Where Do Immigration Problems STEM From?
Members of the House of Representatives faced an important choice last week: whether or not to take the first step toward immigration reform, and what exactly this step will look like. A vote was taken for the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas). This bill would provide 55,000 more visas for skilled workers and students, and included a measure that makes it easier for immigrants with green cards to bring their families to the United States. High-tech visas are one of the least contentious components of immigration reform, and this bill has been seen by some as an opportunity for legislators to demonstrate their commitment to solving the immigration problem on a wider scale. The STEM Jobs Act did pass the House of Representatives, but faces an uphill battle as it approaches the Senate.
However, this bill is not as un-controversial as it might immediately seem. In it is a provision that would eliminate the diversity visa lottery, which provides up to 50,000 visas for immigrants who do not have access to employer or family-based visas – in a way trading the spots currently given to a wider array of immigrants for a more select, high-tech group. Both demographics are important to our society. Both demographics are crucial for our economy.
An alternative has been introduced – H.R. 6412, Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012, which would increase the number of green cards available for STEM candidates but would do so without eliminating other visa programs. However, a vote on this latter bill has yet to be scheduled.
We Jews are not strangers to tough choices (though we were strangers in the land of Egypt). Yet we have learned that in every difficult decision, in every moral dilemma, is a lesson, and an opportunity for action. As this bill reaches the Senate, it is crucial to continue to take action and urge your members of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including crucial components such as re-uniting families, helping students and translating the positive steps the Obama administration has made into codified legislation.