The House bucked White House opposition and voted to pass a bill on Friday designed to encourage more foreign students with advanced technical degrees to stay and work in the United States.
The bill would eliminate the Diversity Visa Program and shift up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign students who graduate from qualified U.S. schools with a doctorate or master’s degree in the “STEM” disciplines: science, technology, engineering, and math.
The House vote of 245-139 was largely divided along party lines. Some House Democrats complained that getting rid of the Diversity Visa Program will actually reduce legal immigration, but the bill’s sponsor, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas, contends that the program is rife with fraud.
The White House has criticized the legislation as too narrowly tailored. Similar criticisms from Democrats could limit the measure’s chances as a stand-alone bill in the Senate, but both parties have said they want to see more educated immigrants stay in the country.
“In a global economy, we cannot afford to educate these foreign graduates in the U.S. and then send them back home to work for our competitors,” Smith said in a statement after the vote. “For America to remain the world’s economic leader, we must have access to the world’s best talent.”