A Bipartisan Path to Keeping STEM Graduates in the U.S.
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To paraphrase Bruce Springsteen, in Washington, DC, bipartisanship has seen better days.
However, allowing international Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduate students to stay in the U.S. is one of those issues that both parties support. A Washington Post editorial points out that both the Democratic and Republican platforms are practically interchangeable on this issue.
Some members of both parties are trying to find a way to get this done, but like much of anything with Congress, it’s not easy.
In a Key Vote Letter to House members supporting Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429), Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber’s Executive Vice President for Government Affairs, explains the problem:
Each year, graduate students who complete advanced STEM degrees from America’s top universities are offered jobs here by U.S. employers, yet tens of thousands of them ultimately take their ideas and skills to other countries because of inadequacies in the immigration system.
H.R. 6429 would help the situation by “allocating up to 55,000 green cards a year so these skilled innovators will create new jobs and products here in America rather than elsewhere.”
The House of Representatives may have failed to pass the bill backed by the U.S. Chamber, other business associations, and dozens of American companies, but that’s because a two-thirds majority was needed under the chamber’s rules. The fact is 257 Congressmen, both Democrats and Republicans, voted for the bill.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), long a champion for the STEM green card issue, has also introduced her own bill (H.R. 6412) which takes another approach to solving this issue. In the Senate, work is also taking place on expanding the number of visas for STEM graduate students. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Chairman of the Senate Immigration Subcommitee, introduced a bill (S. 3553), similar to Rep. Lofgren’s, and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has continued his commitment to high-skilled immigration issues by introducing his own bill a few months ago (S. 3185).
The Partnership for a New American Economy sent a letter from university leaders to Congressional officials urging them to “develop a bipartisan solution that ensures our top international graduates have a clear path to a green card.” And I agree.
It’s not uncommon for immigration reforms to achieve final passage only at the end of a congressional session. The major 1986 and 1990 immigration overhauls were not signed into law until November of those years. I’m hopeful work will continue to get to a bipartisan bill that can reach the President’s desk and ease the demand for America’s most-innovative companies. The debate and vote on H.R. 6429 showed that there is a path to that bipartisan solution.