ATLANTA, GA — As a bipartisan group of U. S. senators, “the Gang of 8, unveiled their immigration plan Thursday. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing on Friday and another one on Monday. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the bill won’t go through the markup process until May, which will give the public more time to read the more than 800 pages of the proposed legislation. Inspire STEM USA is hard at work to address the crisis we see today with a severe shortage of qualified workers in STEM fields and is pushing for lawmakers to address immigration and workforce development needs. inSPIRE STEM USA’s plan seeks to reduce the number of open STEM jobs and ensure that America maintains its competitiveness relative to other countries by producing more college graduates with engineering and computer science degrees.
inSPIRE STEM USA is encouraged by the bipartisan effort for immigration reform, acknowledging that “reform legislation should include long-term solution to improving science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (STEM).” I had the pleasure of speaking with Maria Cardona, one of the co-chairs of inSPIRE STEM USA, about the organization and the current immigration overhaul plan that was unveiled by the Senate. The overriding theme of the interview was that meaningful immigration reform will help America attract and keep qualified workers for high-skilled jobs, inside of watching those workers go elsewhere.
Ms. Cardona said at this juncture, America doesn’t produce enough workers educated in STEM fields to fill the jobs that are expected to take our economy to the next level and keep the U.S. on the cutting edge on all fronts. The coalition believes that the inclusion of the STEM fund and raising the H-1B visa cap in this new piece of legislation will have a tremendous and positive effect in putting the country on the right path to accomplish long-term goals.
Maria Cardona has championed immigration for a long time in her career, particularly in the Latino community. Along with immigration, one of the issues important to the Latino community is education. The black community is in sync with the Latino community on the “understanding at a gut level that when we have a good solid, quality education, that is the best path for a better future for our children.” She migrated from Colombia with her parents when she was two years old. She said her parents realized that a good education was paramount, adding that a “good education is the way forward for the Latino community.” It doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is, a good education is paramount for a good economic outlook.
Ms. Cardona said inSPIRE STEM USA focuses on education and immigration, both issues are dear to her. The coalition believes that whatever comes out of Congress from an immigration standpoint, there needs to be a key focus on the issue of education from a STEM perspective. “For the careers of now, the focus needs to be on our kids being trained in the STEM fields,” Cardona said. “A person with a degree in a STEM field can expect to make $1.5 million more than a person with a non-STEM degree. In the next 10 years, there will be 17 percent more job opportunities in the STEM fields than other fields,” she added. “We are graduating no more than 40,000 kids with a computer science degree. The jobs that we need yearly in the field is 120,000 and these are workers coming from other countries to fill those jobs. We want to keep those jobs here for the growth of this country.”
As someone in the minority community, Maria Cardona, she “knows that a lot of kids when they are little, teachers don’t have a high expectation of our kids excelling in Science. If we can change that, our kids will live up to those expectations. We need to have teachers and programs that understand the importance of helping our kids get into those fields,” she said.
It is imperative that what ever legislation comes out of the Senate, that it includes the I-Squared bill. If that is achieved then the two over-arching pieces of the coalition is pushing is much better situated to become a reality. The first one is to make sure that we are able to fill the high tech slots that right now we can’t fill right now and the second part of this is the one we have to make sure is included to make sure these companies pay a fee that will go to the long-term STEM fund in the United States, so we don’t have to go overseas or outside of our borders to fill those jobs that are a part of our future. Mobilizing your elected official is imperative in helping inSPIRE STEM USA meet its goals.
I encourage you to listen to this riveting interview (below) and call your elected official to get on the ball with comprehensive immigration reform and a push for improved STEM education. We can be stronger and more competitive as a country if we all work together to change our communities for the better, starting with helping our children gain an appreciation for Science. Maria Cardona is encouraged that also within the comprehensive immigration overhaul is improving STEM education in communities across the U.S. and reducing the disparities in education and the work place.