AOL co-founder Steve Case wants to reframe the Republican debate on immigration around the "global battle for talent."
In an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday, Case said the failure to enact immigration reform is crippling the United States' ability to innovate and to compete with other countries. He admonished the Republican presidential hopefuls for ignoring this reality during their discussions of immigration in last week's debate.
"They talked about a lot of things for three hours, the word 'startup,' the word 'entrepreneurs,' the word 'innovation' never appeared," Case said. "The reason we are the leader of the free world is, we have the leading economy. The reason we have the leading economy is, we have been the most innovative entrepreneurial nation."
Case has long advocated for politicians, particularly Republicans, to be more active on the issue of immigration reform. Last week, he published an op-ed in The Washington Post denouncing real estate mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump for his racist depictions of Latino immigrants as rapists and criminals.
Asked whether he would rather see broader immigration reform or a preliminary measure that focused on keeping "the best and the brightest" in the country, Case emphasized that it was important to address both.
"We need to make sure the best and brightest can stay here," said Case, who now runs the investment firm Revolution LLC. "If we can figure out a way to get more of this done, because immigration is a broad -- both a problem but also an opportunity -- that would be my preference, but we need to figure out some way to make sure we win what's now a global battle for talent."
When pressed on the issue later in the segment, he suggested that it might be easier to build political support for comprehensive reform rather than a "step-by-step" approach.
Case invoked the example of Kunal Bahl, a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School -- Trump's alma mater -- who returned from the U.S. to India after his visa expired and founded the e-commerce site Snapdeal. The company is now valued at $5 billion.
"They have 5,000 employees now in India," Case said. "Those 5,000 employees could have been in the United States."
AOL is the owner of The Huffington Post.