This Friday, the House of Representatives will take up Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith’s “STEM Jobs Act” - legislation vital to ensure we have the skilled workforce we need now and in the future to help grow our economy and create new innovative businesses and high-skilled jobs..
Our country’s innovative potential depends on highly skilled talent, including foreign-born Masters and PhD science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) graduates from U.S. colleges and universities. There is a global competition for STEM talent, and Chairman Smith’s sorely needed bill would help by providing 50,000 permanent resident visas or “green cards” each year to help U.S.-based companies recruit and retain top foreign-born STEM talent. These green cards would empower talented STEM graduates to put their ideas and world class-education to work here at home rather than for our competitors overseas.
With the 2012 election behind us, Washington is full of talk about how the Administration and Congress will tackle immigration reform in 2013. It’s been more than two decades since Congress made comprehensive changes in our immigration laws, and there is much that needs to be done to ensure our immigration system works in our national interest. That could be a long, drawn out process. So there is no time like the present to take some action that we know would help our economy grow by helping our companies innovate locally. To paraphrase an old expression; ‘if immigration reform were easy it would have been done already.’
Even if the STEM Jobs Act became law, there is much more Congress can do to reform our employment–based immigration system. From reducing our employment based green card backlog backlog to reforming the temporary H-1B visa, the high tech industry has no shortage of skilled immigration priorities for 2013.
While lawmakers are rightly focused on avoiding going over the fiscal cliff and putting our economy right back in a recession, the STEM Jobs Act is an important step forward for a revitalized economy that Congress can do this year. Keeping foreign-born STEM students here is an idea that has been embraced by members of both the House and the Senate, Republican and Democrat.
The high-tech community welcomes a broader immigration reform discussion in 2013, but that shouldn’t stop us from helping our economy today. Simply put; Innovation leads to job creation.