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Rep. Lofgren wants residency for foreign engineers

California Representative Zoe Lofgren says that foreign-born engineering, science, and math students in the United States should be automatically granted legal residency.

SAN JOSE, Calif.--Foreign-born engineering, science, and math students in the United States should be automatically granted legal residency when they get a job in this country, said California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren.

Lofgren, a Democrat, spoke to an audience Friday at the Joint Venture: Silicon Valley conference about threats to innovation in the area. She said that about 56 percent of the Ph.D. candidates at the finest schools in the United States are immigrants, and because of the government's current immigration policy, many of those people leave the country.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren Official Web site for Zoe Lofgren

"We're not only not getting the benefit of the high-end math and engineering talent, but also we're forcing these people to other countries to compete with us and (forcing offshoring)," she said.

Lofgren furthered her argument by saying the nation had a 13 percent decline in the creation of engineering jobs as compared with engineering jobs outside the United States, according to a recent study. (Lofgren is the chair of the Congressional Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.)

John Taylor, professor of economics at Stanford University and former undersecretary for international affairs at the U.S. Treasury, agreed with Lofgren during the panel that immigration is very important. As an example, he said that "we hire 15 new professors every year. All but one of those 15 are foreign born."

Lofgren added: "It makes sense to take those from Ph.D.s in science, engineering, and math and make them legal residents now. It's not a massive amount of people. That's 35,000 people a year."

Still, there's a challenging political situation between the two parties right now, she said, but she hopes to be about to reconcile the differences on issues of immigration this year. "One of three people will be the next president, and all will have fresh approach."