Opinion: Congress can stop the STEM brain drain

What do Elon Musk, Sergey Brin, Noubar Afeyin, Vlad Tenev and Bipul Sinha have in common? They were born outside of the United States, came here for college, and then built hugely successful businesses in America.

Tesla, Google, Moderna, Robinhood and Rubrik.

That’s why people from all over the world come to America – to pursue their dreams in the most innovative, free and economically prosperous country in the world.

Crucially, Musk, Brin, Afeyin, Tenev and Sinha were able to stay in the United States after their studies.

Today, if Elon Musk was in college in America, chances are he would have to move elsewhere to create his endless flow of ideas and businesses.

Unfortunately, our immigration system is broken and has not been significantly updated in 30 years. America has enjoyed a competitive advantage in attracting foreign-born professionals for decades, especially international graduates from American colleges and universities, but now from other countries like the UK, Canada and the Australia are attracting a growing number of these students to study there compared to the United States

The STEM workforce is dwindling in America as Congress has limited the number of green cards and temporary visas for international graduates who would like to stay in the United States long-term. America trained these graduates, why are we trying to export them?

Additionally, our national security is at risk as countries like China continue to make rapid scientific and technological developments and steal our intellectual property. Sustained growth in these areas – especially in the high-tech and equipment manufacturing sectors – leaves the United States at risk of falling behind our global competitors in technological and economic power and influence. We also run the risk of having the best and brightest work for our adversaries’ cybersecurity efforts rather than us.

If this trend continues, we could lose the battle to keep highly skilled workers in American labs, factories, and factories. The resulting brain drain would only exacerbate our struggle to remain internationally competitive. To compete with China’s continued progress and bolster our national security, we must take steps to facilitate greater technological innovation on American soil.

Our elected officials in the United States House of Representatives passed the America COMPETES Act in February. This legislation includes numerous policies and investments to strengthen important industries such as biotechnology, semiconductor production, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. One such policy aims to strengthen our STEM workforce with skilled professionals by expanding opportunities for foreign-born individuals with advanced STEM degrees to come and stay in the United States, ultimately providing a pathway to permanent residency so that their contributions stay here rather than abroad. .

With a wealth of experience in the field of innovation and technology, I understand first-hand the importance of fostering a highly skilled workforce and solving these problems quickly. There are pockets of progress in Mississippi to prepare people for work in technology and other STEM fields, but it’s not enough.

We find ourselves facing a labor shortage, not just here in Mississippi, but nationwide, as job vacancies in the professional, scientific and technical services industries have nearly tripled since 2010. Allowing Workers foreign-born advanced STEM degree holders earning residency will help our state and country establish the workforce needed to complement the growing technology sector.

Since taking office, Roger Wicker, Senior Senator from Mississippi, has been an active supporter of pro-growth and job-creating policies in our state. A senior member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Senator Wicker joined the vote last summer to pass the United States Competition and Innovation Act (USICA), the Senate version of the COMPETES Act. . I commend Senator Wicker for his dedication to improving our national and state economies and urge him to use his considerable skills and respect in Congress to find like-minded senators to make long overdue corrections to make advancing opportunities for foreign-born STEM workers in the final version of the COMPETES Act.

If we are to maintain our global competitive advantage and protect our national security, we must replenish our tech industry with the highly skilled minds we need, wherever they were born.

This year, approximately 100,000 international students who wish to stay and work in the United States will graduate from our schools and begin seeking long-term employment here. We cannot afford to export this talent. Senator Wicker and his colleagues have a golden opportunity to include foreign-born STEM provisions in the COMPETES Act to enable these students to build lasting careers and successful businesses within our borders to strengthen our economy rather than leaving the United States and doing it elsewhere.

In our American colleges right now, there are thousands of “Elon Musk” dreamers, innovators, and would-be entrepreneurs; let’s make sure we give them the opportunity to pursue their dreams on American soil!

Jim Barksdale runs the Barksdale Management Corporation and lives in Jackson, MS with his wife, Donna.

About Michael S. Montanez

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