Senator Alexander’s Comments On Foreign Student Visas

Posted on April 4, 2005

When I was president of the University of Tennessee in 1989, about the time of Tiananmen Square, I remember suggesting to George Herbert Walker Bush that he should grant immediate citizenship to the 30,000 Chinese students who were then studying in our country. I wish I’d been stronger in my recommendation because if he had or we had as a country, it would’ve done for this generation of science and engineering in America, what the German scientists did after World War II. We have 572,000 international students studying in the United States of America. Many of them are scientists, engineers and computer specialists. Many of them are the smartest people in the world. They come here because we have the best colleges and universities in the world. They do us a favor by coming, because they create jobs for us. We have about five or six percent of all the people in the world, yet we have about a third of all the money. About half of our jobs since World War II have come because of advances in science and technology. What we’re here today to do is to take a look at to what extent 9-11 and our tighter security procedures have made it more difficult for students and researchers to come to the United States. I want to compliment the administration. It has made great strides on this. The purpose of our roundtables and subsequent meetings are to put a spotlight on it for a year at least. Working with the affected departments and making sure that talented men and women who are not security risks can study here and can do research here at places like the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. One other example, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in our home state has a lot of people from around the world who come there and their brainpower helps us create new jobs. Two of the researchers at Oak Ridge went to Canada for a conference and it was six months before they could get back to Oak Ridge because of security problems. We talk a lot in the United States Senate about the outsourcing of jobs. One thing we’re good at is insourcing brainpower. I want to make sure, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the various committees represented here, want to make sure that we continue to insource brainpower— which we believe we can do without threatening the security of our country.