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Archive for the ‘Visa Policy’ Category

This post was originally published on ILW.com, a leading immigration online law publisher, on July 3, 2012. 

What are we going to do about U.S. immigration policy? That question is back in the spotlight again after a whirlwind two weeks for the issue. First, the Obama Administration announced that it would end the deportations of undocumented young people who would be eligible for relief under the DREAM Act. Then, last week, the Supreme Court struck down three of four key elements of the controversial anti-immigrant law passed in 2010 by the state of Arizona.

Both of these developments are significant steps in the right direction – but they rightly beg the question: How do we really go about fixing the problem we have when it comes to U.S. immigration policy? What is needed is a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that is based in fairness, facts, and a shared future.

These three concepts aren’t just nice words – they mean something.

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This blog post was originally published on Immigration Impact, a project of the American Immigration Council.

Current U.S. immigration law provides few options for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (“STEM” degrees) who want to stay here to contribute their skills and knowledge. Not enough American students are interested in these fields, even as employers regularly cannot find enough people with the high-tech and scientific knowledge and skills they need to fill available positions. Luckily for the United States, international students seek out these majors and excel in them. But increasingly, we lose these talented graduates to other competitor countries where immigration laws are friendlier. This is, of course, an enormous loss to the U.S. economy, as international students with STEM degrees often create successful businesses and jobs in the United States. Last week, DHS took a strong step forward by expanding the list of STEM fields for foreign graduates applying to training programs after graduation.

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Ireland EducationBy Kevin Dillon
Last week, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen launched an ambitious new plan to establish Ireland as a hub of international education. With the aim of expanding international students in higher education by 50% and in English language schools by 25% over the next five years, the industry would contribute some 1.2 billion euro to the economy by 2015. Ten separate strategic aims are set out in the plan to achieve in the Taoiseach’s words, a reputation as “a world-leading provider of international education.”

A key feature of the strategy is the overhaul of immigration laws in order to facilitate ease of access for international students. Fresh accountability initiatives in publishing visa waiting times, and a commitment to staff mobility in tackling problem waiting areas are designed to ensure a fast-track access process for students. Greater rights for international students’ families such as attending state-funded schools have been integrated into the plan as well as the right for students to remain in Ireland for up to a year after completing their degree in order to gain work experience. (Read NAFSA’s recommendations for immigration and visa policy reform in the United States).

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We received good news this week when we learned that the U.S. State Department reversed its decision in the Hollman Morris visa denial case. Mr. Morris, a prominent Colombian journalist, was previously denied permission to travel to the United States to participate in the prestigious Nieman Fellowship program at Harvard University. This decision was reversed on Monday after NAFSA: Association of International Educators and many other organizations committed to educational exchange and academic freedom raised the case with the State Department.

NAFSA continues to urge Secretary Clinton to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion. Ideological exclusion hampers the advancement of academic and political debate in the United States and undermines this country’s ability to support voices of dissent and reform in other countries. Ideological exclusion also deprives U.S. citizens of their First Amendment right to “hear, speak, and debate with” foreign scholars face‐to‐face. Visa policies should be based on security threats, not ideology.

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The April 30 edition of the Washington Post carried an interesting Forum piece headlined “Getting Smarter on Intelligence” by Thomas Fingar and Mary Margaret Graham, former senior officials in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was created in the post-9/11 restructuring of the intelligence community. The authors point out the unrecognized ways that the community’s performance is being transformed under DNI through the development of technologies and policies that foster and facilitate information sharing and collaborative work. These paragraphs caught my attention:

Technology has helped. Five years ago, Intellipedia — a classified collaborative tool similar to Wikipedia but used by analysts and collectors — was a timid and limited experiment in a single agency. No one had yet imagined A-Space, a cutting-edge collaborative electronic workspace in which analysts have access to data from all components of the intelligence community, social networking software that identifies others working on similar problems and data manipulation tools that were previously available to a select few. Time Magazine called A-Space one of the 50 best inventions of 2008. The Library of National Intelligence, a groundbreaking distributed repository of all disseminated intelligence reports that enable intelligence professionals to discover what we already know and how obtained information has been used, was not even a gleam in anyone’s eye. Today, all are proven and widely used tools that enable analysts (and, increasingly, collectors) to work together responsibly in cyberspace.

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Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, and a former U.S. Congressman, makes a powerful case for investment in and advancement of international education in “Exploit soft power of colleges” published yesterday by The Indianapolis Star. Hamilton writes:

To remain economically competitive and culturally vibrant in the 21st century, we need to have the world’s best educated work force. International education will strengthen our country and enhance the quality of our lives.

NAFSA couldn’t agree more. International education has a clear role in enhancing America’s competitiveness and long-term economic growth. Students who study or volunteer abroad and learn foreign languages are far better prepared to compete in the job market, as cross-cultural competency and global experience are now widely recognized as essential skills and the keys to innovation and competitiveness in the global economy.

Yet today, only 1 percent of American college students participate in study abroad programs each year, and, as Hamilton points out, minorities and students of limited financial means are underrepresented. Hamilton argues that we need to expand educational exchanges, and he is a strong supporter of the Senator Paul Simon Study Abroad Act, which aims to send one million American college students abroad annually in ten years time. The Simon Act will encourage diversity in student participation as well as locations of study abroad, particularly in developing countries.

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An editorial in the New York Times today called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to end ideological exclusion policies and reconsider the questionable visa denials practices from the Bush Administration. We couldn’t agree more.

On February 25, NAFSA along with 20 other organizations sent a letter to Secretary Clinton, thanking her for ending the exclusion of Professors Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg and Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University. The letter goes on to urge Secretary Clinton to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion, and replace them with policies based on security threats.

As reported in late March, Secretary Clinton signed orders in January lifting the ban barring Dr. Habib and Dr. Ramadan, and since then, both professors have traveled successfully to the United States. As the New York Times points out,

The appearances last week by the two men at separate public forums in New York City were a tangible victory for freedom of speech and the robust exchange of ideas across international borders.

However, as the article illustrates, much more needs to be done. It is time to end all State Department policies and practices pertaining to ideological exclusion for foreign scholars so that we can ensure a vibrant global marketplace of ideas.

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Last month, the Department of Energy announced that 69 scientists from across the country will receive up to $85 million in funding under the American Recovery and ReInvestment Act over the next five years in the form of research grants as part of the Department’s Early Career Research Program. The program is designed to stimulate scientific innovation by providing support to exceptional researchers during the early stages of their careers, when most groundbreaking work occurs.

The award recipients are based either at leading U.S. research universities or at one of the DOE-funded national laboratories, and they represent the best and brightest in their fields, fields ranging from basic energy sciences and biological and environmental research to high energy and nuclear physics. According to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “This investment reflects the Administration’s strong commitment to creating jobs and new industries through scientific innovation.”

What the announcement neglected to mention is that at least one third of the award recipients are foreign-born, having first come to the United States to study or conduct research either as a graduate student or as a post doctoral fellow. China, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada are just some of the countries they hail from.

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In his State of the Union Address last night, President Obama spoke about the many challenging issues confronting the American people, and it was clear that the economy was at the top of his list.  He spoke of the need to maintain our competitiveness, encourage innovation, and invest in the skills and education of Americans. On competing in the global economy, President Obama said:

…Washington has been telling us to wait for decades, even as the problems have grown worse.  Meanwhile, China’s not waiting to revamp its economy.  Germany’s not waiting.  India’s not waiting.  These nations aren’t standing still…They’re putting more emphasis on math and science.  They’re rebuilding their infrastructure.  They are making serious investments in clean energy because they want those jobs… As hard as it may be, as uncomfortable and contentious as the debates may be, it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth.

Another thing these countries are doing is attracting talented people from around the world, recognizing that in a global economy, they can’t get the job done alone. Foreign talent contributes to innovation and technology research, spurs new ideas and new businesses, and creates jobs.   The economic future of the United States is tied to effective immigration and visa reform that opens our doors to that talent.  President Obama understands this.  At his recent jobs summit at the White House, he said:

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