Scholars line up to support STEM Jobs Act

The technology and academic sectors are lining up in support of a piece of legislation, the STEM Jobs Act, that would expand visas for foreign science and technology students and make it easier for those with green cards to bring their immediate families to the U.S. The legislation that would make green cards available to as many as 55,000 foreign nationals who have earned advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering or math; the vital STEM fields.

Republican leadership is offering the legislation, which Bruce Morrison, a former Democratic congressman from Connecticut who chaired the House immigration subcommittee, says will not increase the number of green cards nor give people green cards early, but people will “get the most important benefit of being able to live legally in the United States with their spouses.”

The STEM Jobs Act of 2012 will eliminate the lottery diversity program, which is now completely random, and instead award the 55,000 visas to advance degree holders and their families.

On Thursday, one lobbying group released a letter signed by the heads of 165 U.S. universities, including Stanford and MIT, in support of the STEM Jobs Act, according to Computer World.

There had been bipartisan support for a STEM visa bill. Computer World writer, Patrick Thibodeau, notes “Both parties, in their 2012 platforms, broadly support the idea of green cards for STEM grads. The platform positions on this issue could have been written by the same person.”

However, Democrats who had been expected to support it are now arguing for more visas. Democrat Zoe Lofgren said, “For more than a decade I have been working to increase high-skilled visas for foreign students with advanced STEM degrees from America’s greatest research universities. I am fortunate enough to see firsthand the new technologies, the new companies, and the new jobs they create every day in my district in Silicon Valley. For that reason, it pains me greatly that I cannot support this bill.” She argues that the act reduces legal immigration levels.

In September, the House STEM bill was defeated by Democrats at the same time Obama was granting “deferred action” on undocumented entrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents. The House’s Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus opposed the bill saying that “Republicans were trying to increase legal immigration for people they want by ending immigration for people they don’t want” according to an FOX Latino article.

In that same FOX Latino report, Crystal Williams, executive director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the STEM Jobs Act “is a message from Republicans that we are here and we are ready to talk about immigration reform.”

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