President Obama made a brief mention about the need for high-skilled immigration reform during his inaugural address at the United States Capitol on Monday.
Obama has made clear that passing comprehensive immigration legislation will be a policy priority during his second term. It’s expected that a measure aimed at boosting the number of visas available to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities with master’s degrees and Ph.D.s in engineering, math and science fields will be included in forthcoming immigration legislation.
In his speech, Obama argued that foreign-born engineers and graduates with advanced degrees should be able to stay in the U.S. and join the workforce rather than be forced to return to their home countries.
“Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country,” Obama said.
The issue is a cornerstone policy priority for tech giants such as Microsoft and Intel, which argue that they struggle to fill positions for engineering and research jobs because most applicants don’t have the requisite skills for these positions. Tech companies also argue that they want to keep this talent in the U.S. rather than lose it to competitors abroad.
Obama has advocated for high-skilled immigration reform before. During the presidential debates last year, Obama noted that immigrants in the U.S. have founded some of the most prominent American tech companies, such as Google and Intel.
High-skilled immigration legislation has typically enjoyed bipartisan support, but past efforts to pass such measures have been tangled up in the larger immigration debate. The momentum for passing a comprehensive immigration package has ramped up after Obama received roughly 70 percent of the Hispanic vote during the 2012 election.