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Immigrants reform may serve as solution to specialized fields in high demand

With the unemployment rate dropping to 7.7 percent in the month of November – a four-year low – it appears as though more people are finding the jobs they need to send money to those they care for and earn a living. However, a recent report indicates that many fields are in dire need of professionals with specialized skills, such as the high-tech industry, sciences and mathematics.

A new report suggests that this need can be fulfilled, however, by making it easier for foreign workers to come to the U.S. – and take care of themselves financially at the same time.

In its report, "Help Wanted: The Role of Foreign Workers in the Innovation Economy," researchers from the Information Technology Industry, the Partnership for a New American Economy and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce argue that immigrants are some of the most highly qualified people in the world. For instance, according to their statistics, a high percentage of all workers within science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields – otherwise known as "STEM" – are foreign-born, comprising more than a quarter of all workers. Because these jobs require special education, such as a Master's or doctoral degree, the unemployment rate in STEM fields is lower than for workers in non-STEM positions. Typically, individuals with more advanced degrees tend to be more likely to have a job.

Close to half of all university students taking STEM classes are foreign-born
But as it is already, a considerable number of immigrants are in school working to get into these highly specialized and trained positions. Based on the study's analysis, foreign-born students comprise 41 percent of Master's degrees and 45 percent of PhDs in STEM courses at universities across the country.

"Their impact on university research, along with the impact of foreign-born professors and postdoctoral fellows, has been shown to be dramatic," the study states. "At the top 10 patent-producing U.S. universities – a group that includes Caltech, MIT, Georgia Tech, Stanford, University of Texas, University of California, University of Wisconsin, University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and Cornell – more than three out of every four patents the schools received in 2011 had an immigrant inventor."

Patents are titles or licenses given to people who may have invented a product or service. The patent gives them the sole right to sell or market whatever it is that they created.

Researchers say that these fields could be fulfilled by individuals who are foreign-born, but all too often, they're prevented from being able to get the education they need because of restrictive immigration law. They recommend Congress reform current immigration law so more STEM workers can be trained in the U.S., where they will then likely look for a job upon graduation.

This isn't the only study to show how well-educated immigrants of today are. According to the Brooking Institution, approximately the same percentage of native-born residents versus foreign-born have a Bachelor's degree or Master's degree and more foreign-born workers have a doctoral degree than individuals who were born in the U.S.

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