Senators introduce immigration reform to increase STEM visas

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would “modernize” the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) visa system.

Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the Immigration Innovation Act, which would increase the number of STEM visas and use the fees obtained from those visa applications to fund STEM education programs within the United States.

“Legal immigration is good for this country,” Rubio said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “And the legal immigration system that we have in place does not work for America in the 21st century.”

Rubio and Hatch pointed out that about 120,000 computer-engineering jobs are created in America annually, but that only 40,000 college students graduate each year with a computer science degree. Rubio said that the companies with those vacant jobs will not wait for more U.S. graduates and that they might move to other countries looking for qualified workers.

ADVERTISEMENT
“If I said that the NBA should be comprised of the best basketball players in the country, who would disagree with that? Rubio said. “Well, the same should be said for our economy. ... I do not fear that our country will be overrun with Ph.Ds.”

STEM visas are for immigrants with college degrees in math and science fields who want to work in America. Currently, there is a cap on how many STEM visas can be given out each year. The group of senators said this cap harms the economy because STEM immigrants create more jobs.

“For every 100 foreign-born STEM workers, they create 260 some odd jobs,” Rubio said. “This is a net positive for our economy.” 

Coons also pointed out that the bill would help people who are already American citizens get into STEM fields through education improvements. He said that the money from STEM visa fees would be invested locally in STEM education programs in order to ensure that American workers are being trained in areas where there is job growth and need.

On Monday, Rubio with other senators announced that they were working on a larger immigration reform deal. Today, Rubio said modernizing the current legal immigration system is a critical piece to overall reforms. He added that the Immigration Innovation Act would also allow those who come to this country through student visas to stay and work in this country after graduation.

“It makes no sense to invite people to the United State to study at our best colleges and then ask them to leave,” Rubio said. “That’s crazy.”