Highly skilled, foreign-born workers who have been educated at U.S. colleges and universities in STEM fields are engines of entrepreneurship and economic growth. Keeping more of these foreign-born STEM graduates in the United States is vital to ensuring a return to economic prosperity and maintaining America's competitiveness in the global marketplace.
Too bad many of them are sent packing after completing their studies, depriving the U.S. economy of their talent.
Instead, our global competitors take advantage of this valuable human capital. As an example, according to a scholar's October 2011 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, 30 to 40 percent of start-ups in Bangalore and Beijing were founded by citizens educated in the STEM fields in the United States.
Aside from possessing desirable skill sets, foreign-born STEM graduates are proven job creators. A report by the Technology CEO Council stated that entrepreneurial "start-ups are disproportionately founded and supported" by foreign-born individuals. As of 2009, foreign graduates of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology alone founded an estimated 2,340 U.S. companies employing more than 100,000 people. A study from the University of California–Berkeley and Duke University found that over 25 percent of U.S. engineering and tech companies created between 1995 and 2005 had at least one foreign-born founder, and in 2006, these companies employed 450,000 people and claimed a combined $52 billion in sales.
Highly skilled foreign-born STEM graduates are a boon to our overall economy. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, in 2006, this group was responsible for 25.6 percent of all international patents. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce has stated that STEM-related jobs have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs in the last 10 years. Also worth noting: Google, Intel, eBay, and Yahoo!—titans of industry all—were founded in part by foreign-born individuals.
Some argue that allowing foreign-born STEM graduates to remain in the United States will allow them to take American jobs. But for decades, these individuals have worked alongside Americans to propel some of our most important industries to the forefront of global innovation. As Frank Kendall, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, stated at a May 2011 Senate hearing, the caliber of foreign-born engineers who graduated with him in the 1970s went on to make the United States a world leader in the fields of defense and aerospace. He also stated that now, the same caliber of foreign-born graduates are being pushed into the workforces of our global competitors.
So how do we keep more of those brains in the United States? I've introduced the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act (STAPLE Act), which would exempt foreign-born individuals who have earned a Ph.D. in the STEM fields from a U.S. institution from the annual limits on the number of employment-based green cards and H-1B visas.
The value of retaining high-skilled talent cannot be overstated. The special skill sets of these individuals strengthen our economy by creating jobs, fostering entrepreneurship, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness in the global marketplace. Ensuring U.S. industry access to the world's best and the brightest ensures that we stay on the leading edge of global innovation.
About Jeff Flake U.S. Representative from Arizona
Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA
Daniel Stein President of Federation for American Immigration Reform
Ron Hira Co-author of 'Outsourcing America'
Norm Matloff Professor at University of California, Davis