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Crow among presidents urging leaders to support smart immigration reform

March 06, 2013

US trains top foreign-born students but sends them away after graduation, presidents say

In an open letter to more than 1,200 university and college presidents across the country, ASU President Michael M. Crow joins the presidents of Cornell University and Miami Dade College in urging their fellow leaders in higher education to join them in pushing for smart immigration policies that will help attract and retain the world’s best and brightest.

Working with the Partnership for a New American Economy and the National Immigration Forum, David J. Skorton (Cornell), Crow and Eduardo J. Padrón (Miami Dade) announced that on April 19 they will host major events on their respective campuses to highlight the role of immigration in driving innovation and creating American jobs. They are encouraging others school presidents to follow suit.

“By speaking with one coordinated voice,” they write, “we can best bring our message to the public and to our representatives in Washington, D.C.”

In their letter, these three presidents stressed that America often trains the most talented foreign-born students in our top educational institutions, only to send them overseas to compete against us in the global marketplace because our immigration system does not provide an opportunity for them to stay. They also noted that many children who were brought here at a young age are prevented from attending college because of their undocumented status. These presidents have long been advocates for sensible immigration reform that helps bolster America’s economy.

Skorton, Crow and Padrón also highlighted visa reform for students in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields as one of the policies they’re strongly backing. Right now, the U.S. economy faces a severe shortage of STEM workers: By 2018, the United States will have an estimated 779,000 jobs that require advanced STEM degrees but only an estimated 555,200 advanced-degree STEM holders – a shortage of more than 220,000 workers.

"For years we've been training the best and brightest foreign-born students in our leading universities – only to have our antiquated immigration laws send them packing after graduation. I thank these college and university presidents for joining the growing list of higher education leaders who are urging Congress to fix our broken immigration system – and fix it this year,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, mayor of New York City and co-chair of the Partnership for a New American Economy.

“Many of us have lost sight of the important contributions immigrants have made – and are making – to our culture and our economy," said Skorton. "Their continued contributions are critical to our country’s success.”

“As one of the largest U.S. public research universities, and one dedicated to meaningful global engagement, ASU is ‘home’ to students and alumni from more than 125 foreign countries," Crow said. "We have a critical responsibility as an education and discovery leader, economic driver, and workforce provider, to support change that allows this country to retain the brilliant minds we serve, thereby strengthening American competitiveness and quality of life.”

“For millions of young people in our country, the opportunity to gain a college education depends on immigration reform. Given the chance, those students will be contributors to vital communities and an American workforce that leads through innovation,” said Padrón.

“Too many of the students trained on our college campuses return to their country of origin because we do not offer them a chance to remain. Whether it is attaching a green card to a STEM degree or putting undocumented students on a road to citizenship, our immigration system must catch up with the times,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum.

The Partnership’s research shows that:

• The U.S. is facing a shortage of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) workers. By 2018, there will be more than 220,000 advanced-degree STEM jobs that will not be filled even if every single American STEM graduate finds a job. (Partnership for a New American Economy and Partnership for New York City, “Not Coming to America,” May 2012)

• Foreign STEM graduates drive American innovation. More than three out of every four patents (76 percent) that the top 10 patent-producing universities (MIT, Caltech, Stanford, etc.) received in 2011 had an immigrant inventor. (Partnership for a New American Economy, “Patent Pending,” June 2012)

• Foreign STEM graduates create American jobs: Every foreign-born graduate with an advanced-degree from a U.S. university who stays and works in a STEM field creates on average 2.62 jobs for American workers. (American Enterprise Institute and the Partnership for a New American Economy, “Immigration and American Jobs,” December 2011)

• Passing the DREAM Act will create jobs and boost economic growth: Incentivizing DREAMers to pursue college and allowing them to work here legally will add 1.4 million jobs and generate $329 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years. (Center for American Progress and Partnership for a New American Economy, “The Economic Benefits of Passing the DREAM Act,” October 2012)

• Immigrants have created many of America’s greatest companies. Forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. (Partnership for a New American Economy, “The ‘New American’ Fortune 500,” June 2011).