Business School Deans Quote Reagan To Persuade White House To Fix STEM Job 'Crisis' With Immigration Reforms

Fifty deans from some of the nation's top business schools called on the White House and Congress to ease some immigration rules and create a new "heartland visa" to help fill a critical need for STEM employees.

And they used the words of former President Ronald Reagan to do it.

"America remains, as President Ronald Reagan put it, 'a shining city upon a hill,'" the deans wrote in a letter released on Monday. "The best and brightest from all around the world want to come here, and their hard work and expertise make our economy stronger and more globally competitive."

The deans, including those from Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of California, Berkeley, called on President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to remove "per-country" visa caps, modernize the processing system and reform the H-1B visa program.

They also urged the nation's leaders to create a new "heartland" visa to encourage people to immigrate to regions of the United States that needed talented workers the most.

By reforming the visa program, the deans wrote, the most talented people would have a reasonable chance to come to the U.S. instead of being turned away "for no other reason" than failing to win the lottery.

"We are needlessly capping our growth and can do better," the authors said, placing the blame for the lack of skilled immigrant employees on outdated laws, immigration caps and spikes in hostility.

The deans pointed out a need for people to fill STEM jobs in the country. While the U.S. economy's creation of millions of jobs signaled a "healthy, growing economy," the deans claimed the abundance of open jobs amounted to a "crisis."

They also underscored a report from the Graduate Management Admission Council that showed a 13.7 percent decline in international business school applicants in the U.S. in 2019. This drop, which the council noted was the first it has seen, could cause problems for businesses at a time when hiring and keeping talent is a top concern.

"We hope you agree, and we urge you to take these recommendations seriously," the writers said. "We are confident that America's future economic success depends on it, and we invite others—from academia and business—to join us in our urgent call for action."

donald trump deans immigration
President Donald Trump pauses as he meets with Italian President Sergio Mattarella in the Oval Office of the White House on Tuesday n Washington, D.C. On Monday, 50 deans of business schools sent a letter to Trump and other leaders advocating for immigration reform. Alex Wong/Getty

An H-1B visa program permits companies to employ people from other countries who have the qualifications to fulfill a role in a specific specialty. A number of fields are eligible for the H-1B visa program, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including science, engineering, information technology, teaching and accounting.

H-1B visa recipients are randomly selected by a computer and USCIS reported it reached the congressionally-mandated cap of 65,000 H-1B visas for fiscal year 2020 on April 15. There are an additional 20,000 H-1B visas available for the Advanced Degree Exemption, as well.

Reagan referenced a "shining city on a hill" three times in his 1980 Election Eve Address, although he acknowledged he borrowed the words from John Winthrop, a Puritan whose1630 sermon was delivered aboard the Arbella ship as it made its way to America. He referenced New England as a "city upon a hill" that would serve as an inspiration to other places and people.

In Reagan's speech, he said he believed Americans were just as committed to the "shining city upon a hill" vision as Winthrop and the settlers of the 1600s were.