House passes immigration bill to keep science and technology students in U.S.
November 30th, 2012
03:04 PM ET
6 months ago

House passes immigration bill to keep science and technology students in U.S.

Washington (CNN) – The U.S. House approved Republican-backed immigration legislation on Friday that had previously fallen short in September, though Democrats described it as a piecemeal political move by Republicans after their poor election showing among non-white voters.

House Democrats predicted it would fail in the Democratic-controlled Senate, partly due to White House opposition.

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The "STEM Jobs Act" would grant as many as 55,000 visas to non-citizens who complete some advanced degrees at U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, and math.

The measure succeeded 245 to 139, with support from a majority of Republicans as well as 27 Democrats. When advanced in September, the measure was fast-tracked and so required a two-thirds "super majority" for passage and fell short, 257 to 158.

Republicans hailed it as a plus for employers and the economy.

"The bill that we passed will allow these individuals to have a green card if they get a diploma and, therefore, enabling them to stay in this country to begin their careers to create jobs rather than being forced to leave to go back to their home countries and actually compete with us," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said at a news conference.

Sponsor Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who chairs the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, "Many of the world's top students come to the U.S. to obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math subjects. We could boost economic growth and spur job creation by allowing American employers to more easily hire some of the most qualified foreign graduates of U.S. universities. These students have the ability to start a company that creates jobs or come up with an invention that could jump-start a whole new industry."

The Obama administration said Wednesday it is opposed to the measure but did not threaten a veto.

"The administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet [President Barack Obama's] long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform," a policy statement from the White House said.

The bill does not address broader immigration issues and is seen by some Democrats as a Republican attempt to appeal to non-white voters, who largely sided with Obama over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on Election Day.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, pointedly criticized her "colleagues from the other side of the aisle" on the House floor Friday for not passing an immigration measure when they controlled the House, Senate, and White House earlier in Obama's term. She described the STEM measure as "a piece of the puzzle" and said "we need to take this a piece at a time."

"So let's stop treating this issue like a political football. As the first American of Hispanic descent to represent Washington State here in the United States House, I want us to tackle this issue," she said.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-California, pointed in rebuttal to the DREAM Act, which passed the House in December 2010 but failed to overcome the Republican filibuster in the Senate. That proposal would have granted citizenship to some undocumented immigrants brought into the United States at a young age who went on to an American college or the military.

Among her objections to the Republican proposal was that it would reallocate Green Cards, or Resident Alien Cards, from other visa categories, and she advanced a counter-proposal, the "Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012."

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, said in a statement that "House Republicans have moved forward with legislation to limit legal immigration under the guise of reform.

"Both sides agree that providing more visas to eligible foreign born graduates to American universities with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) would promote job growth in our high tech industries, but today, House Republicans did so only by eliminating the diversity visa program and its critical diversity and worker safeguards," he wrote.

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, charged the Republican measure "is racist - if not in its intent, then certainly in its effect."

"It is alarming that Republican supporters of this bill view immigration as a zero sum gain where we can only grant STEM visas by eliminating Diversity Visas," he said on the House floor.

The Diversity Visa program is tailored toward applicants from "countries with low rates of immigration to the United States" and provides significantly more visas to applicants from African nations than from any other continent, according to the State Department. In the fiscal year 2011, 24,015 of the 51,118 visas went to applicants from Africa.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the California Republican who chairs the Oversight Committee, responded, "I am personally insulted that anyone would use even loosely the term of racism as part of a statement related to merit-based advanced degrees."

"The people graduating and walking across the aisle are extremely diverse," he said. "And I believe the gentleman needs to go to a few college graduations and see masters and PhD candidates if he is going to refer to this in any way as racist."


Filed under: Congress
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Golden Girl

    The nice list is simply people who agree with him.

    This man doesn't know how to get things done.

    November 30, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  2. hrcoller

    Wow the GOP getting together to write a bill regarding two things they don't support or understand!!
    Immigration and Science. . . Let me guess it allows white anglo saxon males who believe in talking snakes and think the Flintstones is a reality TV show become citizens if they agree not to use contraception??

    November 30, 2012 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Rudy NYC

    The "STEM Jobs Act" would grant as many as 55,000 visas to non-citizens who complete some advanced degrees at U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering, and math.
    --------------------------------
    What about students who study architecture, medicine, business and other highly useful and skilled subjects? This bill is capricious, and should get struck down in the courts if it were ever enacted and challenged. Pres. Obama is correct to oppose it. What reality are Republicans living in these days?

    November 30, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. vic , nashville ,tn

    This immigration bill “Pretend” or “Hoax”

    November 30, 2012 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  5. kevin

    Way to little..way to late

    November 30, 2012 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  6. Jester

    Let's watch (and laugh) when they figure out a new way to terrorize Americans~

    November 30, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    To hire cheap labor is GOP motive. We need to do JOB-TRAINING LIKE GERMANY.

    November 30, 2012 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  8. freedom

    The republicans are working – the democrats are letting the clock run out. And then, Obama's going on an extended Hawaian vacation, on our tax money – while threatening the American people that all there taxes are going up on Jan. 1. Those are the facts.

    November 30, 2012 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  9. NVa Native

    So again the GOP proves it cares nothing about human rights only the power of money. Will they ever learn?

    November 30, 2012 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  10. Mark Mallarde

    What better way to select new citizens than to select them randomly. This makes much sense. I hope they use one of those huge cylinders with envelopes in them that a pretty woman in a gown cranks with a lever to spin like in the NBA draft.

    We should allow more STEM grads in, too. Americans do not need any more job opportunities. Let's give them to Chinese or Indians.

    November 30, 2012 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  11. nyepee

    Rudy NYC is right on. How about keeping poets, artists and philospohers to help the US advance as a civilization?

    November 30, 2012 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  12. nyepee

    Rudy NYC is spot on. How about offering poets, artuists and philosophers the right to stay in the US as well. It is also free thinkers such as these that have made some of the greatest contributions to civilization.

    November 30, 2012 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  13. The REAL Truth...

    @freedom – The republicans are working – the democrats are letting the clock run out. And then, Obama's going on an extended Hawaian vacation, on our tax money – while threatening the American people that all there taxes are going up on Jan. 1. Those are the facts.
    -------------------------
    ROTFLMAO – don't you mo_rons ever quit parotting the likes of foreign-owned Faux Noise, Hannity and limbaugh???
    I seriously hope he enjoys such a vacation given the idiocracy from the right he's had to endure this last 6 months.

    November 30, 2012 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  14. sonny chapman

    All of these Repubs. that are "personally insulted" or who are "outraged". They need to take a look at themselves in a mirror NAKED. Then they might not be so impressed w/themselves.

    November 30, 2012 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  15. freedom

    @ ROT
    Endure?? This country needs to brace itself for all the corrupt policies he's putting into place. Glad you want to spend you money on his vacation – I don't.

    November 30, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  16. sassysticks53

    LOL! Typical GOP mantra – Our Way or No Way.

    November 30, 2012 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  17. w l jones

    Well well we still need Earth moving Engineer who uses a pick.and shovel...LOL.

    November 30, 2012 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  18. lunacy in the gop

    Why does it bother me that the House Republicans passed this Science and Immigration bill? These 2 concepts are absolutely NOT in the everyday common vernacular to the point of being taboo in the GOP and yet here they are side by side...... idk but i smell methane emanating from the posterior end of a bull.

    November 30, 2012 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. The REAL Truth...

    @freedom – Endure?? This country needs to brace itself for all the corrupt policies he's putting into place. Glad you want to spend you money on his vacation – I don't.
    -----------------------------
    Don't suppose you were thrilled about having to pay for the 63 trips Dubya took to Crawford, TX in the last TWO years of his administration. And I'd bet he didn't take Greyhound/Trailways !!!!!! Clueless !

    November 30, 2012 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    Next up during the immigration discussion, the GOP/Teatrolls whining "but we already threw the dog a bone, so no more."

    November 30, 2012 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Kevin

    @Rudy NYC:
    "What about students who study architecture, medicine, business and other highly useful and skilled subjects?"
    What about them? Architecture is an engineering field. Medicine is a science field. Business is a math field. What are you even talking about?

    This seems like a straightforward bill and I'm irritated that the democrats seem to be blocking it just so that – to me, anyway – they can say that "look the republicans aren't doing anything." Time to lead by example, not carry on the same politics that led to nothing being done in the last 4 years.

    November 30, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  22. Free

    I think you all need to go and read Animal Farm

    November 30, 2012 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |