Tomorrow, the House of Representatives will vote on Republicans’ first post-election attempt at pro-immigration reform. But their bill, the STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429), sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, eliminates as many visas as it creates. Worse, it uses the illusion of immigration reform to actually decrease immigration. If the GOP wants to rehabilitate its immigration image, it should not begin by creating winners and losers — and this bill creates many more losers than winners.
The bill grants 55,000
green cards to college graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — the STEM fields. But
it simultaneously eliminates the same number of green cards under the
Diversity Visa Program, which awards visas mainly to low-skilled
immigrants from underrepresented countries — mostly in Africa.
this bill passes, it would create a dangerous precedent that
GOP-sponsored immigration reform means eliminating visas for the less
educated to give to the highly educated. Such a false choice will doom
immigration reform by making America’s immigration system even more
discriminatory and restricting avenues for legal immigration — which
inevitably leads to more of the illegal kind.
This legislation is
even worse than a trade. It actually would reduce legal immigration
overall. Last year, the United States graduated just 30,000 foreign-born
doctorate and master’s degree students in STEM fields, which means if
you assume 75 percent apply, less than half the total number of visas
will be used. Because the bill forbids the unused visas from being used
in other categories or from being rolled over after 2014, it actually
results in a huge reduction in immigration over time.
the past few years, anti-immigration advocates have begun to target
low-skilled immigration for elimination and suggest it could be replaced
with high-skilled. The Heritage Foundation, NumbersUSA, and many politicians have proposed eliminating the main legal
avenues low-skilled immigrants have to enter: certain family-based
immigration and the diversity visa. Just this week, former-Congresswoman
Heather Wilson (R-NM) argued in The Washington Times
for “a national merit selection” to replace laws based on “family
relationship” and a “lottery system” (i.e. the diversity visa).
Smith’s STEM bill is the first attempt to implement this policy change.
The bill is a foot in the door toward eliminating other green card
categories that allow lower-skilled workers to legally enter
the U.S. With comprehensive immigration reform in the works, this bill
is worse than a distraction. It would reduce legal immigration and
demonstrate pro-immigration congressmen are willing to trade current
immigration categories and low-skilled immigrants for wealthier
immigrants. Now is no time to allow the anti-immigration forces in
Congress to sense blood in the water.
What makes this issue so
critical is the low skilled have so few options under the current
system. From Mexico, for example, only 3 percent
of low-skilled legal workers enter through the employer-based green
card system because only 5,000 are available. This means Mexican
low-skilled workers must rely on family-based visas. For diversity visa
beneficiaries, the situation is even worse. Since they are already
under-represented in America’s immigrant pool, few have relatives to
sponsor them for green cards. If the diversity visa was eliminated,
these immigrant’s only legal pathway to the United States would be gone.
this is exactly what certain congressmen want: the progressive
elimination of legal means for low-skilled workers to enter the United
States It might seem arbitrary to allocate visas to the millions who
want them through a lottery or based on the fact their brother or sister
immigrated here — and it is — but unless Congress wants to create other
accessible avenues for these types of workers, these systems should
After his bill failed in September, Rep. Smith made it more
palatable. New sections would expand the V Visa program to reduces the
wait for spouses and children of permanent residents to receive green
cards from three years to one. Yet even here, the language creates a new
unnecessary restriction: it rescinds the current V Visa work
authorization for spouses. Why would any member of Congress concerned
about having self-sufficient immigrants remove their ability to work?
the section on STEM workers contains objectionable provisions. It would
require the Department of Homeland Security to post on the internet the
names and locations of employers who hire these immigrants, potentially
making them targets for harassment. This unnecessarily violates
employer privacy and could keep many from applying. Pro-immigration
reform should protect the privacy of both immigrants and their
employers, not place a scarlet letter on them.
Immigration is not a
zero-sum game. No one needs to lose when America attracts world-class
talent to settle here. The bipartisan agreement that high-skilled
immigration is a good thing should not obscure the benefits low-skilled
immigration brings. The STEM Jobs Act presents America with a false
choice and symbolizes the wrong way forward on immigration reform.
Read the original article here.