Republicans Push for STEM Visa before congress recess
Posted on September 18, 2012
Republicans are pushing for a new kind of immigration STEM visa that will allow recent foreign graduates in such fields who graduated from American universities to gain a green card.
The proposal is being pushed to a vote two days before Congress goes out of session this week. Rep. Lamar Smith, House Judiciary Chairman, a vocal critic of expanding immigration options for undocumented persons is the lead sponsor on the legislation.
The bill would increase the number of visas for foreign graduates who have doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines to 50,000 a year. In the past ten years “growth in STEM jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs, and STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade,” according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA).
The only upset is that Smith would eliminate the “diversity visa” program or what is often referred to as the “green card lottery” to compensate for the number of applicants under his proposal. The visa is available annually for people coming from countries with low rates of immigration.
Democrats consider it a strategic election stunt or a way for Republicans to push their own kind of legal immigration measure. Some refer to it as a “zero-sum” game.
“You can’t increase legal immigration in his eyes—so we have to reduce legal immigration in some areas if we’re going to increase it in the STEM area,” Douglas Rivlin, press secretary for Rep. Luis Gutierrez, told VOXXI.
He claimed that the diversity VISA program has been the number one legal immigration program that the Republicans have wanted to eliminate for a decade. Smith along with other Republicans previously stated that the lottery visa program opens the door to fraud and allows terrorists to enter the country.
The chairman reached out to Rep. Gutierrez, who heads the immigration task force for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, last week to consider reallocating the diversity visa program into other categories such as the family based visa program. According to news reports, they were unable to reach a compromise.
Rivlin told VOXXI it’s possible that Republicans might get bipartisan support, but it’s likely to deadlock in the Senate.
The Democrats introduced another STEM bill in the House Friday. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) pushed for a similar bill in the House that does not eliminate either category, but would seek to keep the same number of visas Smith wants to eliminate. Her legislation is called the Attracting the Best and Brightest Act (ABBA) and already has 11 Democratic co-sponsors.
Days before Congress recesses, the rush to get an immigration bill passed pushes into the broader controversy surrounding the immigration debate. If Democrats choose not to support Smith’s bill, they face scrutiny for not supporting visas for high skilled persons. Still, Republicans reached out for bipartisan support to push for a legal immigration measure.
“Our sense is that they (Republicans) would like to be able to deliver something for high-tech visas or be able to point to something that’s other than self-deportation,” Rivlin said.
Difference between Deferred Action and Stem Visa
Deferred action is a renewable permit that allows undocumented youth to stay in the U.S. for two years .
The Stem visas would allow foreign graduates who received doctorates in U.S. schools in science, technology, engineering and math a way to work in the U.S. by getting a green card.
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