The Hatchet interviewed House Majority Leader and alumnus Eric Cantor, R-Va., after a speech on Feb. 5 that highlighted Republican goals for the next year, including education and immigration reform.
Hatchet: Why are stories like Fiona’s important in highlighting this issue? Why do you think a STEM focused immigration bill is the right approach to immigration reform?
Why are stories like Fiona’s important in highlighting this issue?
Eric Cantor: Fiona is an individual that comes from another country that wants to be
apart of America. She’s come here and obviously is a very smart student. She’s someone who has a lot to offer to our community and to our country. We want to continue to have America be the destination for the world’s best and brightest. People like Fiona can pursue their dreams and actually benefit us in America too because her talents and hard work can produce more jobs and opportunity for us here at home. I think it’s high time we go ahead and pass the STEM visa bill. The House did it last year. We’re going to do it again this year. I’m hopeful the Senate will join us so we can get it done.
Hatchet: As the Senate works on an immigration reform bill, in line with President Barack Obama’s goals for immigration reform, how do you want to merge both of the goals of the Senate and the House of Representatives?
Cantor: The issue of illegal immigration needs to be dealt with. One of the things that I believe very strongly in is our country never has held children responsible for the deeds of their parents. If you have children who have been brought here due to no fault of their own, we should allow them the ability to have permanent legal status, residency and then citizenship.
Hatchet: As a GW graduate, do you think this should be something GW should adopt? Why do you think it is important for universities to adopt an unemployment rate by each major?
Cantor: Obviously, we have a lot of unfilled jobs. Our system of higher education is not doing the job of preparing students for today’s job market. If we were to provide parents with reliable information on employment prospects per major, I think it would go a long way to allow parents of students to make a more educated decision on where to spend their tuition dollars.
Hatchet: You stress strong public schools across the country, but what will you do to make sure those students can afford the next step in their educations?
Cantor: We had with us this family, Joseph Kelly and four of his kids, all of whom had the opportunity to benefit from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. The student is allowed to pick the school that meets his or her needs. I believe we ought to expand that program here in the District and we ought to see federal dollars be allocated that way nationwide so that money can follow the students, parents will be empowered to pick the school that meets their kids’ needs, and frankly I think the result will be to save, 10s of thousands – if not millions – of kids who would be lost without the opportunity of a quality education. This should be about charter schools options, private school options, public school choice, whatever. Just allow folks and kids to have an opportunity to succeed. As far as the college experience is concerned, I think there is a lot of things we can do to streamline the student aid process by providing transparency as far as what kinds of tuition dollars are at stake, breakdowns as far as amenities versus basic education programs at schools. We’ve got to be concerned about the rising cost of tuition because it’s getting to deny access to a lot of kids who want to go on to college.
Hatchet: In your speech, you highlighted job vacancies in the healthcare and natural gas sectors. Do you think a STEM-graduate focused immigration bill is the answer to filling some of those vacancies or could it also be helped by amping up STEM education in America as well?
Cantor: We need to do both. Obviously, you have a lot of vacancy in jobs here. We want the jobs to be here. We want them to be filled here. We don’t want them to be filled abroad. We’d rather them be here because that’s jobs opportunity here for the US. But I also think we need to do a job promoting STEM education in our secondary system of education as well as our higher education system.