On Friday, November 30, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed its version of the STEM visa bill, which provides additional green cards to foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees from US universities in science, technology, engineering or math ("STEM") by a 245-139 vote, including 27 Democrats who supported the Republican measure. This immediately produced favorable headlines for the Republicans, such as the one in The Hill: "House passes GOP visa reform bill over Dem objections."
But before anyone rushes to conclude that the GOP has suddenly become the party of immigration reform while the Democrats want to maintain the current broken system, one has to look at the poison pill in the Republican version. This involves eliminating the diversity visa lottery, which provides 55,000 green cards each year for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the US, including many African countries, as well as Bangladesh and a number of other Asian countries.
But what's the fuss? Some people (including, apparently, the Democrats who voted with the Republicans), may be asking this: who is more important to America, unskilled, less educated immigrants from Africa and Asia, or well educated immigrants from all over the world, with the cutting edge skills that will boost our economy, provide jobs, maintain American competitiveness in the global marketplace (and, as an entirely incidental benefit, of course, provide more work for business immigration lawyers such as the writer of this comment)?
The answer is that both types of immigrants are important, and it makes no sense at all to have to choose between them. No one will argue with the importance of making more green cards available to STEM graduates. But why must this be done at the price of reducing the number of less skilled African and Asian immigrants who might otherwise have no hope of ever being able to come to America?
And why must it be done as part of a separate bill, which does nothing to grant relief to the estimated 11 or 12 million mainly Latino immigrants who are in the US without legal authorization and in fear of deportation, or at least incarceration in America's immigration detention gulag? To be continued.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.