Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona pushes for immigration reforms to bolster workforce
Apr 24, 2023, 4:35 AM
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
PHOENIX — Amidst an effort at the state and federal levels to make Arizona a manufacturing hub comes a struggle to staff a skilled workforce. However, Arizona’s senior U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema said she might have a solution.
During a roundtable discussion on Friday with manufacturers, including Intel, leaders detailed the challenges they face when trying to hire skilled workers. They added many of the students currently enrolled in STEM programs are students from foreign countries, leading to challenges to keep them in the U.S. after graduation.
“Right now, we’re paying for young men and women, both American-born and foreign-born, to become educated in our community. It makes no sense at all that after we invest all those thousands of dollars in higher education, we send these individuals back to their home countries to compete against us on the global stage,” Sinema said.
Instead, she would like to see reform for nonimmigrant visas and temporary workers programs while creating a legal pathway for immigration.
“We should be stapling a green card to their diplomas and keeping those bright minds right here in our country, working for our national defense, for our economy, for our ability to compete globally,” Sinema said.
Sinema added this is a key part of the immigration framework she is currently working on.
H-1B Visas are employer-sponsored visas available for specialty occupations and given out on a lottery basis. There are only 65,000 visas available each year, with an additional 20,000 available for foreign professionals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities, but the demand for them often exceeds the amount available.
“The problem with the lottery system is it has nothing to do with need or talent. It’s based on pure luck,” Sinema said.
Sinema said a more appropriate system to have in place would be to match employers and visas together to make them easier to obtain.
“When they’re working for companies or interning with companies and are doing incredible work, that they have a faster line to get those visas and stay working for those companies to help us invent the next great defenses for American innovation,” Sinema said.
We want to hear from you.
Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.