To The Editor:
As Northern Virginia braces for the economic effects of the Sequester, some Virginians from both parties are feeling jaded about the ability of Congress to come together on big issues. But anyone looking for signs of encouragement should consider the bipartisan support brewing in Congress for the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, commonly known as “I Squared.” This legislation addresses America's critical need for highly skilled people in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) in order to compete in a high-tech world.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner has shown leadership as a co-sponsor of I Squared, and, given Senator Kaine’s conviction that U.S. education and economic policy should focus on the evolving “talent economy,” I am optimistic that the Senator will join other Democrats who support the bill. I think the Senator would be very comfortable with I Squared, especially considering that, if passed into law, the legislation would help keep STEM based companies competitive across Virginia and help ensure that no jobs are unnecessarily lost, especially in tough times like these.
In the short term, I Squared would increase America’s access to high-tech talent by reforming a self-defeating immigration policy that sets arbitrary limits on the number of work visas and green cards available to highly skilled people needed to fill vacant high-tech jobs here. For the long haul, I Squared creates a funding source that will help American schools produce more graduates in the STEM fields.
STEM graduates are the women and men who will be our next generation of computer engineers, research scientists and, yes, video game designers, too. America needs them all to lead in the 21st century. But our lack of these graduates at home and the arbitrary caps placed on skilled immigrants have created a long-simmering problem with major implications for America and, especially, Virginia.
The Commonwealth’s economy is one of the most technically intensive in America. By 2018, Virginia will need 374,000 STEM related jobs filled. To meet that demand we need to substantially expand the number of STEM graduates we produce and be free to tap into overseas talent as needed. Passage of I Squared would help us do both.