Members of Congress have recently shown themselves to be willing to consider some modest immigration reforms in the form of visas for skilled immigrants in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, also known by the acronym STEM. Two members of Congress—Representatives Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Zoe Lofgren (R-CA) both introduced legislation supporting the availability of STEM visas. But the two proposals differed. Smith’s bill, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429) would have provided STEM visas by eliminating the diversity visa program. Diversity visas allow migrants from countries whose residents do not usually migrate to the United States to do so without having specific employment or family ties.
By contrast, Rep. Lofgren’s bill, the Attracting the Best and the Brightest Act (H.R. 6412) would have provided STEM visas without eliminating the diversity visa program. This bill also would have facilitated family reunification by ensuring families with children who become adults during the course of seeking a visa are not subject to processing delays. The bill would also prevent delays for individuals whose family relationship or marital status changes while waiting for approval of their visa petition. LIRS made its voice heard for this bill in a letter of support to members of Congress.
The House of Representatives failed to pass both proposals before leaving for a recess in September, but STEM immigration reform is likely to continue to generate interest when Congress returns after the elections and into 2013. LIRS works to ensure that immigration reforms provide opportunities for migrants to reunify with family members as well as legal channels for immigrants to live and work in the United States. You can join us in our advocacy for fair and humane immigration reform by taking action at the LIRS Action Center.