Democrats and Republicans seem to have a disagreement about foreign nationals emigrating to the United States. Republicans want higher educated immigrants to stay and contribute, while Democrats seem to prefer the less educated. House Republicans proposed a bill, H.R. 6429, that would reallocate thousands of U.S. visas to foreign nationals with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math, known as STEM skills.
The Republicans were trying to make a point; they knew that because they called up the bill under a suspension of House rules, it would require a two-thirds majority for passage, which would mean Democrats would have to join them in order for the bill to be passed. The bill, which had 30 Democrats support it, got 257 yeas and 158 nays, but that wasn’t enough.
Why do the Democrats oppose the bill? Because it would eliminate what exists now: a diversity visa program that allocates those same 55,000 visas – but by lottery.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) stated:
This bill makes our immigration system smarter by admitting those who have the education and skills America needs. STEM visas are substituted for diversity visas, which invite fraud and pose a security risk. The diversity visa invites fraud, and absolutely means that we would have a security risk if we were to continue it.
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) didn’t mince words in pushing for the bill, and linked it to creating jobs:
The STEM Jobs Act we are voting on today is part of our commitment to help small businesses, to help them create jobs by ensuring the top foreign students in American universities have the opportunity to launch or work for American businesses. The bipartisan STEM Jobs Act takes 55,000 visas currently awarded based on a lottery, and instead awards them to foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.