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Public Radio International - Senator Introduces Bill to Keep Immigrants With Science Degrees, Legal or Not, in U.S.

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Sen. Michael Bennet said he's heard from many high-tech companies that they can't find enough talented students with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. So he's introduced a bill to keep more students with those skills in the United States, including undocumented immigrants and those here only on a student visa.

The United States Congress is considering legislation that would help keep high-value immigrants in the country.

The legislation would allow undocumented immigrants who are studying science, technology, engineering and math to apply for temporary student visas.

Belen Colin, a mechanical engineering student at Metro State College of Denver, in an undocumented immigrant. She said she wants make sure her parents risked everything to come here, for a reason.

"I don't just want to finish high school, drop out and work at a low-skill job," she said.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Michael Bennet (D.-Colo.) would also allow some holders of temporary student visas to receive permanent resident status if they're on course to graduate with an advanced degree in those fields.

Wolfgang Pauli, a neuroscientist studying for a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado-Boulder, said it doesn't make sense for the United States to spend a great deal of money educating foreign students, only to prevent them from staying.

Bennet said he's heard from high-tech companies all over the state and the country who are having a hard time filling the vacancies they have. This measure is meant to help them.

Opponents, though, say it's not fair to give visas to foreigners and in so doing take away jobs from native-born Americans.

"This is about jobs and who gets them. And the bottom line is we need to preserve them for American citizens first and foremost," said Stan Weekes, director of the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform.

With this being an election year, and illegal immigration being a hot-button topic, the bill's prospects are uncertain.

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