Arlington, Va. – Consumer Electronics Association president and CEO Gary Shapiro told members of Congress last week that they made a mistake in defeating the STEM Jobs Act in the U.S. House of Representatives before Congresses’ recess to campaign.
“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. Defeat of this bill means we are continuing to train foreign-born students only to force them to work for our global competitors,” Shapiro said in an open letter to Capitol Hill.
The STEM Act bill, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), proposed issuing more green cards to foreign-born graduates with advanced science, tech, engineering and math (STEM) degrees who agree to work for at least five years for a U.S. employer in a related field.
But House Democrats led by members of the Congressional Tri-Caucus (comprised of members of the House Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Asian Pacific American Caucus) mostly fought the measure because it would have eliminated the Diversity Immigrant Visa program as it issued 55,000 more green cards to STEM students. The Diversity provision allocates by lottery green cards to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S.
The Tri-Caucus argued that the Diversity program has been a key path for legal immigration for many African nations, in particular, which in recent years accounted for approximately 50 percent of such visas.
After Smith’s first bill surfaced, U.S. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) quickly issued a new bill called “Attracting the Best and Brightest Act (ABBA),” which addresses some of the issues of Smith’s bill while keeping the diversity program in place.
Hoping to win approval for the STEM Act, House Republicans tried to push through a vote last Thursday under suspension of rules (requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage). This would have prevented House Democrats from adding an amendment for the Diversity provision outlined in the Lofgren bill.
In his statement Thursday, CEA’s Shapiro said: “Having pushed for strategic immigration for over three years as a key plank of our Innovation Movement, 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.
“The empirical fact is that more immigrants with advanced degrees mean more jobs for all Americans. We urge both parties to put the promise of their platforms into action and forge a deal to keep the best and the brightest in America.”
House Democrats counter that they too strongly support the effort to keep STEM students in the U.S. after graduation, but reject the Republicans’ zero-sum approach to achieving it.
Shapiro authored a book last year called “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore The American Dream,” which makes giving U.S. Visas and citizenship to the best and brightest immigrant students as a key element in revitalizing innovation and restoring health to the nation’s economy.