Four Democratic senators, including two candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, have introduced a bill that would remove unfair barriers for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) educated international students who want to work in the United States after they complete their advanced degrees.
Senators Dick Durbin (Illinois), Richard Blumenthal (Connecticut), Kamala Harris (California), and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) introduced the ‘Keep STEM Talent Act of 2019’, which aims to help grow the economy by retaining talented international graduates who have earned advanced STEM degrees from American universities by exempting these graduates from restrictive green card caps that significantly delay or prevent their pathway to citizenship.
“America should always be looking to maintain a strong STEM workforce because it will help us compete in the global economy,” Durbin said.
“By denying international students with STEM degrees a chance to continue their work in America, we are shipping their talents overseas and won’t see the positive impacts of their American education. We think this bill represents a common sense idea that the Senate should take seriously.”
Under the ‘Keep STEM Talent Act’, a STEM graduate could obtain lawful permanent residence if the graduate secures an offer of employment from, or is employed by, a US employer in a field related to their degree at a rate of pay above the median wage level for the position in the geographic area of employment.
In addition, their employer would have to receive an approved labour certification for the position, which requires the Secretary of Labor to determine and certify that no qualified US workers are available for the position and that the wages and working conditions of US workers are not adversely affected by the hiring of the foreign worker.
Blumenthal said the bill is about sustaining American competitiveness. “As we work to improve access to STEM education for young people who grow up here, we must also encourage international students who benefit from our great academic research universities to keep their talents in the United States after they graduate.”
He said the bill would “ensure robust opportunities for people from every corner of the world to come here to learn, and contribute to American innovation and economic leadership”.
Harris said: “Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity. We have invested in these students who have learned at our universities and we must do everything we can to keep their talent here.”
She said the legislation would ensure the US remains competitive in the global economy, and that “hardworking students are welcome on our campuses and in our country”.
Klobuchar said America is a country created and sustained by immigrants, whose contributions are a pillar of the nation’s competitive edge in the global economy.
“We should be working to keep students pursuing advanced STEM degrees here in the United States, and this bill will ensure that those who want to bring their talent to our country can succeed here.”