Labrador Introduces American Innovation and Education Act


Date: Oct. 14, 2011
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Education

This week Idaho Congressman Raúl R. Labrador introduced the American Innovation and Education Act, designed to allow foreign students with advanced degrees in fields such as high-tech, engineering and medical technology to be immediately eligible for permanent residency if they are offered a job from a U.S. employer in their chosen field of study and to encourage and incentivize more American students to enter into science and engineering programs.

Commenting on his legislation, Rep. Labrador said, "My legislation addresses both the short-term problem of an immediate need for highly-educated workers in Idaho's workforce and the long-term problem of too few American students entering into math and science-based programs. When I practiced immigration law I regularly worked with high tech companies in Idaho who had openings for workers with advanced degrees but, due to the small number of U.S. graduates in these fields, could not find the employees they needed. I also saw many highly educated foreign-born graduates who wanted to stay in the U.S. and put their education to use in our economy, but could not. This is a well known problem, and has attracted interest from both sides of the aisle.

"At the present time, many of Idaho's top innovating companies in high tech, biomedicine and other science fields are unable to fill all of their employment needs with American students. American student interest in the Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) fields is decreasing; leaving American companies without American workers at the very time that job creation depends more than ever on a vibrant STEM economy. At the same time, many of the graduates of advanced degree programs in the United States are foreign born. Unable to navigate the immigration process in a timely fashion, many of these graduates return to their countries of birth, where their talents and the knowledge and skills acquired in the U.S. are put to work for our foreign competitors. Our American universities are training the next generation of innovators and creators--and it is up to us to decide where they will create jobs.

"This legislation allows foreign born STEM graduates of advanced degree programs from U.S. universities to remain in our country with legal permanent residence (or green cards)--so long as they have firm offers of employment--putting their education and skills to work increasing domestic productivity. Fees paid by their employers will cover the costs relating to the administrative burden, as well as contribute to a fund to stimulate more interest among U.S. students to enter STEM field, where unemployment even today is around 3 percent.

"I looked at the different ways that have been proposed to fix this problem and have introduced a specific, targeted bill to help people who have offers of employment but face a processing backlog that can stretch for a decade or more. When they leave after graduating, their innovations are forever lost to our economy. This bill will also pave the way to encourage more interest in the STEM fields from our domestic students, who make up a decreasing proportion of current graduate students.

"One symptom of America's broken immigration system is an inability to retain intellectual talent and capitalize on the best and brightest minds who want to help our country grow. Republicans and Democrats alike agree that this is a real problem and have contributed to finding innovative solutions to keep America in its place as the world's most innovative nation. We must end this brain-drain of talent, help our educational system and help American companies maintain their edge in the global economy and create new jobs and careers for Americans nationwide."

"America's technology professionals applaud the leadership Rep. Labrador has shown on this issue. By giving foreign STEM graduates certainty in their pursuit of legal permanent residency, his bill will encourage the creation of new technology companies, create jobs and contribute to our country's long-term competitiveness. It is a strong bill and Congressman Labrador should be commended for tackling this issue in such a thoughtful and balanced manner." Ron Jensen, President, IEEE-USA