WASHINGTON — The U.S. can no longer afford to train foreign scientists and engineers and then send them back home to work for the nation's competitors, say lawmakers who are expected to vote Thursday on whether to grant thousands of visas to skilled foreign-born graduates.

As an example, more than 20 percent of graduate students at Duke University in North Carolina are from other countries. Students from India, China and South Korea do ground-breaking research on cancer research, electromagnetics and space physics, among other fields.

Democrats and Republicans appear to agree that there's a need to retain highly skilled foreign-born graduates. But they're still arguing over how to do it: Republicans would welcome 50,000 highly trained immigrants by cutting the same number of immigrants who now arrive through a random lottery. Democrats would rather add the extra science-related visas to the country's overall immigrant intake. And despite the House vote expected this week, that partisan dispute could put off final passage of a visa expansion until beyond the November election.

McClatchy Newspapers