration reform bill. But we could without doubt come together to draft a bill acceptable to each of us.”

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) took issue with this point when he addressed the opinion piece on the Senate floor, pointing out that three “super-billionaires” finding a mutually acceptable reform isn’t particularly difficult between three individuals with a great deal of interests in common. Congress is the embodiment of many interests and opinions; it is as varied as the states and needs they represent. The comparison was a poorly thought out one, not particularly constructive to the argument that Congress must learn to negotiate beyond gridlock. Sessions goes on to take issue with their lack of respect for Congress. He argues that it indirectly shows a lack of respect for those who elected Congress. Since polls suggest that a minority of those voters still retain Congressional respect themselves, this is perhaps an unfair assertion.

Then, they discuss the need for skilled workers in computer science and technology. Given Microsoft’s announcement July 17 that restructuring “will result in the elimination of up to 18,000 positions over the next year,” a number that The Verge reports is the largest reduction yet, 14 percent of Microsoft’s workforce. This is a point worth addressing somewhat carefully. Senator Sessions bring it up as proof that they have enough good quality engineers and experts, but simply don’t have the jobs for them. Microsoft calls it elimination “through synergies and strategic alignment” while Sessions calls it streamlining. On the one hand, a more efficient business is a better one.