The News & Observer
June 26, 2012
Leaders Pen Immigration Letter
Local and national university presidents sent a letter to President
Barack Obama and congressional leaders Tuesday, calling for
an easier path to permanent resident status for foreign students.
The letter, signed by more than 100 university leaders from
across the country, comes in conjunction with a report released
by the bipartisan group Partnership for a New American Economy,
which details the importance of immigrant ingenuity to the economy.
Among its findings, the report, titled "Patent Pending:
How Immigrants are Reinventing the American Economy," found
that out of the 1,500 patents awarded to the top 10 patent-producing
universities in the United States, more than three-quarters
had at least one foreign inventor. Additionally, these inventors
represented 88 countries.
The letter was addressed to Obama, as well as Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid, Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader
In it, university leaders bemoaned "our inability under
current United States immigration policy to retain and benefit
from many of the top minds educated at our universities"
and called for "a bipartisan solution that ensures our
top international graduates have a clear path to a green card,
so they can stay and create new American jobs."
Several local university leaders signed the letter, including
Duke University's Richard Brodhead, UNC-Chapel Hill's Holden
Thorp, N.C. State's Randolph Woodson, UNC Charlotte's Philip
Dubois and Wake Forest's Nathan Hatch, none of whom could be
reached for comment.
According to Deborah Weissman, a Reef C. Ivey II distinguished
professor of law at UNC-CH, part of the problem is that it is
difficult for foreign students, who are generally in the country
on visas, to remain here after they graduate.
"They are investing in us, and we are investing in them,"
Weissman said, "and the outcome can be enriching for the
economy and the cultural fabric, but not if there is no way
for them to stay."
Weissman added that from an economic standpoint, she understands
the need to keep foreign students in the country.
"When they enter in our economy and intermingle with the
U.S. workforce, the end result is greater efficiency and effectiveness,"
William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration,
disagreed with the university leaders' letter.
"I would remind them that they serve the American citizens
who pay the taxes that have funded these institutions for years,"
Gheen said. "They should think that it could be an American
in that university."
The letter comes on the heels of Obama's decision Friday to
spare some immigrants who came to the United States as children
from being deported. And on Monday the Supreme Court handed
down a split decision regarding Arizona's hotly contested immigration