TN Higher Ed Leaders Join Call for Immigration Reform

Press release from Tennesseans for Immigration Reform; June 6, 2013:

NASHVILLE, TN – Twenty-one chancellors and presidents of Tennessee’s top higher education institutions have sent a joint letter to Senator Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker urging their swift action and support for comprehensive immigration reform.

The letter urges the senators to support a bipartisan solution that would ensure international students educated in American universities will have a clear path to contribute to the American economy and create jobs in the U.S. after they graduate.

“As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.”

To help protect America’s lead in innovation and new job creation, the university leaders’ letter calls for swift action on the issue, stating “we simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.”

“The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.”

Among those signing the letter are: Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor of The University of Tennessee in Knoxville; John Morgan, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents system; Nick Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University; Shirley Raines, President of the University of Memphis; and Brian Noland, President of East Tennessee State University.

Other signatories include: Dr. Robert Fisher, Belmont University; Dr. John Smarrelli, Christian Brothers University; Dr. Harvill Eaton, Cumberland University; Dr. James Williams, Fisk University; Dr. Greg Jordan, King College; Dr. Gary Weedman, Johnson University; Dr. James Dawson, Lincoln Memorial University; Dr. Randy Lowry, Lipscomb University; Dr. Kenneth Schwab, Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia; Dr. Bill Greer, Milligan College; Dr. Gordon Bietz, Southern Adventist University; Dr. Richard Phillips, Southern College of Optometry; Dr. Glenda Glover, Tennessee State University; Dr. Philip Oldham, Tennessee Tech University; Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca Nazarene University; and Dr. Nancy Moody, Tusculum College.

A copy of the complete letter follows:

Tennesseans for Immigration Reform

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Senator Lamar Alexander
455 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Senator Bob Corker
425 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Dear Senator Alexander and Senator Corker:

Thank you for your continued strong support of our colleges and universities here in Tennessee. We are grateful for your focus and leadership for expanded student access, achievement, completion and research success throughout our great state.

That’s why we are writing to seek your help and support on one of the most important national issues directly impacting our institutions—and Tennessee’s future economy—comprehensive immigration reform.

As you know, Tennessee has witnessed significant growth in the number of foreign-born contributors to our society. In fact, more than eight times as many Tennesseans today are foreign born than was the case 50 years ago. We continue to see a growing international presence throughout the Tennessee economy as well.

As leaders of the higher education institutions that are preparing the creators of tomorrow’s scientific breakthroughs, we call on you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity—our inability under current U.S. immigration policy to retain and benefit from many of the top minds educated at our universities.

The United States has historically been the world leader in innovation, invention and creation of ideas that drive economic prosperity. Research shows that in 2011, foreign-born inventors were credited contributors on more than 75 percent of patents issued to the top 10 patent-producing universities in the U.S.

It is in our universities, however, where we educate and train the next generation of researchers, innovators and leaders, and we are proud that the United States remains a top magnet for the world’s brightest and most driven students.

Across the U.S., in 2009, students on temporary visas represented 45 percent of all graduate students in engineering, math, computer science and physical sciences—earning 43 percent of all master’s degrees and 52 percent of all Ph.Ds.

The important role immigrants play in American innovation must not be discounted or diminished; their contributions and inventions lead to new companies and new jobs for American workers, and are an enormous boon to our economy.

However, after we have trained and educated these future job creators, our antiquated immigration laws too often turn them away to work for our competitors in other countries.

Limited numbers of visas force American-educated immigrants to leave the country or face untenable delays for a permanent visa. Top American-educated engineers from India and China face wait times of up to 9 years to get a permanent visa, and new applicants from these countries may face considerably longer waits.

Yet, while we turn away American-educated, trained and funded scientists and engineers, there is a growing skills gap across America’s industries. One quarter of U.S. science and engineering firms report difficulty in hiring, and the problem will only worsen as the U.S. is projected to face a shortfall of 230,000 qualified advanced-degree workers in scientific and technical fields by 2018.

While we are sending away highly skilled workers trained at American universities, competing economies are welcoming these scientists and engineers with streamlined visa applications and creating dedicated visas to ensure that the foreign students who graduate from their own universities can stay and contribute to the local economy.

We simply cannot afford to wait any longer to fix our broken immigration system.

We hope you will work together with your colleagues in the Senate on a comprehensive and bipartisan immigration reform solution that ensures our top international graduates have a clear path to stay here to help us create more American jobs and to ensure that America is the world’s leading home for innovators and innovation.

Thank you again for your outstanding leadership—and for your consideration on this important issue.

Sincerely,

Robert C. Fisher
President
Belmont University

John Smarrelli, Jr.
President
Christian Brothers University

Harvill C. Eaton
President
Cumberland University

Brian Noland
President
East Tennessee State University

H. James Williams
President
Fisk University

Gregory D. Jordan
President
King College

Gary E. Weedman
President
Johnson University

B. James Dawson
President
Lincoln Memorial University

Randy Lowry
President
Lipscomb University

Kenneth L. Schwab
President
Middle Tennessee School for Anesthesia

Bill Greer
President
Milligan College

Gordon Bietz
President
Southern Adventist University

Richard W. Phillips
President
Southern College of Optometry

John Morgan
Chancellor
Tennessee Board of Regents

Glenda B. Glover
President
Tennessee State University

Philip B. Oldham
President
Tennessee Tech University

Dan Boone
President
Trevecca Nazarene University

Nancy B. Moody
President
Tusculum College

Nicholas S. Zeppos
Chancellor
Vanderbilt University

Shirley C. Raines
President
University of Memphis

Jimmy G. Cheek
Chancellor
University of Tennessee, Knoxville