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Biophysical Society Decries White House Visa Proclamation as a Step Back for Science and Technology

ROCKVILLE, MD – The White House proclamation suspending the issuance of green cards and visas through the end of 2020 as a means to create American job opportunities and to offset the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, could serve to cause more damage to US economic, scientific and technological advances than it portends to correct.

The executive order cites economic hardship brought on by the pandemic requiring prioritization of American workers. However, the largest target of the order is the H-1B visa, used by universities and tech firms to hire skilled workers and researchers from other countries – specifically those in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. In 2019, the US issued more than 188,000 H-1B visas and yet during the pandemic, more than 2.5 million STEM jobs remained unfilled. Meaning that curbing immigration will not lead to a clean exchange of trained, qualified American workers with highly technical job opportunities.

The Biophysical Society (BPS) believes that it is imperative that the White House work together with Congress to address any needs to overhaul or adjust the visa and immigration programs through regular legislative order and regulatory promulgation, not through Executive Orders or Proclamations. Leadership in global scientific and technological research requires the talents, skills, and ideas of STEM professionals with different backgrounds, experiences, cultures, and perspectives. Indeed, the US became the world leader in many areas of science during the last century in part because of these foreign-born scientists who contributed enormously to the science and technology that today drive most parts of the US economy.

In order for the US to continue to be a STEM leader, it must have a robust visa and green card program open to citizens of all nations.

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