Congressional news

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) has sponsored and introduced in the House of Representatives the “Global Science Program for Security, Competitiveness, and Diplomacy Act of 2012” that aims to increase collaborative research and science exchanges between the U.S. and eligible countries across the globe.

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A number of pieces of legislation dealing with visa issues—proposed by members of both parties and in both the House and Senate—are currently circulating in Congress. These various bills can be difficult to keep straight, so below is a brief guide to help:

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Congressional leaders announced they have agreed to pursue a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund the federal government from October through March 2013, CQ.com reports.

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A bipartisan group of Senators including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) plans to propose a bill that would improve oversight of the student-visa system and would weed out sham colleges, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

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The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report yesterday critical of the Student Exchange and Visitor Program (SEVP), saying that the program lacks processes to identify risk and prevent fraud, and does not have proper controls to verify the legitimacy of schools that accept international students. SEVP is responsible for certifying schools to accept international students in academic and vocational programs, as well as managing the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which assists the Department of Homeland Security in tracking and monitoring certified schools and international students.

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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