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STEM – To End or Not to End?

Earlier this year, President Trump issued the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order.  Since then we have seen the implementation of several changes on the immigration scene.  From the end of DACA, to the new 90 Day rule of entry, to an increased ICE presence, to a set guideline from the White House on Immigration Policies and Procedures, it all outlines what the White House is looking to achieve.

One of the points listed is to extend “Merit Based” immigration, but other updates and releases including the above Executive Order, seems to close even the Legal High-Skilled Immigration, including those on the STEM OPT (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Optical Practical Training)  that was implemented by the Bush Administration and extended by President Obama.

Currently, STEM-OPT allows for 45,000 new foreign students to annually work in the country after graduation for up to three years, giving them additional practical training.  This also helps extend their time in the US to find a long term job via the H-1B program and stay in the US, rather than taking their talent back outside the US. These students are a large asset to many companies who are willing to hire them and place them outside of the US. But this will take the innovations and the related jobs to other countries putting the American economy at risk.

Another aspect is that without the option for foreign students to gain the practical knowledge and the option to work in America, they are not as likely to enroll into American Universities.    This would also land a hard blow to America as according to the National Science Foundation, international students account for 81% of the full time graduate students who are in the electrical engineering and 79% in Computer Science.  Without the foreign students, there may not even be enough students to sustain the full range of Graduate STEM courses.  This again could only negatively impact the US economy.

Now all that remains to be seen is the fate of the STEM OPT program.

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