A Republican immigration reform bill to grant more visas to high-skilled immigrants is facing an uphill battle in Congress. The proposed bill, The STEM Jobs Act, trades the 55,000 visas allotted under the Diversity Immigrant Visa program to underrepresented nations, especially Africa, and reallocates them to foreign-born students with American graduate degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math. House Democrats, led by California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, have offered their own high-skilled alternative, which notably keeps the diversity program. The predictable partisan division, which will likely prevent any meaningful immigration reform before next year, underscores a fundamental debate between those who prioritize diversity over fast-tracking, high-skilled immigrants. Late last night, prominent tech lobbies threw their support behind the Republican’s bill.
“I am surprised Democrats would vote against an important bill that will help us create jobs, increase our competitiveness, and spur our innovation,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, who introduced the STEM Jobs Act. “The STEM Jobs Act makes our immigration system smarter by eliminating the fraud-ridden diversity visa program and reallocating those visas to foreign graduates of American universities who could help make us more competitive in the global economy.”
Democrats, for their part in the do-nothing congressional circus, blamed Republicans for sacrificing the neediest of society for economic gain. “Republicans are only willing to increase legal immigration for immigrants they want by eliminating legal immigration for immigrants they don’t want,” said Illinois Representative Luis Gutierrez.
The schism in Congress is a familiar one, with one side arguing that piecemeal solutions for immediate needs in the technology sector should come before the long journey to comprehensive reform.
The Information Technology Industry Council, the Consumer Electronics Association, and other noted tech lobbies are siding with Republicans, writing, “Hiring advanced degree STEM professionals is a key to creating and retaining jobs in a variety of sectors in our innovation economy.”
But with the election around the corner, high-skilled immigration reform is unlikely to be a voting issue, and tech companies may have to delay their hopes for immigration reform.