TN higher education leaders call for immigration reform

Sixteen Tennessee higher education officials have signed a letter to Congress calling for immigration reform. All but three are presidents of private colleges and universities, the exceptions being John Morgan, chancellor of the state Board of Regents; Jimmy Cheek, chancellor of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville; and Phillip Oldham, president of Tennessee Technological University.

One of the signers, Christian Brothers University President John Smarrelli Jr., has an op-ed piece in the Commercial Appeal today that summarizes their thinking. An excerpt:

Here in Tennessee, more than one-third of the students seeking master’s or doctoral degrees in STEM fields are temporary residents of the United States with few options to stay here after graduation. This is especially disheartening when you look at the current and future demands of this specialized workforce.

There are currently more than two available jobs for every one qualified STEM industry worker in our state. We simply do not have enough STEM workers trained here to fill these jobs requiring advanced degrees. And without immigration reform, the lack of an adequate number of H1B visas means we cannot keep many of our most promising graduates here to fill such jobs.

…Action must be taken to enact comprehensive reforms on the federal level in order for us to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce that will drive our economy and lead more Americans to greater prosperity.

That is why I recently joined with 15 other university presidents across Tennessee to send a letter to our U.S. House delegation encouraging lawmakers to act during this session of Congress on a comprehensive and bipartisan solution for immigration reform

Note: TNReport has posted a news release from Partnership for a New American Economy, a group pushing immigration legislation, that lists the university officials in Tennessee and provides full text of the letter. It’s HERE.