Bill Fails in the House – No Green Cards for STEM Graduates

A bill designed to get rid of the diversity visa program and bring in more skilled workers to the US has failed to pass the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would have granted up to 55 000 immigrant visas to foreign nationals with degrees in math, science, engineering, and technology. The bill needed two thirds majority at the U.S. House of Representatives to pass. Introduced by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, the bill, according to supporters, would have boosted the economy. According to Smith and others, Democrats blocked the measure due to their views about immigration.

In addition to bringing skilled workers into the US, the bill would have gotten rid of the diversity visa program. That program offers green cards to nationals from countries that are underrepresented in US immigration. Those interested in taking part apply for the program and a random draw determines which participants get green cards.

Both Democrats and Republicans agree that skilled workers are needed in the US in order to make the economy competitive. Some industries in the US also are facing labor shortages of skilled workers, so both Republicans and Democrats generally agree that skilled foreign nationals are needed to fill this employment need. In addition, both sides agree that foreign nationals who study in the US are better suited remaining in the US and contributing skills to the US economy, rather than returning to their home countries with US-earned job skills. However, Democrats have not supported the idea of getting rid of the diversity lottery program.

Democrat Rep. Zoe Lofgren has introduced a bill which would offer 50 000 green cards to science graduated but would not eliminate the diversity visa program. Lofgren does not support Smith’s bill, since he believes that getting rid of the diversity visa program would only reduce immigration levels.

This month, 150 college chancellors and presidents signed a letter written to Congress and President Barack Obama. In that letter, college leaders stated that not providing visas for skilled graduates is hurting the US economy.