Congressional news

A coalition of more than 130 employers, industry groups, and regional chambers of commerce, including Microsoft, Apple, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter to all members of the U.S. House of Representatives urging them to pass an immigration bill that would make it easier for international STEM-field graduates of U.S. universities to stay and work in the U.S., CQ.com reports.

The letter says:

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The House Foreign Affairs Committee approved last week the FY 2013 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which authorizes $598 million for Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs. This figure is level with current FY 2012 funding, and just above the FY 2013 House appropriation of $587 million and below the Senate appropriation of $625 million.  

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Several Democratic, Republican and bipartisan proposals aimed at “grant[ing] more visas to foreigners who earn science and technology degrees from U.S. universities” have recently surfaced in both the House and the Senate, CQ.com reported.

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The Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee funded educational and cultural exchange programs at $625 million for FY 2013, $38 million above the President’s FY13 request and $26.2 million above the final FY 2012 appropriation for exchanges of $598.8 million.

While some of the statistics were grim (e.g., only 8 per cent of U.S. undergraduates study a foreign language, half of what it was in 1965), hope for the future was abundant as students, teachers, and international education leaders testified yesterday at a hearing titled “A National Security Crisis: Foreign Language Capabilities in the Federal Government.” That hopefulness seemed to culminate with the testimony of Shauna Kaplan, a 5th grader at Providence Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, who confidently spoke to hearing chair Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI) in Chinese and neatly offered a call to action by proclaiming, in her second language:

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Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) plan to introduce a bill this week that would create a new visa category for international graduate students seeking U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (the STEM fields), CQ.com reports (subscribers only). Once these students graduate and get a job, they would automatically be eligible for green cards granting them permanent resident status and, later, the chance to become a citizen:

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Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) is expected to unveil legislation this week to address “demands from high-tech companies for a relaxation of restrictions on foreign graduate students and technicians,” CQ.com reports (subscribers only). Cornyn’s bill may draw from several bi-partisan measures that have already been proposed:

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The House State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee funded educational and cultural exchange programs at $586.957 million for FY 2013, exactly even with the President’s FY13 request and approximately 2 per cent below the final FY 2012 appropriation for exchanges of $598.8 million.

The House Appropriations State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee (which funds State Department exchange programs) will consider funding for FY 2013 as early as next week, with the Senate subcommittee to follow soon after. While the Senate has proposed nearly level funding for international affairs programs, the House is threatening to cut them by 9.4 per cent.

We need to generate as many letters from constituents as possible, asking your members of Congress to support level funding for Department of State exchange programs at $598.8 million in FY 13.

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The House Appropriations committee today approved by a 28-21 vote its FY 13 allocations for the 12 appropriations bills, CQ.com reports. State-Foreign Operations, which includes Department of State exchange programs, would be funded at $48.3 billion, consisting of $40.1 billion in base funding and $8.2 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

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