HR Policy Association is concerned that the U.S. debate over immigration reform often fails to place immigration policy in the broader context of education and competitiveness policy, particularly when it comes to meeting America’s needs for greater talent in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Unfortunately, in recent decades, policymakers have proved largely unable to adjust immigration rules to admit the manpower —both Ph.D. scientists and farm workers— that U.S. companies require to grow.
Typically, the highly charged immigration debate is dominated by social and moral issues. Yet the critical question that must be addressed is whether the immigration system is helping American employers regain the edge against global competition. The U.S. can only do this by attracting and retaining the kind of human capital that spurs technological change, enhances productivity, launches businesses big and small, and sustains the American culture of innovation.
Thus, foreign students who acquire advanced degrees in the STEM disciplines at American higher education institutions should have a path to U.S. citizenship if they wish to use their talents in America rather than returning to their country of origin. In addition, the system for determining the number of annual visas should be revamped to better reflect the needs of the market, rather than maintaining arbitrary and inflexible caps.