Barbara Boxer, Zoe Lofgren battle ‘brain drain’

U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, D-CA, and Judd Gregg, R-NH, today introduced a bipartisan bill aimed at keeping America competitive in the global high-tech economy by making it easier for foreigners graduating from U.S. universities with advanced degrees to get green cards if they have jobs waiting for them here in the U.S.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose — who chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law — introduced a bipartisan companion bill in the House last month, with initial co-sponsors including Ellen Tauscher, D-Alamo; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; and Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

boxer.jpg“Ensuring that the U.S. is competitive in technology means making sure that future innovators are putting their knowledge to work here, not competing against us abroad,” Boxer said in her news release. “The best way to do that is to offer greencards to those foreign graduates with career opportunities in the U.S. I am proud to work with Senator Gregg to help keep America’s economy at the forefront of technological innovation.”

According to the American Society of Engineering Education, more than 1 out 3 master’s degrees and more than half of all PhDs in engineering awarded in the U.S. go to foreign national students. U.S.-educated scientists and engineers often end up seeking work in their home countries, or places such as India and China, not due to a lack of job opportunities in the United States but rather because of the limited number of work visas available to foreign nationals.

The Boxer-Gregg legislation would let graduates from U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math get green cards without waiting in long lines, provided they have job offers from U.S. employers.

This “brain drain” was a topic of conversation at presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s campaign event with Silicon Valley executives a few weeks ago in Union City. There, MetricStream CEO Shellye Archambeau had noted the number of H1B visas available each year has fallen by two-thirds following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and more and more foreign students are being forced to return to their home countries as soon as they earn U.S. university degrees; these skilled workers should get visas with their diplomas, she said.

“Senator (Ted) Kennedy and I tried very hard to get immigration reform, a comprehensive plan, through Congress,” McCain replied that day, accepting partial responsibility for the federal government’s failure to meet its responsibilities.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Doug

    Great headline. Why spoil it with a serious article?

  • Lou Charles

    Are you sure this is not from the Onion?

  • One suggestion, have Barbara Boxer leave the US & allow the National IQ to ascend a bit.

    If only we could keep the brainiacs and evict the crime-spree illegals, the US would be a much better country. Bobo should try thinking that one through.

  • Erick

    Lou Charles, you silly twit, “The Contra Costa Times” is the “Onion”!

  • I went to SJSU and got a BS in Electrical Engineering. Most of my fellow grads (and most were foreigners on education visas) could not find work and were headed home or trying to get extensions through their spouse who often were working in Silicon Valley. My experience is the oppostite. There are not enough jobs for engineering graduates, and most grads end up doing lower skilled work as technicians or go back to school and get into an occupation with more security like healthcare. However, PhD’s are different than BS/MS. BS and MS are a dime a dozen these days, and I have a feeling the valley business community likes it this way, keeping such an “employers’ market”. That’s how Silicon Valley works, and this was even true during the boom.

  • art brown

    I have no experience trying to get work in the technological field but acquaintances tell me the cards are stacked against them in applying for jobs in their field. When a common aptitude and/or written knowledge test is not given then there is no paper evidence that the applicant is qualified. When the verbal questions extend past 1 hour then the questioner is searching for the one wrong answer that will disqualify the American applicant. In favor of the foreign applicant who will work at lower wages.

  • Cali Girl

    I’d like to know what protections will be in place for US citizen applicants? Zero. Past history has shown that employers will seek a foreign applicant over a US citizen purely because they can pay them a lower wage. I’d like to see the government hand out some tax incentives for hiring a US citizen. It’s shameful that it would have to be like that – they should hire Americans in the first place. With tax incentives, bet they could find some equally qualified citizen to be their employee real fast.

  • ProTruePatriots

    One way to get rid of the US trade deficit is to export all politicians that are in favor of offshoring jobs, expanding guest-worker visa’s, or easing immigration policy protections for American’s.

  • Indian_Engineer

    I know this will probably shock a few people in this forum but not all Forign students work for low wages. I have a MSEE from a US university and have been working in Wireless Communications for the past 5 years.I was involved in building ATT, T-Mobile, Verizon wireless networks in places like Seattle, New York, LA etc and i draw a salary of about 70 dollars an hour. I’ve been in this great country for the past 8 years and worked very hard to be in the position I am right now. Getting me a green card instead of creating hurdles through a series of visa extensions etc would definitely help me. Most of my colleagues are H1B visa holders because the basic requirement for the job I do is a MSEE.