Immigration is a public policy and, like all public policies, it should serve the best interests of the nation. As such, we should always be on the lookout for people whose education and skills are likely to enhance the social and economic well-being of the country.
It is clear that people who possess advanced skills in the fields of science, math, engineering, and technology, or STEM, hold the potential to be economic assets. Consequently, some in Congress are proposing that we grant green cards to any foreign student who graduates from an American university with a STEM degree.
Unfortunately, the proposal doesn't address the need to scrap our current immigration system, which is designed to admit endless chains of relatives without regard to their skills, and replace it with a more skills-based model. Not only wouldn't it correct the underlying dysfunction of our immigration policy, indiscriminately offering green cards to all foreign STEM graduates would create other unintended consequences. Such sweeping policies may appease powerful business interests, but they would further undermine American workers.
Proponents of automatic green cards for STEM graduates often argue that there are not enough native-born Americans going into these fields. In reality, we have more than an adequate supply of home-grown STEM talent. Only about one third of native STEM professionals are currently employed in jobs closely related to their degrees. Some two thirds of native STEM workers are employed or are training for jobs in unrelated fields.
The already excessive use of foreign labor in STEM fields has stagnated or even driven down wages, convincing America's best and brightest to pursue other careers. Instead of complementing our native labor force, automatic green cards for foreign STEM graduates would exacerbate this already unhealthy dependency on foreign labor.
While the idea of automatic green cards for all foreign STEM goes too far, it does highlight a disastrous flaw in our immigration policy that must be addressed. America admits about 1.1 million legal immigrants annually, but only 6 percent of them are directly admitted because we believe their jobs skills will make them assets to our country. Instead of a new, overly broad add-on to our broken immigration system, we need a new system designed to selectively admit people who are most likely to contribute to the well-being of our country.
About Daniel Stein President of Federation for American Immigration Reform
Tamar Jacoby President of ImmigrationWorks USA
Ron Hira Co-author of 'Outsourcing America'
Norm Matloff Professor at University of California, Davis