Shetty: STEM Immigration is Essential to America’s Future

From 2010 to 2019, 42% of the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) PhD graduates from U.S. universities were international students. Working in America has always been seen as fertile ground for new career growth and bountiful opportunity. As someone who grew up in Malaysia, I can attest to the reputation the U.S. has overseas.

Unfortunately, this reputation is in danger. Countries like China are taking the mantle from us, with the number of STEM graduates each year surpassing ours back in the mid-2000s. As of 2019, PhDs in STEM fields from Chinese universities outnumbered U.S. universities by 49,498 to 33,759. However, the Bipartisan Innovation Act has the potential to return this country to its former standing as the world’s leader in developing technologies and scientific breakthroughs.

Some of the best students I know, my dear friends, aspired to venture out to the U.S. with the hopes of starting their own businesses in a country where innovation and technology seemed to flourish. I came here to study computer science, and now I’m happy to say I’m employed right here in Silicon Valley. It has been a dream to contribute to this field with the work we are doing. I know it would’ve turned out very differently had I been stuck on a decade-long waitlist before I even had the chance to apply myself.

Employing immigrant STEM workers has bolstered the workforce of this country in some of its most revolutionary companies. Clearly, giving our domestic operations an edge when competing with foreign economic powers, like that of China, should be a priority.

Yet, there is a huge deterrent to this happening; a green card backlog that runs over 10 years long. I have heard many visa horror stories, and I know certain Indian colleagues who were unable to secure an H-1B visa after three years and were forced to leave the country.

By Special to San José Spotlight
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