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Immigration Reform Called for by 16 TN Higher Ed Leaders

Press release from Partnership for a New American Economy; September 19, 2013:

Nashville, TN – Yesterday, sixteen college and university leaders in Tennessee sent a joint letter to the Tennessee U.S. House delegation calling for immigration reform to be passed this year.

These leaders in education understand immigration reform is an economic imperative, writing “Our educational institutions succeed when all of Tennessee’s industries succeed, and research shows that passing immigration reform will benefit all sectors of the state’s economy – especially our agricultural and housing sectors.”

The letter was signed by:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Philip B. Oldham, President, Tennessee Tech University
  • Nancy B. Moody, President, Tusculum College
  • Jimmy G. Cheek, Chancellor, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The letter cites several reasons for the need to pass immigration reform legislation this year, including:

  • The prevalence of foreign-born students graduating with Master’s or PhDs in STEM fields
  • The high demand for STEM graduates by businesses
  • The potential impact to the economy from passage of the DREAM Act
  • The need of the agricultural industry for more low-skill visas

The letter also cites broad support for immigration reform in Tennessee, stating “Tennesseans know we should not wait to fix our immigration system. Recent polls show that 63 percent of Tennessee voters support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, with 91 percent believing it is important we fix our immigration system this year.”

A copy of the full letter is included with this release.

ABOUT PARTNERSHIP FOR A NEW AMERICAN ECONOMY: The Partnership for a New American Economy brings together more than 500 Republican, Democratic and Independent mayors and business leaders who support immigration reforms that will help create jobs for Americans today. The Partnership’s members include mayors of more than 35 million people nationwide and business leaders of companies that generate more than $1.5 trillion and employ more than 4 million people across all sectors of the economy, from Agriculture to Aerospace, Hospitality to High Tech and Media to Manufacturing. Partnership members understand that immigration is essential to maintaining the productive, diverse and flexible workforce that America needs to ensure prosperity over the coming generations. Learn more at www.RenewOurEconomy.org.

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University Leader Letter:

September 18, 2013

The Honorable Diane Black 1531 Longworth HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Marsha Blackburn 217 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Steve Cohen 2404 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Jim Cooper 1536 Longworth HOB Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Scott Desjarlais 413 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable John J. Duncan, Jr. 2207 Rayburn HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Stephen Fincher 1118 Longworth HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Chuck Fleischmann 230 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Phil Roe 407 Cannon House Office Bldg Washington, DC 20515

Dear Tennessee Delegation:

As leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities, we are writing to encourage you to address a critical threat to America’s preeminence as the center of innovation and prosperity: our inability under current United States immigration policy to help Tennessee retain and capitalize on many of the talented individuals we are educating on our campuses.

Foreign-born students help create jobs for Tennessee and often provide the technological innovations that help drive economic growth. Many will serve as the next generation of entrepreneurs, scientists, and leaders in our state.

A recent study by the Partnership for a New American Economy and the American Enterprise Institute found that for every 100 foreign-born graduates from a U.S. Master’s or PhD program who stay in America working in a STEM field, 262 additional jobs are created for American workers.

In Tennessee, that can translate into a significant new growth — since our share of foreign-born advance STEM degree holders working in STEM fields grew by 85 percent between 2000 and 2010.

Yet, in 2009, 37 percent of the students earning Master’s or PhDs in STEM fields from Tennessee’s research universities were temporary residents, a group with no clear path to stay in America after graduation. And more than half of all students earning engineering PhDs in recent years have been non-citizens. We need reform to keep these graduates.

Studies also show immigrants are twice as likely to start new companies to support our communities and to create new jobs. Immigrant-owned businesses in Tennessee already generate about $851 million in income for the state each year.

But many of our future students came to this country as children and have been unable to take advantage of an American education and contribute to our economy because of their status. A recent study found that incentivizing these children to pursue a college education by passing the DREAM Act would add 1.4 million jobs and generate $329 billion in economic activity over the next 20 years.

Our educational institutions succeed when all of Tennessee’s industries succeed, and research shows that passing immigration reform will benefit all sectors of the state’s economy – especially our agricultural and housing sectors.

But our current immigration system creates real obstacles to growth. Low limits on high-skilled visas leave immigrants with no way to stay after earning a diploma, or they face untenable delays waiting for a permanent visa. At the same time, low limits on low-skilled visas leave farmers struggling to find the workers they need to produce and grow.

Meanwhile, too many people are living in the shadows unable to join our workforce, gain an education, and contribute to the economy they live in, while we face real worker shortages and slow economic growth.

Creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants will have a positive effect for Tennessee’s economy. According to a study by Regional Economic Models, Inc., for every person who enrolls, an estimated $6,916 will be added to our Gross State Product by 2020.

Tennesseans know we should not wait to fix our immigration system. Recent polls show that 63 percent of Tennessee voters support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, with 91 percent believing it is important we fix our immigration system this year.

We call on you to work together to develop a comprehensive, bipartisan solution on immigration reform. From education to agriculture — to housing to business – Tennessee’s economy needs your support on this important issue at this critical time.

Thank you for your consideration and for your continued leadership.

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

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

Philip B. Oldham President Tennessee Tech University

Nancy B. Moody President Tusculum College

Jimmy G. Cheek Chancellor University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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