07/10/2012 04:20 pm ET

American University Presidents Write Letter To Obama, Want Legislature Change For International Student Visas

The presidents of 122 American universities signed a letter addressed to President Obama and four other government officials requesting the creation of new legislature that would change the current policy surrounding international student visas.

The letter, sent on July 2, begins by acknowledging the importance of research in maintaining America’s dominant position in the 21st century economy. The presidents argue that these young scholars are funded and trained by American universities only to have their visas expire soon after graduation. We neglect the chance to hire some of our brightest employees, and instead send them back to their home countries with competing economies.

To substantiate their claim, the letters lists some crucial statistics, including: the US graduates 16 percent of all PhDs worldwide in scientific and technical field; students on temporary visas were 45 percent of all graduate students in engineering, math, computer science and physical sciences; and that it was recently shown foreign-born inventors were credited contributors on more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the US.

The report behind the letter, “Patent Pending: How Immigrants are Reinventing the American Economy,” is created by the Partnership for a New American Economy.

Presidents of leading research universities have signed the letter, such as
President Hennessy of Stanford University, President Faust of Harvard University, President Zimmer of University of Chicago, President Reif of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, President Jenkins of University of Notre Dame, and President Levin of Yale University.

According to the report, the University of California system ranks first in number of patents produced by any American university. Mark G. Yudof, president of the public university system, has also signed the letter.

In an email interview with UC Berkeley’s newspaper, The Daily Californian, the Campus Graduate Assembly President Bahar Navab commented on the school’s support for creating new student visa legislature for foreign-born students.

“There definitely are international graduate students who are facing expiring visas and can’t find jobs in the US, and thus are forced to leave the country for work,” he wrote. “Similarly, there are international graduate students who face pressure to graduate earlier than some of their peers because there often aren’t enough funding sources for international students.”



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