Wednesday, 01 May 2013 20:00

Give Me Your Huddled and Talented Masses Yearning to Study Science

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In this era of intense partisanship, Congress finally seems to agree on the need to write a comprehensive overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. Their motives may differ but everyone seems to agree that change is needed.

Soon after the 2012 elections, eight Senators—four Republicans and four Democrats—joined together to try to write a bill overhauling the U.S. immigration system. Members of the House of Representatives are also working on their own plan but almost everything about their work is being done in secret.

While Congress has been scurrying around to find a workable deal, members of the ASCB International Affairs Committee (IAC) and the Public Policy Committee (PPC) began work on a position paper addressing changes in immigration policy that the ASCB feels need to be made on behalf of the American biomedical research community and American scientific competitiveness. The final paper is posted here.

Recognizing the continued globalization of science, the ASCB calls for a modernization of U.S. immigration law to allow the United States to remain a world leader in scientific research.

Despite having the best research and educational institutions in the world, existing U.S. immigration laws serve as a significant hurdle for attracting and retaining the world's most promising scientists, and for diversifying the U.S. biomedical workforce and bioeconomy. To preserve our international competitiveness, the ASCB recommends that the following changes be made to existing U.S. immigration policies:

  • Restrictions on foreign travel by visa holders should be eased.
  • Match visa durations with training time.
  • The number of H-1B visas should be based on market demands.
  • Foreign students should receive green cards upon completion of their studies.

During the 20th century, the United States was able to attract the best and the brightest scientists and hope-to-be scientists to train under and then collaborate with American scientists. Beginning in 2001, a series of factors made it harder to attract the best and the brightest to U.S. labs. The recommendations by the ASCB are a first start in reversing that trend.

Kevin M. Wilson

Kevin is the Public Policy Director for American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). Before joining the ASCB, Kevin served as Legislative Director for Congressman Bob Weygand (D-RI). Before joining Congressman Weygand's staff, Kevin worked for Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). Kevin is a graduate of the Catholic University of America.

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