Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) president Susan Hockfield notes that the majority of the 2009 Nobel Prize winners for physics, chemistry, and medicine are immigrants who came to the United States as scientists or as graduate or post-doctoral students. She writes that they were drawn by the openness and prestige of the U.S. system of higher education and advanced research, but “that openness stands in sharp contrast to arcane U.S. immigration policies that discourage young scholars from settling in the U.S.” Student immigrants play a vital role in job creation, and Hockfield notes that foreign MIT graduates have started 2,340 active U.S. businesses in which more than 100,000 people are employed. She points out that U.S. immigration statutes require that students go back to their homelands after graduation and then apply for a visa if they wish to return and seek employment in the United States. “It would be hard to invent a policy more counterproductive to our national interest,” Hockfield says. She advocates the creation of a wider-ranging immigration policy that would allow foreign students who earn advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math to easily obtain legal permanent residence. Also critical is the aggressive cultivation of more domestic talent, especially Ph.D.s in the sciences, as other countries’ graduation rates are outpacing those of the United States. “To be part of [the] global creative network we must inspire more young Americans to pursue scientific careers, and we must rapidly reform U.S. immigration policies that drive away talented young scholars who would otherwise decide to live, work, and innovate here,” Hockfield concludes.
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