Max Levchin knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur since he was a 20-year-old computer science major at the University of Illinois.
And, as a Ukrainian immigrant, the PayPal (PYPL) co-founder and Affirm CEO said he had always felt he could realize his potential in the US. His views haven’t changed, even under president-elect Donald Trump.
“We have been a magnet for the best and the brightest from around the world which has and will always continue to make our country so great,” he said, “and I hope entrepreneurs and students continue to come here to innovate.”
Still, Trump’s comments about restricting highly skilled foreigners from taking American jobs (not to mention his call for banning Muslims from entering the country and building a wall along the southern border) did not sit well with Levchin.
“The sad thing is that he didn’t invent xenophobia — I don’t think people looked at him and got infected,” he told Yahoo Finance earlier this year at South by Southwest. “I don’t know what kind of commentary this is on our society, but it bums me out.”
However, Levchin’s tone has taken a marked shift, now that Trump ha. He’s hopeful Trump can eliminate his polarizing rhetoric and instead focus on the issues.
“On infrastructure, I hope that as president, he can address our long-neglected national infrastructure — roads, bridges, tunnels, water, electrical grid, etc,” he said in an interview with Yahoo Finance after the election. “On immigration, I strongly hope he works with Congress on reasonable solutions and can pair his interest in border security with reasonable solutions for those here illegally and to improve high-skilled immigration.”
Levchin said that if Trump wants to focus on protecting the US border by building a wall, he must also fix the country’s 50-year-old legal visa system, emphasizing that there must be “a reasonable process for those here illegally who aren’t violent criminals.”
He does not agree with Trump’s declaration to eliminate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), two programs that shield certain immigrants from deportation. Those programs have done significant good for the US, according to Levchin.
He points out that DACA has benefitted 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived to the US as children. These immigrants are paying taxes, working in places like the tech industry and are in school.
“They’ve all already passed a background check in the process of getting their work permits — and it would be a big mistake to revoke those for the 800,000 who have already received this,” he said. “Ultimately what we actually need is Congress to act to fix this situation and provide legal status to these Dreamers — and I would hope that can happen. ”
But, in the meantime, he said it’s imperative to remain cautiously optimistic about the country’s future. It’s still the breeding ground for the innovative, intrepid spirit that has been the underlying strength of the US, and it’s our duty to preserve it, he says.
“Continue to speak out and tell your story to members of Congress, support other immigrant entrepreneurs and remain committed to fighting for what is right,” Levchin said.
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.