No Green Cards for Grads

By John Miano on July 20, 2009

The U.S. currently has the very sensible policy of not allowing student visas to be the gateway to immigration. Currently the law requires that those seeking student visas must prove they intend only to come to the U.S. to study and will return home at the completion of their studies. There are, however, mechanisms for some students to remain in the U.S. after graduation. Still, as a general policy, the immigration system expects that one comes to the U.S. on a student visa only to be a student.

In a recent piece in Washington Monthly entitled “Green Cards for Grads,” Mr. T. A. Frank disagreed this wise policy and called for any student with a graduate degree in technology who can obtain employment to be given a green card. Clearly, Mr. Frank has not thought through implications of what he has called for.

Let us assume for the moment that Mr. Frank's proposal were enacted. What then would happen?

What Mr. Frank advocates is tantamount to granting universities the ability to sell U.S. immigration benefits. How much is a green card worth on the open market? If Mr. Frank had his way, we would soon find out.

The U.S. would have quickie graduate programs spring up all over. Fourth tier and for-profit universities would set up programs tailored to foreign students. The ability of universities to sell immigration benefits could justify high tuition prices for such programs.

Consider the simplest case. U.S. universities could market graduate programs to people who already have a PhD or MS from foreign institutions. Take one or two courses at the U.S. school and get an MS degree in the exact same field. The university could even include it as part of the package employment.

What Mr. Frank has completely lost in his call for foreign student to remain in the U.S. is the benefit gained from such students returning home. Foreign students create a pool of people who have learned about American and Americans in general. When they return home they serve as American ambassadors to the world. If foreign students remain in the U.S., our national investment in them (financial investment that could have been used to fund education for Americans) is squandered.

Another issue that seem to be lost in this debate is why just having an American degree should convey any precedence for immigration at all. The American education system has universities for people of all academic abilities. Merely obtaining a degree from any U.S. university does not indicate you are among the world's brightest.

Why then should a graduate of a U.S. university with open admissions have precedence for immigration over a graduate from a world-class institution in a foreign country?

That question hits the core the issue. The concept of giving green cards to all U.S. graduates has nothing to do with bringing the brightest people to the U.S. and everything to do with business.

The education business benefits by being able to sell immigration to get foreign student revenue. Industry gets an expanded labor pool to lower wage costs.

You do not have to go far past the mindless platitudes, such as "staple a green card to their diplomas," to see that this concept advocated by Mr. Frank is completely moronic. Transforming universities into the gatekeepers of the immigration system would make an already dysfunctional system even more unmanageable.