STEM legislation fails in the US Senate and another opportunity for enlightened immigration reform is lost
Roughly 55,000 immigrants would have received green cards if Congress had approved a Republican bill that would have created additional visas for educated and skilled immigrant workers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the STEM Jobs Act on December 4; the bill, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, called for the creation of 55,000 additional green cards per year for workers with master’s and doctoral degrees in the STEM disciplines. Unfortunately, Senate Democrats failed to pass the corresponding legislation offered by Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.
Washington politicians have been placed under heavy pressure to reform immigration by the growing Latino electorate after they provided a record surge for Democrats at the polls during the Nov. 6 election. The fact that the bill was proposed by Smith, a Republican, could be indicative of the GOP’s newfound willingness to sit down and discuss comprehensive immigration reform.
The House voted on a STEM bill in September, 2012, but it was defeated. More than 80 percent of Democrats voting against that bill, according to the Associated Press, because it would offset the increase in visas for high-tech graduates by eliminating another visa program, known as the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which is available for less-educated foreigners, many from Africa.
The House’s Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus have chastised the Republicans on that proposal in September, the Associated Press reports, claiming that Republicans were trying to increase legal immigrations for demographics they coveted by ending immigration for other groups they didn’t want.
To change up the bill, Republicans have added in a long sought provision that would expand a program allowing the spouses and minor children of people with permanent residence, or green card holders, to wait in the country for their own green cards to be granted.
Roughly 322,000 are on waiting lists for such family-based green cards-the process of which could take years.
Unfortunately, the deep political divide on immigration policy persists as an obstacle to a more enlightened approach that would boost the US economy now, when such a boost is urgently needed!