Just before the holidays, at a naturalization ceremony in Santa Clara, Calif., my wife, Rocio, and I took the oath of allegiance to the United States of America. Standing alongside immigrants who had traveled here from around the world, we pledged to support and defend the Constitution and laws of this country. I am humbled to now count myself one of the more than 300 million American citizens.
Today, our country stands on the eve of a new administration—one that is tasked with restoring truth and trust in government, and unity across our nation. And although we’re at a moment of great tension and tumult, it does not erase our history as a place where people from all walks of life can achieve the American dream. As a new citizen and as the CEO of a major technology company, I feel a deep sense of civic responsibility to constantly strive to live up to this ideal.
In 1989, I was an engineering student in my native Spain when a group of Hewlett-Packard engineers visited my school. Their excitement about their work captured my imagination. Before long, I was packing my bags for my first trip to the United States and an engineering internship with HP.
When I arrived, I fell in love not only with this company and its culture of innovation, I fell in love with America too. This is a country where Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard—two young people with a dream, and just $538 between them—could start a business in their garage and grow it into one of the world’s most admired companies. It’s also a country where a student who arrived with little more than a fierce curiosity and a willingness to work hard could start out as an intern, be given challenging assignments around the world, and ultimately take the helm as CEO of this storied Fortune 100 company.
I’ve always believed business leaders have a responsibility to help uphold America’s proud heritage as a beacon of democracy, a champion of diversity, and, at its core, a nation of immigrants. Immigrants power our economy—as CEOs, innovators, and the essential workers who have kept our companies running and our communities safe during this unprecedented time. And our businesses are strongest when they reflect America at its best: people with different backgrounds coming together around a common purpose.
The business community has shown time and again that it can make a real impact when it comes to advocating for sensible U.S. immigration policy. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s good business, too.
That’s why, late last year, HP signed onto an amicus brief supporting the H-1B visa program, which allows highly skilled international workers to enter and work in the United States. By attracting the world’s best talent, this visa program has been critical to driving U.S. economic growth and innovation. Losing these H-1B visas, and the nearly 200,000 workers they represent, could cost American businesses almost $200 billion.
At the same time, students who are in the U.S. earning degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math deserve the opportunity to remain in the country and gain work experience through the Optional Practical Training program. And as a business community, we should stand up and defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), because young people and families who strengthen our communities do not deserve to be living with anxiety over their immigration status.
Companies like HP need diverse, talented people from all walks of life in order to grow and thrive in a global economy. And I urge the incoming Biden-Harris administration and the new Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform once and for all—so we can enact permanent solutions for our country’s immigration challenges and give more workers and families their own shot at the American dream.
Whether your family arrived on the Mayflower, passed through a port of entry, or received an H-1B visa, we are all part of a long and proud tradition of immigrants and their families helping America move forward—like the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants who will be sworn in as vice president today.
Their presence makes America stronger and more successful, and I’m so proud to finally call this country my own.
Enrique Lores is the president and CEO of HP Inc.