Comprehensive Immigration Reform

by Mary Wirta, representative to King County Democratic Central Committee


The KCDCC had a very informative presentation on April 23rd, 2013 at its regular monthly meeting by a panel made up of Mr. Magdaleno (“Leno”) M. Rose-Avila, Director of the Seattle Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs; Carlos Padilla, Co-founder and Student Director of the Washington Dream Act Coalition; and Dave Parsons, President of UAW Local 4121(University of Washington Academic Student Employees).


Mr. Leno Rose-Avila told the audience that Latinos feel that the US. Senator Rubio  is insulting Latinos & immigrants, but Democrats seem to have pulled their support from the immigration reform  so they need to be clear in their intentions.  Last year Washington State Latinos went to other states & brought the Latinos out to vote for Democrats.  Right now there is an emphasis on beefing up the borders.  The effort to pass an immigration bill will be difficult and there may need to be a compromise, but it seems as though there will need to be a beefing up of the border first.  It takes $500 to get a green card when immigrants  are eligible.  This is a hardship and cuts back on the number of family members that can be brought in.  He is spreading the word among Latinos and Congresspersons in DC that Latinos no longer wish to be in the “back of the bus” and NOW IS THE TIME to pass the bill.  He stated that even the 4 Republicans in the gang of 8 are in favor of a comprehensive  immigration bill.  He encouraged all of us to call Reichert and our Democratic friends and tell them to vote for the bill.


Carlos Padilla is a Dreamer who is going to the University of Washington and living with his Dad and siblings.  He and most Dreamers can’t get degrees unless they have added funding to help with tuition and expenses.  Dreamers  who aren’t afraid are getting out the Vote and have their eye trained on possible jobs they are training for.  Their Dream never dies. He says they support and are encouraging people to call their State Legislators to support the Washington State Dream  Act  so they can receive the money they need to pay tuition, books, medical and food, and complete their degrees.  The students are also supporting the passage of the US Dream Act in the US Senate now so they will have a pathway to Citizenship within 5 years.  His goals are a degree in Political Science and then to spend time in the US Air Force.  He reminded us that Latinos are Democratic friendly.


Lastly David Parson said that his Union speaks for the University of Washington Academic Student Employees(Teaching & Research Assistants) as well as Auto Workers.  Labor has been pushing for Immigration Reform .  The basic principles immigrants in research fields need are equal rights & protections in the workplace;  collective bargaining; prevailing wage standards; a progressive agenda for temporary workers or a high Tech pipeline to citizenship for international students( a clear and well defined path to citizenship); family reunification; more input from Pasera, Casa, and Dacha(a student organization); a new City of Seattle cabinet post for International Residents, immigrant, and refugee affairs; and retain Seattle/King County  as a Sanctuary City/County that does not hold people without documentation for non-criminal acts for ICE.   He said that after al,l we need to realize that we have a shortage of scientists and persons in the STEM fields and that the immigrants are the basis of the future of research in Washington.


Subsequent information has come out about H-1B Visas since then.  People at the meeting agreed with most of the views of the panel, but some US citizens in Washington State in the STEM fields had a question about the last statement above regarding a shortage of scientists in the US. since they had personally known of many of their colleagues with Bachelors and PhDs in Science in their own fields not being able to find work for years at a time.  Some had even trained under Nobel Prize Winners.  Some left their fields entirely out of frustration or desperation.  On April 24th the Washington Post came out with an Article by Jia Lynn Yang about as study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute that questioned the shortage of scientists in the STEM fields entitled  Study: There may not be a shortage of American STEM graduates after all _.  In this article it stated that “The EPI study found that the United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations”. And “Only half of the students graduating from college with a STEM degree are hired into a STEM job”.  Yet the recent proposal from Congress proposes to increase the STEM workers who are not US Citizens by 200-300%. 


Then within 10 days, on May 5th, in the Sunday Edition of the Seattle Times Kyung M Song and Janet I. Tu wrote an article entitled Do visas for skilled foreigners shut out U.S. Tech Workers?   In this article it states that a gentleman graduated in IT within the last few years with a 3.52 grade point average and it took him more than 9 months to find a Part Time (not Full time) job in his field.  Elsewhere It also states “But companies do not have to advertise the job or recruit Americans first.”  A graph shows that Microsoft and Amazon have increased their employment of those with H-1B Visas by 1/3 since 2008. The article also relates a situation where a former Microsoft Product Manager was cut from the payroll by a supervisor who was here on a Visa and then a staffing company offered her a 3 month contract doing the same job for ½ her previous salary.


To make the situation worse we have also been training less Americans in STEM fields for 20 years due to lessening of Higher Ed funding.  The “Out of the US” students bring in the highest tuition money, vs “Out of State” or “In State” students (who a few years   ago paid 3X less).  “Out of US” students have appealed to Washington State Universities as this helps make up some of their deficits.  Most of these  students have their tuition paid by their home country’s government, but few of them return to their original country.  If funding is cut deeper for Higher Ed and State Universities will there be enough spots for US students?


To further complicate job hiring, another situation that has been going on for quite a long time is that the Biotech field funding(NIH &NSF) for  Research Grants for Teaching & Research Assistants and PhDs has been cut back repeatedly  since 1980.  Most of these jobs hire graduates for 1-3 year projects only.  Further cuts have been proposed this year by the US Congress.  This has repeatedly reduced the number of jobs available in Biological Science already. This has therefore effectively been a worsening “recession” in these fields over the last 30 years. In 2009 only 23% of graduates in Biology(not medical), Physical Sciences, and Math have jobs in their field of major one year after graduation.(1-fig. D)


A question therefore arises.  If Funding of Research Grants in STEM occupation jobs and University Funding is lessened; American Citizens are not even notified of jobs available;, and the jobs are not offered to American Citizens first; what American student will want to go into STEM studies and incur increasingly stiff tuition indebtedness?  How many will be able to or want to pay for additional higher Differential Tuition costs for  STEM training if there is a 50% chance there will not be a job for them when they graduate so they can repay their Student Loans??  Further what happens to their specific skills if they are out of a job in their field for 5 years or more?  These studies show on the average 33-50% of US Engineers, IT Graduates, Mathematicians, Biologists, Physicists, and Chemists who are STEM field graduates do not find a job when they graduate in their field.



  1. Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market:  Salzman, H;  Kuehn,D;  Lowell, B.L.:  Economic Policy Institute, April 24, 2013