National security would benefit from immigration reform

Innovative minds from other countries are encouraged to come to the U.S. to study and work with the help of different work and student visas provided by United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Many believe the United States government should be doing more to help those students who come to the United States to study and earn graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields to stay in the country and contribute to the economy by growing businesses and creating jobs.

According to a 2013 National Foundation for American Policy study, roughly 70 percent of students in some key STEM university graduate programs in the U.S. are immigrants.  And a Congressional Research Service study conducted in 2012 discovered that the number of immigrant graduate students in the United States is increasing. In 1990 there were about 91,000 immigrant graduate students, and in 2009 the U.S. hosted almost 149,000 immigrant graduate students.

Encouraging bright minds to stay in the United States after graduation to start businesses that will create jobs is not only important to the U.S.’s  position in the global marketplace, but also to national security. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently proposed cuts to military spending that would diminish the size of the United States Army to levels similar to those during World War II.  Hagel, however, also proposed the U.S. continue to invest in new technologies. What some people believe Hagel failed to realize is that many technological advances are born from the minds of innovative immigrant workers who need to be allowed to stay in the U.S. to continue producing those technologies.

President Barack Obama has emphasized the need to allow immigrant graduate students who earn STEM degrees in the U.S. to stay and become citizens, but that will only be achieved through comprehensive immigration reform. Although Republicans agree on the need to provide a path to citizenship  for U.S.-educated immigrants with STEM-related degrees, they disagree with Democrats on the importance of the details of comprehensive immigration reform.

The United States’ defense capabilities are becoming increasingly dependent on the latest advances in science and technology, and when STEM students leave the country when their visas expire, the U.S. loses access to their future innovations.