The Impact of Post-9/11 Visa Policy on Science and Technology Competitiveness

Monday, May 3, 2004, 12:00 –1:30 PM
902 Senate Hart Office Building

Introductory Remarks

Summary

Our nation’s leadership in science and technology depends, in part, on a tradition of open access for international students and scientists to visit the U.S. for education, conferences, and collaboration. Immigration policies implemented in the wake of 9/11 have restricted the ability of students and scientists to visit the U.S. and could have significant unintended consequences that will undermine our future science and technology competitiveness. A panel of academic, industry, and government leaders discussed these new policies and what efforts are being made to balance open access for the international community with the need to protect the nation from terrorism.

Sponsors

The Senate Science and Technology Caucus and the Science & the Congress Project

Featured Speakers

John Brummet
Assistant Director for International Affairs and Trade
U.S. General Accounting Office
James Langer
Vice President
National Academy of Sciences
Elsa Reichmanis
Director, Materials Research Department
Bell Laboratories
, Lucent Technologies
Stewart Verdery
Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Policy and Planning
U.S. Department of Homeland Security

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Science & the Congress Briefing Tackles Post-9/11 Visa Problems

ACS Capitol Connection

On Monday, May 3rd, ACS partnered with the Senate Science and Technology Caucus to bring together a group of experts from government, industry, and the scientific community to discuss “The Impact of Post-9/11 Visa Policy on Science and Technology Competitiveness”. Participants included John Brummet, Assistant Director for International Affairs and Trade, U.S. General Accounting Office; James Langer, Vice President, National Academy of Sciences; Elsa Reichmanis, Director, Materials Research Department, Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies and ACS past-president; and Stewart Verdery, Assistant Secretary for Border and Transportation Security, Policy and Planning, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) welcomed the audience and touched on the foreign policy ramifications of increasingly strained visa policies. Mr. Brummet discussed the inherent friction between the goals of scientific openness and national security and the GAO’s difficulty in obtaining sufficient information to clearly understand the problem. The February GAO report attempted to fill part of that information void. From the National Academies perspective, Dr. Langer related several experiences where acclaimed international visitors were prevented from traveling both on business and personal trips because their passports were help up in the visa screening process. Dr. Reichmanis provided insight into the problem of workforce pipeline from student into industry, and the repercussions of international students choosing to study elsewhere or to return home after finishing their degrees. She also emphasized the long-term need to encourage the domestic workforce in the sciences. Stuart Verdery from the Department of Homeland Security rounded-out the panel with the government’s response to the current inefficiencies and what work is underway to try to eliminate many of the delays. He acknowledged that the administration agrees that penalizing law-abiding citizens is wrong and their goal is to facilitate the freedoms of legitimate travelers. Specifically, Mr. Verdery cited the recently re-organized SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and the US-VISIT program as examples of tangible improvements in security.