Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Marco Rubio
Posted on 2013-01-29
RUBIO. I thank the Senator.
Mr. President, there has been a lot in the news over the last 24 hours about immigration as an issue that confronts our country. I wanted to put this in the context of that and then talk specifically about the details that are within this.
First of all, in the context of immigration reform, there are things I think the vast majority of Americans would agree. One is this: We have a legal immigration system that is not working for the country. I think that despite the debate which exists about illegal immigration and how to deal with that reality--and that is a real debate that needs to happen--one of the things everyone agrees on is that legal immigration is good for this country. It is an important part of our history and critical part of our future. The legal immigration system we have in place right now does not work for America, and it really does not work for the 21st century.
Let me be clear about one thing: I support family-based immigration. That is how my parents came to this country. I don't want us to do anything that undermines it. I also know that in the 21st century, we can no longer afford to have an immigration system where literally less than 10 percent of the people who come here do so based on the skills they bring to this country.
Think about this for a moment: If I said to my colleagues that the NBA should be a collection of the best basketball players in the world, who would disagree with that? If I said Major League Baseball should be a collection of the best baseball players in the world, who would disagree with that? How, then, can we disagree about that when it comes to our economy? How can we disagree that we should want the smartest, hardest working, most talented people on this planet to come here? I, for one, have no fear our country is going to be overrun by Ph.Ds. I have no fear this country is going to be overrun by nuclear physicists and inventors and entrepreneurs. We have to create a system where that can happen in a rational, organized, and legal way. That is what we are attempting to do because that is not what we have right now in the United States.
What we have, in fact, is a system--and Senator Hatch has discussed this. It was startling when I heard this. Yearly, our Nation has a demand for 120,000 computer science engineers, but our universities only produce 40,000 people a year. This is an indictment of our educational system. We need to fix that. We need to get to a point in this country where we have 120,000 people graduating to meet the demand. But in the short term--right now--we have to deal with the fact that if those 80,000 graduates for those jobs are not created here, those jobs are still going to exist; they are just not going to exist here. Those companies are not going to wait for us to produce more graduates. These countries are not going to wait for us to fix our immigration system. They have a business to run. If they can't find the people they need to fill these jobs, they will send those jobs to another country.
What that means in practical terms is these high-paying jobs in these industries will be paying the taxes in some other country, will be stimulating the economy in some other country, will be laying down roots in some other nation. Do people want to know why one of the reasons America is special? Because for over 200 years we have been a collection of the world's best and brightest, a magnet that attracts people here. Now we have an immigration system that in the 21st century is making that very difficult to achieve. That is what this effort does.
The other concern I have heard is what about the folks in this country now. This is a legitimate concern.
[[Page S362]] When people raise it, I don't get upset because it is a very legitimate concern: The kids who are born here and raised here and go into these industries, will they be hurt? As we have seen, the need far exceeds what we are producing, so that is not an immediate concern. But here is the other, and that is the startling figure that was used earlier; that for every 100 foreign-born STEM workers, we are creating 260-some-odd jobs. It is indisputable that these jobs create jobs for people right down the line in this process. If someone is an entrepreneur who is an immigrant, they create jobs for all kinds of people, and most of them were born here. If someone creates some new technology or develops it, they create jobs and opportunities for people who work here, live here, and were born here. This is a net positive for our economy. That is why this issue is so critical to be confronted.
By the way, as we talk about meeting the demand with our entire immigration system, we can't modernize America's legal immigration system if we don't have a way to get the world's best and brightest to come here in a way that is expedient and in a way that is cost- effective, in a way that is safe, and in a way that is legal. That is what we are attempting to do.
This bill is not in competition with any other effort; it compliments it. In fact, it is an indispensable part of it. We cannot comprehensively reform America's legal immigration system if it does not include VISA provisions for graduates in science, technology, engineering, and math.
My final point: It makes no sense to invite people to come to the United States, to study at our universities, to become the best and brightest in the world at their subject matter, and then ask them to leave. Think about that for a moment. We tell people: Come to America. We are going to let you go to our best schools and teach you everything we know and then we want you to go somewhere else and use the knowledge you gained here. That is crazy. That is not just nonsensical, it is crazy. We can't keep doing that. Hopefully, we will begin to change it now.
It has been a pleasure to work with all the folks involved with this effort. The leadership of Senator Hatch has been extraordinary, as well as that of Senator Klobuchar. We have a good group working together. Our final colleague who has been a part of this, and an indispensable one, who has also worked in the context of another piece of legislation which we are hopeful to get moving soon--startup 2.0--which is an issue for another day, we are obviously interested in hearing from Senator Coons from Delaware about this issue.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Delaware.