Why Higher Education Needs Immigration Reform

Tim Goral's picture

Over the last month, I have been heartened to see that immigration reform is again an issue of national prominence.

A bipartisan group of senators proposed overhauling our immigration policies. Their plan would lift the threat of deportation for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

I am not a fan of every provision in the bill, but I agree with enough to urge you to support it. These issues hit close to home - not just for me, but for everyone. Let me cite two major reasons. Immigration reform is good for our economy. But it also is good for our souls. Let me explain.

I work at a university. Each year, about 4,000 students graduate. We have relationships with industries to ensure that our graduates are career ready. By graduation, they have put their classroom knowledge to the test in real-world exercises.

Practically everyone in higher education agrees we have a shortage of graduates in science, technology, engineering and math. American high-tech and engineering companies are clamoring for skilled workers in these fields. In fact, they have pushed to expand the H-1B program, which allows them to hire foreign workers when they cannot find qualified Americans.

The immigration reform bill will greatly expand the H-1B pool of foreign employees. The fact American companies are hiring foreign workers to fill their skilled labor needs reinforces the fact that there is a shortage of qualified graduates. But this is not the best long-term solution. Foreign workers often return home and work for international competitors because they do not have a pathway to stay in our country. We need a better solution to alleviate our shortage of qualified graduates.

Since I have been in higher education, I have known many bright, capable minds eager to pursue a college degree and contribute to society. However, some have been hampered by lack of documentation. Often, these are young people who were brought illegally to the United States by their parents. They were raised here. Their hearts and ambitions are here. And yet our immigration policies do not allow undocumented workers and their children to stay.

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