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Kentucky universities push senators on immigration law

Published 10:02 am Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Presidents of seven of Kentuckys eight public universities have signed a letter urging the states U.S. senators to help overhaul theimmigrationsystem.

Kentucky State University President Mary Sias was the only public university president who did not sign the letter. However, Sias said the missing signature was not a statement of opposition rather, she was having trouble with her Internet connection and may not have received the letter.

I probably didnt see it, but we are supportive, she told The State Journal Wednesday morning.

The letter, dated Tuesday and addressed to Republicans Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul, said American universities educate some of the worlds top international students only to see some of them leave under currentimmigrationpolicies and work for competing companies abroad.

Kentucky cannot afford to wait to fix ourimmigrationsystem, the letter stated. As we send away highly skilled workers trained at Kentucky and other American universities, competing international economies are welcoming these scientists and engineers.

The letter calls for a bipartisan solution to ensure the graduates have a clear path to a green card.

Current U.S.immigrationpolicy allows for 140,000 employment-based admissions to the U.S., which include workers spouses and children, according to a November report from the Congressional Research Service. In 2009, there were 149,000 full-time graduate students in science, engineering and health fields who were foreign students, CRS reported.

Republicans in the U.S. House tried to address the issue last year, passing the STEM Jobs Act. But Senate Democrats blocked the bill. They said it would have taken away visas from other workers and said more sweepingimmigrationreform was needed.

Paul, the junior senator from Kentucky, cited his support for last years failed Republican visa bill in a statement to the Associated Press.

McConnells office said he is reviewing the letter. In the past he has called for a bipartisan solution to reform U.S.immigrationpolicy.

The Association of International Educators, a Washington, DC- based organization, reported that 765,000 foreign nationals attended universities in the U.S. during the 2011-12 academic year. Broken down by state, Kentucky had 5,800, led by the University of Kentucky at Lexington with 1,640.

In fall 2011, 63 international students were enrolled at Kentucky State University.

State Journal staff writer Michelle Sokol and Associated Press writers Ben Finley and Roger Alford contributed to this story.