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.
“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.