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WEDNESDAY BUZZ: Senate, Obama Immigration Plans Touch on Higher Education

January 30, 2013

 

President Obama laid out plans for comprehensive immigration reform in a Las Vegas speech Tuesday afternoon, on the heels of a bipartisan group of eight senators who released a similar proposal on Monday. Both plans could have a significant impact on college students and campuses, most notably the provisions that would enact the long-awaited DREAM Act for students brought to the United States as children.

Both proposals call for expedited citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States by their parents, and both would make it easier for foreign students in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—to get visas and green cards after completing their degree at a U.S. college or university. 

However, it unclear whether another issue of importance to the higher education community, expanding the number of non-immigrant, H-1B visas for high-skilled workers, is directly addressed by the proposals. A number of corporations and higher education institutions use these visas to hire skilled workers and researchers and scholars.

The DREAM Act, formally known as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, is designed to give undocumented immigrants a path to higher education and citizenship.

ACE and many in the higher education community have long supported the different iterations of the measure, which have been introduced in Congress on a regular basis since 2001. (See ACE President Molly Corbett Broad’s statement to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in support of the previous version of the bill.)

Congress last considered the bill in 2010, when it failed in the Senate. The Obama administration announced a policy in 2012 to put in place some provisions of the DREAM Act, making some young people safe from deportation proceedings.

Papers across the country have run editorials in past days in strong support of the move toward immigration reform. The Houston Chronicle called for “a law that reflects the facts on the ground, where the term illegal immigrant applies to folks who have lived here for years and are part of our communities.” The Los Angeles Times wrote this morning that “to educate foreign students at American colleges and universities and then force them leave deprives the U.S. of their skills. That's foolish.”

On the prospects of a comprehensive package, ACE’s Becky Timmons told Inside Higher Ed that “All of the indicators suggest that if this thing doesn’t fall apart on the basis of politics, there is a really compelling reason to do a mid- to far-reaching immigration reform.”

Also see:

Obama Embraces Reform Plan That Would Help Immigrant Students
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Jan. 29, 2013)

Obama's Immigration Plan
Inside Higher Ed (Jan. 30, 2013)

Obama Makes His Immigration Push
The Washington Post (free reg. req.) (Jan. 29, 2013)

8 Senators Unveil a Broad, Bipartisan Plan for Immigration Overhaul
The Chronicle of Higher Education (Jan. 28, 2013)

OPINION: A Better Immigration Plan
The New York Times (Jan. 29, 2013)

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