It is “absolutely insane” that foreigners graduating with post-graduate degrees from quality Massachusetts universities are unable to pursue careers in the United States because of their immigration status, Congressman Michael Capuano said Tuesday.
“If we don’t keep them, they will go home and they will open the businesses to compete against us. It is absolutely insane to bring people from around the world – the smartest people in the world. If they can get a Ph.D. in physics out of MIT, Harvard, BC, BU, Tufts, Northeastern,” Capuano said at an event at Google’s Cambridge office. “They’re not taking American jobs, because any American who can get into those universities can have the same job and do the same thing. These are the people we need to keep.”
In April, Capuano filed the Best Return on America’s Investment Now, or BRAIN Act (H.R. 4467), which he said would create a visa for foreigners who receive an advanced degree in science, technology, engineering and math.
“The last 10 years or so we have shoved these people out. And what do they do? They go back to their home countries and open up businesses, usually supported by their government, to compete against us,” said Capuano, who said his bill is not a substitute for his desire for comprehensive immigration reform.
On another immigration front, the federal government is seeking new facilities to house unaccompanied children who crossed the southern border illegally, and Capuano said he would support a spending bill that would enable new facilities.
Gov. Deval Patrick has offered to potentially house children at military bases in Bourne or Chicopee, kicking off a debate within the Bay State as skeptics have raised concerns about the length of the operation and the federal government’s ability to cover all the costs.
“I support the concept of treating these children like human beings, and the kind of human beings that deserve our respect. That doesn’t presume that they shouldn’t be sent home,” Capuano told reporters when asked if he supports Patrick’s proposal. He said, “There’s no doubt in my mind that we should be treating them with respect while they are here, no matter how they got here. I feel the same way about prisoners who have committed horrendous crimes.”
The unaccompanied children who crossed the border illegally are held in federal custody or sent to stay with relatives while their cases are adjudicated. Capuano said he expects many of them would eventually be sent back to their home countries.
“While we are having our internal family fight about what to do with them they should be treated like human beings,” Capuano said.
Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala have been ravaged by gangs and poverty, according to news reports and officials, leading to an exodus facilitated by “coyotes” who charge thousands of dollars to spirit children across the Rio Grande, where they often ask to be taken into U.S. custody.