Immigrants who come to the United States to study at our best universities and then go to work at our nation's leading companies contribute directly and immediately to our nation's global economic competitiveness. High-skilled immigrants who have started their own high-tech companies have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and achieved company sales in the hundreds of billions of dollars.
All of us benefit greatly from this surge of human energy and aptitude. Consider the following: immigrants founded 1 in 4 of the publicly traded companies created between 1990 and 2005. Prominent companies founded by immigrants and their families include Intel, Solectron, Sun, eBay, Yahoo, and Google. And foreign nationals in U.S. were inventors or co-inventors of 25 percent of all patents filed in U.S. in 2006.
To be certain, improving our high-skill immigration policies must not be considered a substitute for investing in our homegrown workforce. Improving access to top-flight education for everyone in this country is a national imperative. It is true, as is often pointed out, that two thirds of doctorates from U.S. universities in engineering and computer science are awarded to foreign born students. But it is also true that some 96 percent of all Bachelor's degrees in the sciences and engineering fields go to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Making it easier financially for these homegrown engineers and scientists to pursue advanced degrees will be the foundation for our continued global leadership and prosperity.
Nor are high skill reforms a substitute for the manifold problems that afflict our immigration system. Broader reforms that bring undocumented workers in to the legal fold and keep families together are crucial to spurring economic growth and protecting American workers. Moreover, immigrants at all skill levels carry the potential for important entrepreneurial and innovative contributions.
THROWING AWAY OUR INVESTMENT IN MINDS
At the same time we must recognize that our university system already attracts the best and brightest minds from around the world and then forces these immigrant students into a difficult choice upon graduation--go home or find an employer to sponsor their entry into what amounts to a lottery that might allow them to stay and work. This makes no sense.
Why subsidize the education and training of foreign-born students--many of whom want to stay in the United States--and then thrust them into an immigration system that prevents us from capitalizing on their collective knowledge and skills? In a globalized economy we cannot expect to fill all of our labor needs with a homegrown workforce alone. In fact, our current educational demographics point to growing shortfalls in some of the skills needed in the modern economy. As global economic integration deepens, the source points for skill sets will spread, such as green engineering in Holland or nanotechnology in Israel, so the breadth of skills needed to drive innovation will expand and global labor pools must become more mobile.