Democrats Kill House GOP Immigrant Visa Plan After GOP Eliminates Diversity Lottery

Chron, September 20, 2012

A House bill to increase visas for immigrants with American degrees in the science, technology, engineering and medicine fields was shot down Thursday. At 257-158, it failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority to pass.

A cry to bring the “best and the brightest” immigrants to the U.S. rang out from both sides of the House, but in the end screams of “yea” and “nay” drowned out chances of unison.

“Unfortunately, Democrats today voted to send the best and brightest foreign graduates back home to work for our global competitors,” the bill’s sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, said in a statement. “Democrats voted against a bill that helps American businesses hire the most qualified foreign graduates with advanced STEM degrees. Their vote against this bill is a vote against economic growth and job creation.”

The STEM Jobs Act of 2012 would reallocate 55,000 visas for American-educated immigrants with doctorates and masters in the high demand fields. {snip}

Both sides are on board to give more visas to highly educated immigrants. Compromise ground to a halt over what Democrats called a poison pill that would eliminate the diversity visa lottery, a program to randomly select immigrants from underrepresented countries.

“This is the perfect instance for collaboration and bipartisanship,” Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, argued on the floor Thursday. “(But) I cannot vote for a bill that will allow us to eliminate the diversity visa lottery.”

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Republicans argued the lottery is a broken system fraught with fraud (both the Department of State and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings against scams) and allows terrorists to slip through the borders. Democrats said it’s some immigrants’ only shot at a green card and Republicans are playing a “zero sum game.”

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In the end Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., wrote another version of the bill her way. Introduced Sept. 14, Attracting the Best and the Brightest Act kept the diversity lottery, included a two-year expiration date, disqualified degrees from for-profit colleges and mandated equal pay for immigrants with the same qualifications. It was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.

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“The Republican STEM bill failed this vote because it is misguided legislation that would curtail legal immigration to the United States,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “This country was built by immigrants and it is sad to see an obvious division in the U.S. House of Representatives when the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus join together to defeat a bill that does not reflect the true American way.”

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