Mr. SIMPSON. Mr. Speaker, on rollcall No. 613, on H.R. 6429, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to promote innovation, investment, and research in the United States, to eliminate the diversity immigrant program, and for other purposes, had I been present, I would have voted ``yea.''
Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to STEM fields, this is long overdue. This is not the first time we have considered it, but as we go into the lame duck session, I'd like the American people to understand why this is so important. For more than 2 years, the national campaigns have talked in terms of jobs. STEM means jobs, Mr. Speaker.
Many years ago, Thomas Friedman wrote about an experience of being a speaker at a commencement, and he watched one after another individuals cross receiving their masters and doctorate degrees in science, in math, and in engineering. The amazing thing is, one after another had names that were almost impossible to pronounce in some cases, and, clearly, the majority of these engineers and scientists came from other countries and were being told they must return to them. He made the statement in
his op-ed that, in fact, at the end, rather than just a diploma, they should be given a diploma and a green card. Mr. Speaker, I agree with Thomas Friedman on this subject.
For each person we welcome to America with one of these high degrees, we create jobs, net jobs. We create opportunity for expansion of the kinds of businesses that, in fact, Americans are prepared to work in, but often we do not have enough engineers, scientists, or math professionals. This shortage, particularly at the masters and doctorate level, is well documented.
This is not something in which Republicans and Democrats are on different sides; this is something we agree on. There is some controversy, as you might imagine; there always is. Some would cling to a lottery that allows 55,000 immigrants to come for no reason other than they asked and they got [Page: H6542]
a lottery. Those 55,000 are, in fact, an example of a great many of our immigrants. Only 5 percent of immigration visas today are based on skills of education
and other capacities--only 5 percent.
I support other categories of immigration, including those fleeing the tyranny of their own countries, those in fact who would be killed if they remained, or tortured; and I certainly agree that family reunification continues to be an important part of our immigration system. But today what we're dealing with is the ability to make a profound difference of 55,000 opportunity jobs.
We often hear about opportunity scholarships, Mr. Speaker. Opportunity jobs is what we're talking about today--jobs that are in great demand. In this high unemployment era, STEM jobs can be not just below 4, but in some cases below 2, percent. The truth is if you're qualified and you have these kinds of advanced degrees, the jobs are far greater than the qualified applicants.
Three-quarters of likely voters support strongly this type of legislation, and, I believe, properly understood, that for each STEM immigration visa, the fact is that you would gain net jobs, that by bringing in these 55,000, we could drop hundreds of thousands of people from the unemployment rolls because they could become employed. The benefit to our economy is undeniable. The controversy here today will simply be, are we willing to act and act now. Many say that little good happens in a lame-duck
session. In this case, I believe both in the House and hopefully in the Senate we can in fact say, not true.
Some of the groups that have strongly come out in support of this legislation include: the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, an area of shortage; the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an area of commerce; Compete America; the Information Technology Industry Council; and the Society for Human Resource Management. And, I might say, the industry I came from, the Consumer Electronics Association, has long supported these kinds of investments in America.
This bill has the support of the large majority of the House of Representatives, and on a bipartisan basis. Last September, by an overwhelming vote, more than 100 votes to spare, the STEM Jobs Act passed under suspension.
To protect American jobs, employers who hire STEM graduates must advertise for the position before they can ask for them, and they must in fact make their jobs available to all existing American workers. In fact, these protections have long meant that after all that advertising, employers often enter the H-1B, attempt to get a temporary worker; but in fact for permanent opportunities and permanent growth, we should have more permanent jobs than simply a guest technology worker.
More importantly, I think it's universally recognized by both my colleagues on the other side and by my colleagues that if you have somebody who's going to benefit America, having them benefit America for a short time and then go home and in fact compete against America is not in America's best interests.
In fact, an Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services has testified that the diversity fraud in the system that we are attempting to take these slots from is so huge as to in fact make it effectively worthless. In those hearings and many others, we've determined that we do have an opportunity, on a net basis, no net-new immigrants but in fact a selection of the ones that Americans want would be the best.
There are many other provisions in this bill, but I want to touch on one, which is family reunification. Under this bill, we're going to set aside what has been a bad idea for a long time: people who just because of our bureaucracy often wait for family reunification. Americans, with green cards or fully naturalized citizens, often wait for many years to be reunited. Under this bill, I believe broadly supported, we're going to change that. We're going to make it to where after 1 year, if there
are no other impediments to their coming, they may wait with their families here for final status. We believe that this is the best solution to a problem where we have had pervasive slowness in the process and it's to the detriment of families being together.
So although there will be additional comments, and I intend to make additional comments, I want to close simply by saying one thing: I was an employer. I knew that in fact technology and people who could apply it allowed my company to compete globally. I knew that in fact there were never enough of those people. I always had an open mind to hire if I found a smart engineer or a smart scientist.
Mr. Speaker, we can only gain by asking as many people who are smart and who create opportunities far beyond just their own to be part of our society. It's smart in business. It's smart in America.
I reserve the balance of my time.
Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Mr. Speaker, I have long been a champion of creating a green card program for foreign students with advanced STEM degrees from America's great research universities. Coming from Silicon Valley, I'm fortunate enough to see firsthand the new technologies, the new companies, the new jobs that such innovators create every day in the district I represent.
There's no question that a STEM green card program is the right thing to do for our country. For that reason, it pains me greatly to say I can't support this flawed bill. I can't support a bill that pits immigrant communities against each other, that sets a terrible precedent for addressing our broken immigration system that is indefensibly designed to reduce immigration while purporting to increase it, and that harms American workers. I certainly admire the gentleman from Arizona on his Staple
Act. I know that he has pushed for this over the Congresses. But his Staple Act did not eliminate the Diversity Visa program, as this does.
Our colleagues on the other side of the aisle say that a STEM visa program is critical to the future of this country--and I agree. But if that's true, why poison the bill with an unrelated provision to eliminate the Diversity Visa program? There's no reason that giving a green card to one person should mean taking one away from someone else, but that is exactly what the bill asks us to do.
My colleagues are fond of saying they support legal immigration, but this bill shows quite the opposite. Supporters of legal immigration would not have to kill one immigration program to benefit another; nor would they agree to a Grover Norquist-style ``no new immigration'' pledge that will continue to strangle our immigration system for years to come. If we were to accept a zero-sum premise, how could we craft meaningful solutions for farmers and agricultural workers; for DREAMers, who were
brought here as children; or for those families with loved ones waiting abroad in decades-long queues?
This bill, however, is even worse than that. It is actually designed to reduce legal immigration. Taking 55,000 green cards from one category and putting them in another may seem like an even trade, but it is not if the new category is drafted to ensure that green cards go unused.
According to the National Science Foundation, American universities currently graduate about 30,000 foreign students with degrees that would qualify them for green cards under this bill. Assuming every single one of them wanted to stay and could find an employer willing to offer them a permanent job, which is certainly not the case, that would still leave 25,000 green cards unused. This bill shamefully prevents those green cards from being used to help other employment and family-based immigrants
suffering in long backlogs. And I would note that those who have their labor certification based on a bachelor of science degree, if you're born in India, you're facing a 70-year wait. Yet this bill would not allow the traditional policy of having visas
trickle down when they are unused. That's not the way the immigration system works. I believe the only reason the bill was written in this fashion is to satisfy anti-immigrant organizations who have long lobbied for reduced levels of immigration.
In an attempt to appear more pro-immigrant, the authors point to a new ``family-friendly'' position. But looks can be deceiving. Currently, a lack of green cards means that a category of family-based immigrant--the spouses and minor children of U.S. permanent residents--have to wait about 2 years overseas before they can rejoin their families.
Instead of providing critical green cards to these nuclear families, the STEM bill offers temporary V visas with three significant catches: the family members must first spend at least 1 year overseas; unlike the original V visa, created by a Republican Congress in 2000, the new visas prohibit family members already here from participating; and unlike the original V visa, recipients are prohibited from working.
With all the talk about moving forward on immigration, this is a step back from where Republicans were just 12 years ago. When I hear allegations of fraud in this program, I just have to say that is absurd. In the year 2007, the General Accountability Office found no documented evidence that Diversity Visa immigrants posed a terrorist or other threat. The DV recipients go through the same immigration, criminal, and national security background checks that everyone goes through when they seek
lawful permanent residence.
Mr. ISSA. Mr. Speaker, I might note for the gentleman that, in fact, there are more than 12,000 African students studying in STEM fields here in the United States at the advanced level, and almost 1,500 Nigerian-specific students alone getting graduate-level degrees in STEM fields in America at this time.
With that, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Iowa, a member of the Immigration Subcommittee, Mr. King.
Mr. KING of Iowa. I thank the gentleman.
We only control between 7 percent and 11 percent of the legal immigration into this country on merit. The rest of that doesn't have anything to do with merit and how they contribute to the U.S. This bill does do that.
I support H.R. 6429, and I urge my colleagues to vote in favor of it.