Saturday, November 24, 2012

House GOP makes first move on immigration reform

Hit by accusations that the GOP has been unfriendly to immigrant populations, House Republicans in Congress are making the first post-election move on opening up the immigration process.

House leadership is planning to bring the STEM Jobs Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, up for a second vote as early as next week. The legislation was voted on earlier in the fall, carrying 257 votes in the House, including 30 Democrats, but failed as rules required a two-thirds vote on the legislation. The new vote will simply require a majority to secure passage.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Consumer Electronics Association, are backing the legislation, which is said to be aimed at boosting American tech companies, who continue to contend with a lack of skilled workers, even in the slow economy. This legislation could help American high-tech companies address staffing shortages while reducing the number of educated candidates available to foreign companies.

The legislation would offer an additional 55,000 permanent residency "green cards" for foreign nationals who graduate from United States colleges with degrees in the "STEM" disciplines - science, technology, engineering and mathematics - and who commit to remain in the U.S. for at least five years.

A provision is being added to allow the spouses and minor children of those with green cards to remain in the United States while waiting for their own residency status to be resolved.

This legislation would end the "Diversity Visa Program" - a random-selection annual lottery of 55,000 green cards for those seeking immigration with no special qualifications from nations who have been under-represented in immigration numbers.

Many of the bill's goals are similar to Senate legislation filed by Democrat Charles Schumer from New York, who was in talks with House members about a joint effort on these issues.


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