Surprise, surprise. Senate Democrats, led by New York Senator Charles Schumer, have blocked consideration of H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act, passed by the Republican-controlled House, which would have created an additional 55,000 green card visas each year for foreign students graduating from US universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math.
A noteworthy but not widely reported feature of the failed House bill is that it would still have required STEM graduates to obtain a job offer and labor certification in order to qualify for one of the new green card visas. As any immigration lawyer or employer who has ever tried to obtain a labor certification for a client or employee knows all too well, this can be a complicated, expensive and time-consuming process, full of technical pitfalls.
If the House had really wished to make it easier for STEM graduates to remain in the US, it could have eliminated the labor certification requirement, or at least made STEM graduates with job offers eligible for Schedule A pre-certification.*But, instead, the only possibility in the House bill for a waiver of the labor certification requirement for STEM graduates would have been based on a national interest determination. LOL with that one!*
However, the real reason that the House bill was dead on arrival in the Senate was that it would have eliminated the Diversity Visa Lottery, which provides 55,000 green cards each year to citizens of countries with historically low immigration rates to the US. A large percentage of these green cards goes to people from sub-Saharan Africa, with many also being used by citizens of less developed Asian countries such as Bangladesh, as well as some countries in Eastern Europe.*
An elite visa this is not. Nor is it perfect. There have been incidents of fraud, but can anyone name a single immigration program, or any government program for that matter, which has always been 100 per cent fraud free? In this past election, the Republicans tried to stop millions of non-white US citizens (many of whom were from Latino or other immigrant communities) from voting early, or without a difficult to obtain photo ID - in order to prevent "fraud".
But the Diversity Visa, more than any other, reflects the ideal that immigration in America has always stood for, though by no means always followed in practice. This ideal is one of a racially diverse society, based on equality of opportunity, in which the determining fact in who can come to and live in America is not wealth, status or the privilege of having received a top level education, something open only to the upper class in most countries around the world, but determination, hard work and the desire to contribute to American society.
The House STEM bill has more than thrown this great American tradition under the bus; it would have ripped up Emma Lazarus' poem and dismantled the Statue of Liberty. And it would have done this in the service of an overtly racial goal - reducing the number of African and Asian immigrants, and therefore the number of brown-skinned American born US citizen children who might one day vote against a party that is rapidly losing support among all voters except Southern and rural whites.
This is racial politics at its worst - despite, to be fair, another provision in the House bill which would have made it easier for the spouses and children of green card holders, many of them Latino, to come to the US while waiting for their own green cards to be approved. But, now that the House poison pill visa "reform" bill is no more, will this be the end of a Republican race-based immigration agenda? 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.