As president, Hillary Clinton would support automatic green cards, or permanent residency, for foreign students who earn advanced STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) degrees.
Clinton, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, wants the U.S. to "staple" green cards on the diplomas of STEM masters and PhD graduates "from accredited institutions."
Clinton outlined her plan in a broader tech policy agenda released today.
This agenda is big on improving computer science education and is modeled after some of President Barack Obama's efforts, such as training 50,000 computer science teachers in the next 10 years. But the topic that may get the most focus is immigration.
Clinton's "staple" idea isn't a new. It's what Mitt Romney, the GOP presidential nominee in 2012, supported. It has had bipartisan support in Congress.
Broadly, a green card staple plan allows students to bypass temporary H-1B work visa and move from a student visa to a green card. The student will need a job and the proposals may require a waiting period. Clinton's plan has no specifics.
Even so, the staple idea is controversial. Critics will say the provision would be hard to control, could foster age discrimination and is likely to put pressure on IT wages.
Ron Hira, a public policy professor at Howard University, testified earlier this year that a staple program "will create perverse incentives in both the labor and educational markets. Employers will be incentivized to replace their older incumbent workers with cheaper fresh graduates, fueling age discrimination."
Colleges will likely recruit foreign students into advanced degree programs with the promise of green cards.
"Given that Master's degrees are short in duration (as little as 12 months), and have little oversight from outside bodies (no specialized accreditation process for most), this provision will make it inexpensive for foreigners to purchase greencards from a variety of universities," said Hira during Senate testimony delivered earlier this year.
Todd Park, the former U.S. chief technology officer, argued while at the White House for a staple provision. "Today's advanced STEM graduate could be tomorrow's world-class, world-changing scientist," he wrote in a blog post.
The tech agenda unveiled by Clinton doesn't address the H-1B visa. Clinton has been silent on what she would do about the temporary work visa; her comprehensive immigration plan doesn't address it either.
Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has said in his platform that before green cards are issued to foreign workers "there will be a pause where employers will have to hire from the domestic pool of unemployed immigrant and native workers."
But Trump, during a GOP presidential debate in in Detroit March, seemed uncertain about how to handle international students who graduate from U.S. schools.
Trump spoke about how foreign students will go to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton and "as soon as they're finished they'll get shoved out. They want to stay in this country. They want to stay here desperately, they're not able to stay here. For that purpose, we absolutely have to be able to keep the brain power in this country," he said.
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