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University News

‘Gang of Eight’ proposes new immigration policy

The legislation would give green cards to those who finish advanced degrees in STEM fields

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2013

U.S. Senators have proposed a new immigration policy that would help provide STEM majors an easier path to citizenship.

The University’s graduate students could stand to benefit from a proposed immigration reform that would grant more cards for international graduate students studying science, technology, engineering and math.

The legislation was announced Jan. 28 by a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans in the U.S. Senate known as the “Gang of Eight.” The proposed legislation also includes a path to citizenship for those who have lived most of their lives in the United States.

The White House has also jumped into the immigration policy debate with a four-pronged plan to “fix the broken immigration system” that includes granting green cards to students with advanced degrees in STEM fields, according to a memo released Jan. 29.

The University’s graduate school contains 1,973 students, 681 of whom hail from abroad, while 471 foreign graduate students are involved in life sciences, said Beverly Larson, communications director of the graduate school. PhD and master’s students have had difficulty obtaining the necessary visas to stay and work in the U.S, said Peter Weber, dean of the graduate school.

The current system is especially problematic for graduates who would like to start companies, Weber said.

“Visa issues are always at the front of their minds,” Weber said. “It makes it very hard for enterprising students to strike out on their own.”

Weber cited an example from a few years ago when a PhD graduate in engineering at the University began a company that used a new nanoparticle technology to clean up mercury spills. The company prospered for a few years, but Weber said its founder was unable to receive a visa to continue operations in the U.S. He was forced to leave, and the company was left without a CEO.

“It was a regrettable situation,” Weber said, adding that both the company and the local economy suffered from overly rigid immigration laws that caused a Rhode Island-based firm to cease operations.

Weber cited the instance as evidence of damage done to the state economy by visa restrictions that forced talented Brown graduate students to leave the country.

Newly-elected Graduate Student Council president Matthew Lyddon GS criticized immigration laws that placed a legal obstacle to foreign graduate students completing their studies.

“Universities put so much time and resources into these foreign graduate students — it makes no sense to make them leave as a default,” Lyddon said.

Lyddon, a Welsh graduate student pursuing a PhD in political theory, said he was also concerned with the Senate immigration reform proposal to only grant visas to students in STEM departments.

“The STEM subjects do not have a monopoly on creating innovators and entrepreneurs,” Lyddon said.

He added that restricting the green cards to STEM disciplines limits the economic benefit derived from comprehensive visa reform.

Foreign PhD candidates under consideration for assistant professorships often struggle to stay in the U.S. unless the University has the funds to cover the lengthy and expensive visa process, Lyddon said.

Foreign PhD candidates who stay in the country as professors can merit their new citizenship through teaching American students for over twenty or thirty years, Lyddon said.

While he sees the proposed reforms as progress, he added that he thinks the discussions need to broaden beyond the STEM disciplines. Lyddon also referred to recent media coverage of  the Founding Fathers’ support for integrating immigrants into America’s society and workforce.

“I understand that the country today is under different pressures,” Lyddon said. “But if you go and do the math, you see how much money is invested in graduate students in top-flight universities.”


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  1. Saeed Akbar says:

    hi i m saeed akbar from pakistan i m graduate i m sales manager and journalist also i m married i have a three kids one daughter and tow sons i want immigration of u.s you tell me how can be possible what i can do for this plz you reply me i m waiting good bye have a nice night best regard saeed akbar e mail

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