Should U.S. Give Green Cards to Foreign-born College Graduates?


Jonah Rono left his native Kenya in 2008 to study nursing at the College of Southern Idaho. When he graduates next year, he wants to work as a registered nurse in the U.S. To get there, he’ll need to make it through a labyrinth of paperwork and apply for a work permit. It includes a deadline to find a job that overlooks Rono’s need to take the state’s nursing license exam after graduation to become qualified, he said. “If I can, I will stay,” said Rono, 27.

International students studying high-tech, medical and engineering fields have caught the attention of U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. The former immigration attorney has introduced a bill aimed at making foreign-born students immediately eligible for permanent residency if they are seeking careers in high-demand fields tied to science, technology, engineering and math. If they have a job offer and a degree in their field, the students would become eligible for green cards.

“When I practiced immigration law, I regularly worked with high tech companies in Idaho who had openings for workers with advanced degrees but, due to the small number of U.S. graduates in these fields, could not find the employees they needed,” Labrador said in a written statement. “I also saw many highly educated foreign-born graduates who wanted to stay in the U.S. and put their education to use in our economy, but could not. This is a well known problem.”

Graduates unable to navigate the immigration process take their skills back to their country of origin, he said.

“Our American universities are training the next generation of innovators and creators — and it is up to us to decide where they will create jobs,” Labrador said.

Foreign-born residents in the U.S. are more likely to have science- and engineering-related bachelor’s degrees than native-born residents, U.S. Census data shows. Forty-six percent of foreign-born residents age 25 or older have degrees in those fields, while just 33 percent of native-born residents have a comparable education.

Rono is one of 53 international students attending CSI on student visas.

Graydon Stanley, CSI’s dean of students, said international students often have the goal of returning to their country after studying in the U.S. At the same time, they are strong students, he said.

“These are some really highly motivated, highly able students,” Stanley said.

It can be challenging for students to get the papers they need to pursue their studies, and requirements vary from country to country, Stanley said.

Rono said he’d like to stay in the U.S. for a long time if he were granted permanent residency. For now, he’ll be studying and doing his clinical nursing work.

He says it’s a complicated process, but he’s still hoping for the best.

“Sometimes, I don’t want to think about it,” he said.

Ben Botkin may be reached at 735-3238.



Comment on the article

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More

%d bloggers like this: