US senators push for high-skill immigration reform

A group of US senators has pledged to open up the country's borders to more high-skill immigrants, with lawmakers arguing that the US is turning away some of the world's smartest people.

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A group of US senators has pledged to open up the country's borders to more high-skill immigrants, with lawmakers arguing that the US is turning away some of the world's smartest people.

Senators Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, both called for immigration reform that would allow more high-skill workers into theUS

The Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee is working on legislation that would open up the country's H-1B visa system and would give green-card work permits to foreign students who graduate fromUS colleges with science, math and technology degrees, Schumer said during a hearing.

Schumer didn't reveal details of the immigration legislation he's working on, but it follows similar efforts in the House of Representatives. Schumer said he hopes to push forward a comprehensive immigration reform bill, dealing with other immigration issues as well as high-skill jobs, even though other recent attempts to pass a wide-ranging bill have failed.

It doesn't make sense for the US to make foreign graduates return to their home countries, then apply to come back to theUS under the H-1B visa program, Schumer said. "If we do not enact an immigration policy that continues to attract the world's best minds, we will cease to be the world's economic leader," he added. "Unfortunately, our broken immigration system discourages the world's best and brightest minds from coming to America to create jobs."

Some other countries are now offering top scientists and engineers huge bonuses to move there, Schumer added.

Representatives of Microsoft and the Nasdaq OMX Group testified in support of loosened immigration rules. Fourteen companies listed on the Nasdaq exchange, employing nearly 500,000 people, have foreign-born founders, said Robert Greifeld, CEO at Nasdaq.

Top tech companies continue to have trouble finding qualified US workers, said Greifeld and Brad Smith, general counsel at Microsoft. The job board StartUpHire.com currently has 13,000 job openings, and Apple, eBay, Google and Yahoo all have more than 550 job openings in the San Jose area, Greifeld said.

Without a new immigration policy,US tech companies will move more jobs overseas, Smith said. "The world economy has changed," he said. "It used to be that people would move in search of the right job, but increasingly, jobs move in search of the right people."

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