By Karlesha V. Hewitt
I care, that’s who – and you should, too. You can’t turn on the TV without hearing something about the current issues discussed among Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, and Newt Gingrich anyway. Pardon the order I chose to list them – everyone has an opinion, right? Right.
One hot topic is what I like to call the “Educated Immigrant Phenomenon,” or EIP. The United States has a bad habit of allowing lawful immigrants and foreign students to receive a college education here and then go back to their own country. Once there, they’ll apply for a U.S workers visa but have difficulty returning to work in the U.S. because of our outdated procedure to attain a permanent visa, according to U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO).
It makes absolutely no sense to invest time and finances into educating immigrants if we are going to lose them at the very point they can contribute to our society.
How can anyone complain about the failures of the economy when we intentionally reject perfectly productive members of our populace every day? Such a touchy topic, isn’t it? So let’s hear what the three candidates have to say.
In lieu of the EIP, the Obama Administration enacted a plan to expand the pool of foreign students eligible for a 17-month visa extension. This gives immigrant graduates more time to train and, in some cases, secure a long-term job. Student visa holders can stay in the U.S. longer through the “optional practical training” program, which originally allowed students to work and train in their field for up to 12 months after graduating. The George Bush Administration allowed certain students in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) field to stay an extra 17 months, for a 29-month period in all.
The Obama administration added degree programs to this list, hoping to add to shortages in some high-tech science sectors. According to the National Science Foundation, more temporary visa holders enrolled in graduate engineering programs in 2008 than U.S. citizens and permanent residents. In 2009, 53 percent of physical science doctorate recipients were citizens or permanent residents, compared with 42 percent studying on temporary visa.
Obama’s initiative toward handling the EIP seems fruitful. However, those against it are concerned that the change could hurt U.S. citizens looking for jobs by making them compete against more foreign graduates, at a time when unemployment is already high. To this I say, maybe this competition will encourage more Americans to seek STEM degrees. If this sector is a weakness for Americans, why not let immigrants save us? They have been saving this country for years anyway. You are allowed to disagree, and if reading this disturbs you in any way, I do not apologize. Maybe you’d rather Mitt Romney’s strategy. I should warn you, it isn’t that different from Obama’s.
As stated on Romney’s website, Romney for President Inc., Romney supports the U.S’ attracting and retaining job creators from wherever they come. He feels foreign-born residents with advanced degrees start companies, create jobs, and drive innovation at high rates. Romney’s Human Capital Policy outlines a strategy that staples a green card to the diploma of every eligible student visa holder who graduates from a U.S. university with an advanced degree in the STEM field. The site reveals Romney’s view that permanent residency would offer the certainty required to start businesses and drive American innovation.
As for the presumed weakness behind Romney’s approach, Romney wrote in his plan that, “highly skilled workers would not displace unemployed Americans but would fill high-skill job openings where there is an acute shortage of labor, and get the US economy back on track.”
For a change of pace, Gingrich agrees with me: He feels it is foolish to educate someone well enough for them to start the next job-creating startup, only to force them to leave America and start their business overseas. On his website, he addresses “in-sourcing the best brains in the world.” He also says, “We want the jobs here and that means we want the job creators here.”
Gingrich’s site says that he would like to allow qualified foreign students to transition immediately into the American workforce. He has considered a program that grants foreign graduates of STEM programs a work visa with their diploma. The site claims this strategy will maximize the amount of talented individuals who are building the next great American businesses, creating American jobs, and paying taxes in the United States.
It seems each candidate is on a similar page. Obama would like to expand the list of STEM degrees eligible and allow student visa holders to stay in the U.S. longer after graduation. Romney would like to offer green cards to graduates from STEM fields because permanent residency would assure them progress in the U.S. economy. Gingrich would like to offer STEM degree graduates work visas upon graduation.
The effort that is required to attain a degree in science, technology, engineering, and math alone should qualify someone for permanent residency. Romney has won me over in this case. Whichever perspective you think best to address the Educated Immigrant Phenomenon, do us all a favor: Since every vote does, in fact, count, think long and hard before checking off any ballot on a whim. Seek to attain what the powerful envision. The powerful envision power, and voting is ours. Use it wisely!