National Security

Former national security officials push for green card cap exemption for immigrants with advanced STEM degrees

A group of former national security officials is asking lawmakers to allow immigrants with advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees to be exempt from green card limits.

“In today’s technology competition, the most powerful and enduring asymmetric advantage America has is its ability to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest,” the former officials wrote in a letter dated Monday, first obtained by Axios, adding that “bottlenecks in the U.S. immigration system risk squandering this advantage.”

They went on to discuss other countries, especially China, as competitors and explain why immigrants with STEM degrees would be an asset to the U.S. while pushing for STEM graduates to be exempt from green card caps.

“China is the most significant technological and geopolitical competitor our country has faced in recent times,” the group wrote. “With the world’s best STEM talent on its side, it will be very hard for America to lose. Without it, it will be very hard for America to win.”

The letter to conferees working to finalize a China competition bill was signed by dozens of former senators and officials from the departments of Defense, Energy and Homeland Security as well as the former leaders of agencies like the CIA, National Security Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

It comes as part of an effort to maintain a House provision that would exempt immigrants with advanced STEM degrees from green card caps.

During his State of the Union address earlier this year, President Biden called on Congress to take action on that bill, meant to make America even more competitive with China by increasing domestic supply chains and scientific research.

“So let’s not wait any longer. Send it to my desk. I’ll sign it,” Biden said of the  bill at the time. “And we will really take off in a big way.”

–Updated at 10:14 a.m.

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