Days before Congress prepares for recess, lawmakers failed to pass a bill for further immigration reform. Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R–TX), the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math Jobs Act would increase green cards for highly skilled foreign nationals. While this bill begins the conversation on immigration reform, it only scratches the surface of the comprehensive immigration reform that lawmakers should discuss. Congress should make immigration reform a top priority, and while the STEM Jobs Act is a step in the right direction, more provisions are needed so graduates of all subjects, and their respected families, are able to live in the United States.
The STEM Jobs Act was introduced this month after failing many times in many forms, and would allocate visas to international graduates of American universities with a master’s or doctoral degrees in certain subjects. The recipients of these green cards would then be able to live in the United States for five years. This bill would replace the current immigration system, in which a lottery is used to award visas on a per-country basis. Opponents argue that Republicans are being too choosy in who they allow to live in the United States.
The United States is experiencing a brain drain, and in 2018, is projected to be short 230,000 “qualified, advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields.” A 2009 study found that U.S. students ranked 25th among 34 countries in math and science. To combat this problem, America should encourage the thousands of foreign students who come to study each year to remain in the country after graduation. Countries such as Germany and Australia have already instituted successful immigration initiatives that have lured workers away from their homelands in order to work abroad. The United States needs a system of its own to compete with an increasingly globalized economy.
But, while a bill like the STEM Jobs Act works to combat the lack of workers in science and math related subjects, it’s restrictive and unfairly places emphasis on specific areas of study. Although the United States is falling behind in such fields, graduates of all subjects should have the chance to work in this country. Allowing graduates of American universities to stay in the United States is a start, but comprehensive immigration reform is required for all, not just those who have a specialized degree.
The Republicans’ attempt to end the current lottery system is commendable, but a bipartisan compromise is needed. This bill should include revisions that allow family members of graduates to live in the United States. Such a provision may encourage graduates to settle in the United States and start businesses. We shouldn’t educate people and then kick them out of the country.
Although this bill failed to pass, it laid important groundwork for an investment in the future of the United States and immigration reform. Allowing foreign graduates to stay in the country is a way to encourage job creation and economic growth. Immigration reform law has the potential to revamp the U.S. economy and significantly fill the void created by a decrease in STEM graduates, making the U.S. workforce globally competitive again. Eventually, however, we as a country must move past exclusionary bills and allow more than just graduates of American universities to live in our country.