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Tech / Congress

STEM Bill Fails in House

September 20, 2012

The House of Representatives on Thursday voted down a GOP proposal aimed at making it easier for foreign students who graduate from U.S. universities with advanced technical degrees to stay in the United States. Chris Frates has the story at National Journal's Influence Alley.

Tech industry leaders have been pressing Congress for changes to the nation's immigration laws that would make it easier for companies to keep talented foreign students who graduate with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, to remain in the United States. Industry officials argue that they may be forced to move work offshore if they can't retain the workers they need in the United States.

Consumer Electronics Association CEO Gary Shapiro criticized Democrats for not supporting the bill.

"Many of the world's top students come to the U.S. to obtain advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. The STEM Jobs Act would have allowed these individuals to use their knowledge and skills to create jobs here in America," Shapiro said in a statement. "We are disappointed that today one party put attracting the best immigrants and innovation second to some concept of random immigration. But, I appreciate the support of the 30 Democrats who voted for this bill."

Democrats were able to doom the bill because it required a two-thirds majority to pass under suspension of House rules.

Democrats such as Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., argued that the GOP bill, offered by House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, would decrease the availability of green cards for all immigrants. Smith's bill would eliminate a green card lottery program and make the 55,000 annual green cards for that program available to foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees.

She and other Democrats instead called on lawmakers to back Lofgren's bill, which would retain the Diversity Visa Program and would establish a new two-year pilot program that would allocate 55,000 green cards a year for foreign STEM graduates.

TechAmerica urged both sides to find a compromise. "While we appreciate the House of Representatives taking up much needed STEM visa legislation, we did not anticipate passage without the consensus of both parties on a final agreement," TechAmerica President and CEO Shawn Osborne said in a statement. "TechAmerica urges Congress to pass a true bipartisan STEM bill to establish a green card program for outstanding foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in STEM fields."

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