Lamar Smith’s Rock and a Hard Place Bill Kills DV (Good News); Gives Visas to High Tech Workers (Bad News)

Published on September 19th, 2012

House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith’s proposed legislation to increase by 55,000 the numbers of visas given to foreign-born university students who graduate with degrees in science, technology, engineering and math presents a real conundrum to immigration reform patriots.

On its face, Smith’s bill represents a huge disappointment because it ignores the plight of unemployed American engineers. A Center for Immigration Studies backgrounder analysis found that more than 1.6 million U.S.-born engineers with degrees are either unemployed or working in non-engineering fields.

The catch, however, is that as part of his bill Smith proposes to end the idiotic Diversity Visa and transfer those 55,000 visas to STEM workers. The concept is disingenuous because the DV should be ended unconditionally. But, realistically, if pressed to choose whether 55,000 individuals with U.S. college diplomas or 55,000 randomly selected people from various nations with unknown skills, backgrounds and allegiances should get permanent residency, I’ll take the former.

In his Politico.com op-ed, Smith argued passionately for STEM. Calling the DV “nonsensical,” Smith defended the trade off by arguing that:

“In an ever-competitive global economy, we must keep our country the world’s greatest source of innovation and creativity. By allowing employers to fill their talent needs with foreign graduates of U.S. universities, they will be able to do what they do best: create jobs and expand our economy. This will help us maintain our competitive edge in the years to come and will preserve America’s place as the world leader in innovation.”  [Foreign Graduates in STEM Fields Can Boost Economy, by Lamar Smith, Politico, September 18, 2012]

How much traction Smith’s bill will have is uncertain. Many House Republicans favor more high tech visas and oppose the DV. But Silicon Valley’s most tireless advocate, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, has introduced a competing bill (HR 6412) that, since it doesn’t eliminate the DV but does grant visas to high tech workers, creates a 55,000 net increase in immigration

With just a few weeks remaining until November 6, time is not on Smith’s side. More problematical is that even if STEM passes the House, the Senate is loath to give up the DV.  To that end, tireless Senate immigration champion Chuck Schumer will also introduce a bill, this one nauseatingly called the BRAIN Act (Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes). Like Zofgren’s, Schumer’s legislation would retain the DV.

Schumer reiterated the same tedious and misleading argument he’s made for decades on behalf of eliminating the caps on foreign-born technology workers:

“It makes no sense that America is educating the world’s smartest and most talented students and then, once they are at their full potential and mastered their craft, kicking them out the door,” said Schumer in a statement. “We should be encouraging every brilliant and well-educated immigrant to stay here, build a business here, create wealth here, employ people here, and grow our economy. Fixing our broken green card system will help ensure that the next eBay, the next Google, the next Intel will be started in New York City, not in Shanghai or Bangalore or London.”  [Schumer to Unveil BRAINS Act, an Immigration Bill for Tech Talent, by Andrew Couts, Digital Trends, September 18, 2012]

CAPS has posted an Action Alert encouraging concerned citizens to support Smith’s bill. Go here to FAX your representatives. A vote is expected this week.

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