Democrats lobby for high-tech immigration reforms in the Innovation Bill before Congress | science

The form of research in the United States is set as Congress tries to reconcile competing versions of a massive two-year bill aimed at boosting US competitiveness with China in research and high-tech manufacturing.

The bills will not only allow hundreds of billions of dollars to be spent on research, but will also set new policies for the government’s approach to supporting science. A controversial provision in the Senate version, the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, would change the way the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy’s science office distribute their research dollars by geographic region.

Today’s story describes proposed changes to US immigration rules aimed at accepting more foreign scientists and engineers. They are contained in the Competition Act for America, passed earlier this year by the US House of Representatives. Tomorrow we will consider a provision in the Senate bill that will impose new requirements on individual faculty and staff to report on any foreign gifts.

Democrats want to use the big innovation bill now passing through Congress to make it easier for foreign-born scientists and engineers to study and work in the United States.

The long-held maxim in Washington, D.C., that any immigration bill must provide a comprehensive solution to all aspects of the thorny issue has doomed the proposals to pieces in the past. But members of the House of Representatives hope the bipartisan desire to compete better with China will break the congestion and see their limited provisions preserved in the final bill.

Immigrants in the United States have played a huge role in basic science and in the launch of American high-tech companies. So facilitating attracting and retaining them should be a hassle, said spokeswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), who introduced a separate bill last year to create an entrepreneurship visa.

Her idea was folded in the version of the House of Representatives of the Innovation Bill, approved earlier this year. The new visa category will apply to individuals with a significant share of high-tech startups in selected areas and key employees in these companies, removing them from the overall set of non-immigrant visa applicants. Their spouses and children would also be eligible for visas.

In another provision, technically skilled workers can apply for the new type of visa without having an internal sponsor, which is now required under the current rules. A third change in current immigration laws will force foreign students to earn a doctorate. in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) at an American or foreign university, immediately eligible for a green card that gives them permanent resident status. This change will allow them to bypass the current ceilings for those waiting to receive this valuable piece of paper.

Taken together, Lofgren says, these provisions “will make the United States more prosperous by boosting the economy, curbing brain drain, creating jobs for American workers and restoring our country’s position as the number one choice for the next generation of entrepreneurs in the world.” world Wide. ”

Parliament’s version of the Innovation Bill is taking two other steps to welcome more international researchers. Currently, students seeking a temporary non-immigrant visa have to prove that they plan to return home upon graduation, a requirement that some see as an obstacle to staying. The bill will remove this stipulation.

A second provision will pave the way for a small number of international scientists – 10 a year during this decade and 100 from 2031 – funded by the Ministry of Defense or working in areas important to national security.

The CONCRETE law was passed by the Chamber with the support of only one Republican MP. And there are no such immigration regulations in the Senate version, which won significant support from Republicans. This means that Lofgren and her Democrat colleagues must convince enough Republicans in the Senate that these narrowly focused changes in current immigration policy are part of the final bill because they are essential to sustaining innovation in the United States.

A hearing last week by a Senate Judicial Subcommittee on Immigration revealed these deep party divisions. The June 14 hearing focused on the plight of so-called undocumented Dreamers, immigrants living in the United States since they were children who were given a temporary reprieve from deportation through the Child Deferred Action Program (DACA). But this program, set up in 2012, faces legal challenges that could soon lead to its termination.

Some DACA recipients have been taught early in their careers, such as Dalia Larios, an intern in radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School, who came to the United States from Mexico at the age of ten. Larios was the first DACA recipient to enter Harvard Medical School, and she testified to how students like her are eager to stay and apply their talents to boost US economic growth.

Panelist Republicans readily acknowledged the contributions of immigrant scientists and engineers to innovation in the United States. But some suggest it is premature to create new rules for foreign-born researchers before deciding how to deal with other groups, such as the Dreamers.

“Among DACA and STEM entrepreneurs, what should Congress’ priority be?” Senator John Cornin (R-TX), a key supporter of the Senate Innovation Bill, asked Larios, who declined to choose.

Speaking of scienceAfter the hearing, Cornin said he was worried that adding House of Representatives immigration regulations to the final product would jeopardize the whole bill.

“Immigration is not the main goal of [the Senate innovation bill]”Cornin said. “And based on my experience here, I think the more he deals with immigration, the harder it will be to get through it.”

Other Republican senators believe that border security should come first and do not trust American universities that accept foreign scientists to protect national security. If nothing else, Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) said, the new visa category and other regulations will make it easier for enemies of the United States to steal emerging technology.

Bernard Burola, a senior fellow at the 230-member Association of Public Universities and Land Grants, which supports the path to citizenship for DACA recipients and Lofgren regulations, dismissed Blackburn’s premise. “We take this issue very seriously,” he told Blackburn when she asked if international academic cooperation posed a threat to national security. “And we work closely with the FBI to identify, understand and mitigate all risks.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), who chaired last week’s hearing, called on his Republican counterparts to adopt immigration regulations in the House of Representatives bill. “I hope that today we have made it very clear that they are in the national interest, not only from an economic point of view, but also from a national security point of view,” Padilla said after the hearing. “Using the best talent from around the world has given us our competitive advantage and this must continue.”

But Padilla also acknowledged that Democrats are far from making a deal. “I think immigration reform is central to [final innovation] account, “he said scienceInside information. “But I guess we still have work to do to convince [Republicans] from this.”

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