Giving Up on Our Own? Higher-Ed Officials Shouldn't Promote Students With Visas Jumping the Line

Corporate America has been telling us for years that the jobs they are shipping overseas are jobs we don't need—we will all be working at highly skilled and technological jobs that pay more money. Let Bangladesh have the garment business.

Meanwhile, there is a concerted effort to bring foreigners in to do the high-tech jobs we were supposed to be developing.

Last week, a group of higher-education officials in Tennessee, including University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, sent a letter to Congress asking that we have immigration reform so that foreign graduate students in our colleges can stay here and work rather than go home when their student visas expire. They argue that we have educated them and we ought to benefit from their expertise.

They point out that fully one-third of our graduate students in science and technology are on temporary visas. This is not something to tout, it is something of which to be ashamed.

These higher-ed officials are supporting Silicon Valley to devise an immigration policy that is ass-backwards from what we need.

Have we given up on educating our own students in high-tech fields? Can we not fill the ranks of engineering and computer fields from our own student populations? Why do we have so many foreign students in these fields that we need to change our immigration policy to accommodate such huge numbers?

At the same time, it is obvious that there are still a lot of jobs that Americans would prefer not to do. Like picking vegetables. Landscaping. Day labor. Hanging drywall. To their credit, the higher-ed guys also suggest immigration reform for all illegal aliens to bring them out of the shadows.

But we don't have an adequate guest-worker program that would allow workers, primarily Mexicans, to come to this country to work, pay taxes, and then go home. We would rather they slip in, stay hidden, and create millions of illegal aliens.

We don't have to reward illegal immigrants with citizenship. But we could establish a sensible guest-worker program with green cards and allow people to work and pay taxes. And return home.

Instead of awarding graduate school slots to foreign-born students, we ought to have a concerted effort to fill the ranks of future engineers, computer gurus, doctors, chemists, and biologists with our own students. Instead of going out of our way to import them.

Our immigration policy should be what's good for America. What's good for us is to have a legal, transparent process for workers for jobs we don't want to do. And we ought to restrict the immigration of students taking the high-paying jobs we would prefer our citizens to have.

Let's be clear that I am not anti-legal immigration. We ought to have a sensible policy and a much more efficient process for legal immigrants. But it is no more fair to let someone with a student visa jump the line on citizenship than it is to allow someone who waded across the Rio Grande to do so.

Our immigration policy for the past decades has created a mess. Instead of having an immigration policy that recognizes reality and sets up a process to allow people in to suit our needs, we have allowed politics to interfere.

What we need is a system where present illegal aliens can get a green card and work, legally. If they don't have a job, deport them. If they break the law, deport them. Otherwise, make their work here legal. You do not have to reward jumping the line by giving them citizenship. That ought to satisfy the "send all 12 million of them home" crowd.

Higher-education officials in Tennessee ought to be spending their time recruiting and training our own students for advanced degrees rather than working to create a pool of foreign-born students to compete with our students for jobs.

Gov. Bill Haslam and his reformer allies are striving to improve K-12 education and Haslam has a goal of increasing the number of our students who pursue higher education.

That's the way to go and that's the direction our higher education officials ought to be directing their efforts.