Obama looks to boost high-skill immigration, education

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"Real reform means fixing the legal immigration system to cut waiting periods, reduce bureaucracy, and attract the highly-skilled entrepreneurs and engineers that will help create jobs and grow our economy," Obama said.

"As we speak, bipartisan groups in both chambers are working diligently to draft a bill, and I applaud their efforts.  Now let’s get this done," he said. "Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months, and I will sign it right away and America will be better for it."

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill last month, called the Immigration Innovation Act, that proposes to significantly increase the number of H-1B temporary worker visas for high-skilled foreign workers and free up more green cards.

The bill would also increase the fees that employers would have to pay to petition for H-1B visas and employment-based green cards. The additional money from these fees would be funneled towards a grant program dedicated to promoting education in the so-called STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and math—and worker re-training at the state-level.

Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) plan to introduce a bill on Wednesday that would create a new visa allowing foreign students who graduate with a master's or Ph.D. in engineering, science or math fields from a U.S. university to get a green card. It would also create a new visa category that would allow foreign entrepreneurs to stay in the country for three years and launch businesses.

The bill, called the Startup Act 3.0, also includes measures that would ease tax and regulatory rules, as well as support university initiatives to bring research to the marketplace more quickly.

During his address, President Obama also emphasized improving the nation's education system, saying it would equip students for the jobs of the future. 

He announced a new program that will reward high schools that develop partnerships with colleges and employers and that create classes focused on STEM fields—which he said are "the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future."

Obama praised a partnership between IBM, New York Public Schools and the City University of New York to help high school students obtain an associate degree in computer science or engineering.

Obama  argued that investments in infrastructure, including broadband Internet networks, would boost the economy.

"Ask any CEO where they’d rather locate and hire: a country with deteriorating roads and bridges, or one with high-speed rail and internet; high-tech schools and self-healing power grids," Obama said