UPDATE: On Friday, November 30, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the STEM Jobs Act. However, the bill cannot become law until the Senate passes it as well. Should the U.S. Senate consider this bill, CWS will send information on how to take action to oppose this bill. Sign up for our Speak Out alerts here.
As a humanitarian organization providing legal, integration, and refugee resettlement services to immigrants across the United States, Church World Service expresses its opposition to The STEM Jobs Act of 2012, H.R.6429, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX-21).
While this bill would increase visas for international graduates in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), it would also eliminate the existing Diversity Visa program, which provides up to 50,000 visas annually for immigrants who do not have access to employer or family based visas, including many from France, Germany, Poland, Africa, and Asia.
CWS calls for real reform to the U.S. immigration system that prioritizes family unity, protects the rights of all workers, and creates a process by which undocumented immigrants can earn legal status and eventual citizenship. H.R.6429 is counterproductive to real reform. By reducing legal avenues for immigration, it would leave many with no legal way to enter the United States.
While we appreciate the spirit of an unrelated provision in H.R.6429 that would allow some relatives to live in the United States while applying for family reunification, the bill would actually take away their ability to work to support themselves and their families during this period.
While CWS is not opposed to an increase in visas for STEM graduates, such an increase can and should be accomplished without eliminating existing visa programs. As an alternative, CWS supports The Attracting the Best and Brightest Act, sponsored by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA-16), which would increase STEM visas without eliminating the diversity visa program.
H.R.6429 falls well short of what is needed to repair our flawed immigration system. Indeed, we believe it would represent a setback compared to current law by, for the first time in decades, eliminating a category of legal immigration. What we need is humane immigration reform that provides a pathway to legal status for those who are undocumented and sets our immigration system back on track to reunite families and improve the U.S. economy.
CWS urges all Representatives to vote against H.R. 6429, and encourages all in the CWS network to call their members of the House of Representatives asking them to oppose this bill.