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Rep. Zoe Lofgren on Opposing House Republican’s STEM Visa Bill

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Washington, DC, September 20, 2012 | comments

emRep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), a top ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration Policy and Enforcement Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives during debate of H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012. House Republicans had brought the measure to the floor under a suspension of the rules requiring a 2/3 vote.  H.R. 6429 ultimately failed to pass by a vote of 257 to 158, as reported by the presiding chair of the House.

Rep. Lofgren's remarks as prepared for delivery:

"For more than a decade I have been working to increase high-skilled visas for foreign students with advanced STEM degrees from America's greatest research universities. I am fortunate enough to see firsthand the new technologies, the new companies, and the new jobs they create every day in my district in Silicon Valley.

"For that reason, it pains me greatly that I cannot support this bill.

"First, although this bill ostensibly seeks to increase STEM visas, it appears to have another, in my opinion, more sinister purpose‹to actually reduce legal immigration levels. The bill does it in two ways:

"On its face, the bill eliminates as many visas as it creates by killing the diversity visa program, which benefits immigrants from countries that have low rates of immigration to the United States. But the bill also discreetly ensures that many of the new visas will go unused by preventing unused visas after 2014 from flowing to other immigrants stuck in decades-long backlogs.

"This is not the way our immigration system works, and I believe the only reason the bill is written in this fashion is to satisfy anti-immigrant organizations that have long lobbied for reduced levels of immigration.

"My colleagues on the other side of the aisle are fond of saying that while they are opposed to illegal immigration, they are very much in favor of legal immigration. But this bill shows the opposite.

"Supporters of legal immigration would not have killed one immigration program to benefit another. Nor would they agree to a Grover Norquist-style "no new immigration" pledge that will continue to strangle our immigration system for years to come. Agreeing to zero-sum rules now means never helping the almost 5 Million legal immigrants currently stuck in backlogs.

"The Republican bill also expressly allows for-profit and on-line schools to participate. Now while the bill contains language limiting immediate participation, it unquestionably opens the door to future participation. I cannot support a bill that will allow such schools to essentially sell visas to rich, young foreigners.

"The vast majority of Democrats in this chamber strongly support STEM visas. I've introduced a bill that creates STEM visas without eliminating other visas or including for-profit colleges. It has the support of the Black, Hispanic, and Asian caucus chairs. Bring that to the floor, and you will see strong support from Democrats.

"It should also get strong Republican support. Republicans in the past, including very conservative Members, have supported STEM legislation that does not eliminate other types of visas. In the 110th Congress, I introduced a bill that did just that with very conservative Republicans such as Texas Members John Carter and Pete Sessions as cosponsors. If they can support new STEM visas without offsets, so can other Republicans today.

"There is a unique opportunity here to craft a balanced, bipartisan bill that can pass the Senate. But our Majority has instead chosen to jam through a partisan bill that has no chance of becoming law‹solely, I think, to score political points.

"It seems the only reason they have chosen to pursue this strategy right before an election is an attempt to appear more immigrant-friendly than their record proves them to be, and, perhaps, to curry favor with high-tech groups. But this is an anti-immigration bill, and it only sets back the high-skilled visa cause.

"I believe that if we take a step back, work in good faith on a bipartisan basis, we can pass a STEM bill with overwhelming support. I am eager to work with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to do just that. It's the right thing to do for the district I represent, and for our country. But this flawed bill is one I cannot support."

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Click here for video of Rep. Lofgren's remarks.

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