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Column: Prioritizing visas allows for students to stay, work

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The United States is losing out on a pool of technical professionals who could energize American industries or create new high-tech businesses.

Students from overseas come to America for graduate school. But when they complete their studies, they often are forced to return to their home countries rather than working for U.S. companies because they are unable to obtain the proper work visa.

To prevent that kind of brain drain, the House passed the STEM Jobs Act by a vote of 245-139 with strong bipartisan support. Hoosier Reps. Todd Rokita and Todd Young both voted yes. Reps. Mike Pence and Dan Burton did not vote.

The House bill will prioritize visas for foreign graduates of American universities in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. This is an important bill for Indiana and for the rest of the country, as it will allow many of the best and brightest immigrants from foreign countries who earn their college educations in the U.S. to stay here and contribute to our economic and cultural diversity.

STEM jobs are typically high-paying jobs in the science, technology, engineering and math fields, which include many Hoosier employers in areas such as the medical device industry.

In a message to constituents, Rokita said, “I hear from Indiana business leaders all the time about the constant demand for high-skilled STEM workers. Through our state universities like Purdue, Hoosier taxpayers invest significant resources in educating the best and brightest students from other countries, only to see them return overseas after they graduate. We need to keep these graduates here so that Indiana and the rest of the country can benefit from their talents.”

The STEM Jobs Act would allocate up to 55,000 work visas, or green cards, per year to eligible foreign graduates with advanced degrees from U.S. universities. The green cards will be made available first to foreign graduates with doctorates and then to foreign graduates with master’s degrees.

This bill is a meaningful and sensible step to promote the legal immigration that our country needs. In addition, it would help the United States maintain its position as a global technological leader.

There are fewer American-born, technically trained students than are needed in industry today. The STEM Act would draw on a pool of eager students we already have invested in through our colleges and universities.

The jobs are there, and these students want them. Sending qualified technical graduates home robs the United States of potentially valuable talent.

We urge the Senate to take up the issue quickly and pass this common-sense proposal on to the White House.

This editorial was written by our sister newspaper, The Daily Journal.

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