Foreign Skilled Workers and U.S. Competitiveness

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 10:30 AM
Russell Senate Office Building

Honorary Co-Hosts

Science & Technology Caucus Co-Chairs:
Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)
| Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) ~ opening remarks


Highly skilled, foreign-born workers make major contributions to the American economy, particularly in the areas of science and technology. Attracting promising international scientists and engineers to live and work in the United States can help us maintain a global brainpower advantage and capitalize on the fertile environment for innovation.

Yet security and labor concerns have brought new scrutiny and questions about the value of attracting these individuals. This forum examined whether attracting highly-skilled, foreign-born workers, researchers, and students is in the national interest and, if so, what are the best ways to encourage those individuals to come to the U.S.


Dr. Sigurd R. Nilsen
Director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues
U.S. Government Accountability Office
Mr. Robert Hoffman Director of Congressional and Legislative Affairs
Oracle Corporation
Co-chairperson Compete America
Mr. Jay Pradhan Co-founder and Vice-President
Immigration Voice
Dr. B. Lindsay Lowell Director of Policy Studies, Institute for the Study of International Migration
Georgetown University

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Foreign, Skilled Workers and U.S. Competitiveness

ACS Capitol Connection

Whether as a visa holder, a domestic worker, or a concerned innovator, scientists are impacted by the flow of highly skilled labor across national borders. On May 15, the ACS Science & the Congress Project hosted a congressional briefing on foreign, skilled workers and U.S. competitiveness. The timing of the briefing coincided with the Senate debate on national immigration policy.

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), co-chair of the Senate Science & Technology Caucus, was the honorary briefing host. “We’re in an exciting time. The America COMPETES Act [the Senate’s innovation bill] is far from being the only thing we need to do… Now we can turn our attention to the immigration bill and complete the recommendation of the Augustine report by making it easier for skilled professionals to work in our country,” said Alexander in his opening remarks. His comments echoed the Rising Above the Gathering Storm report, which recommends that the federal government institute a skills-based, preferential immigration option to doctoral-level science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workers.

The briefing was moderated by Dr. Sigurd R. Nilsen from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Mr. Robert Hoffman, of the Oracle Corporation and the group Compete America, gave a tech industry viewpoint in support of foreign professional workers coming to the United States. Mr. Jay Pradhan, vice-president of Immigration Voice, an immigration advocacy group, described the challenges of living on temporary worker visas and applying for permanent residency in the United States. Dr. B. Lindsay Lowell, from the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University, highlighted the complexity in temporary visiting worker and immigration policy, including uncertain labor market demand exists for more technology workers and his findings of depressed wages for STEM workers holding a temporary skilled worker (H1b) visa.

All the speakers commented on the disparity between the original design of the temporary worker visa program and its practical implementation. The purpose of the forum was to examine whether attracting highly skilled, foreign-born workers, researchers, and students is in the national interest, and, if so, to ask how to encourage those individuals to come to the U.S.

Speakers Robert Hoffman, Jay Pradhan, and
Lindsay Lowell