Immigration Reform: Immigrants Earning Advanced Degrees

Rich Tucker /

“We love it [in the United States],” Anurag Bajpayee told The Washington Post. He’s a 27-year-old from India who’s doing post-doctoral mechanical engineering work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). With his business partner and fellow student Prakash Narayan Govindan, he has developed a machine that could help purify water used in hydraulic fracking.

Both want to remain in the U.S. and run a company to make and market their invention after their student visas expire this summer. “But there are so many hoops you have to jump through,” Bajpayee says. “And you risk getting deported while you are creating jobs.”

Immigration seems like a large problem. There are more than 10 million illegals in the United States right now. Some came legally and stayed when their visas expired. Others come and go, working seasonally in the U.S. illegally and leaving after a few months. Reducing the number, we’re told, requires a “comprehensive” solution.

But one reason immigration seems like an unsolvable problem is because it would be difficult, maybe impossible, to solve the entire problem at once. If policymakers would break immigration down and solve one smaller problem at a time, the picture could look much brighter.

Start with individuals such as Bajpayee and Govindan. “President Obama supports making it easier for foreigners who earn master’s degrees or PhDs at U.S. universities to get green cards, as does a bipartisan group of U.S. senators working on reform,” Kevin Sullivan writes in The Washington Post. “A solution is stuck in partisan infighting, however, over how to craft comprehensive reforms that address both skilled and unskilled immigrants.”

But the fact that there’s widespread agreement on this particular issue provides a way forward: Lawmakers could make it easier for anyone with an advanced degree to remain. That wouldn’t solve the entire immigration problem, but it would make the problem somewhat smaller.

“Immigration reform can move forward on many fronts at the same time, focusing on some commonsense initiatives that begin to address the practical challenges of our immigration system,” Heritage experts Matthew Spalding, Jessica Zuckerman, and James Jay Carafano wrote last month. “A varied problem requires varied solutions which address each of our immigration system’s challenges on its own track. America needs a comprehensive approach—not comprehensive legislation.”

The immigrants currently at MIT on student visas are eager to help create jobs and opportunities for Americans. It makes no sense to force these students to leave the U.S. while Congress decides how to handle other groups of immigrants.

Let’s separate the problems, and get moving on the best solutions.

immigration reform