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Rep. Gutierrez: STEM Visa Bill a ‘Shell Game’ that Starts Immigration Reform Debate on the Wrong Foot

“I want Republicans to know that Democrats support STEM visas. We don’t need to kill other legal immigration programs to create a STEM program.   But Republicans are more interested in killing the Diversity Visa Program than in creating a program for STEM graduates.”

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 29, 2012. Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez spoke on the House floor about a STEM visa bill expected to be voted on this week in Congress (H.R. 6429 – STEM Jobs Act).  This bill would kill the Diversity Visa Program and use some of those green cards to create a program for graduates of U.S. universities with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.  Yesterday, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) held a press conference in the U.S. Capitol to release their principles for immigration reform (link) that includes the creation of a STEM visa program.  Congressman Gutierrez (D-IL) is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery (at about 10 a.m. this morning) and a video link:  VIDEO: http://youtu.be/33ttczVCIT4

Remarks on STEM Visa Bill

November 29, 2012

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you how you know you have turned a corner in the immigration debate.

When Sean Hannity, Senator Rand Paul, and a group of others in the Republican Party begin saying it is time to rethink the party’s approach to immigration, we have probably reached a milestone.

When Donald Trump says the Republican policy of asking 12 million people to “self-deport,” is quote “a crazy” policy that likely cost the Republicans the White House, you have turned a corner.

Any time I agree with Donald Trump, hope for bipartisan agreement should be running high.

Most Americans believe that Election Day demonstrated it’s time to move beyond the same old politics – the same tired blame-game on immigration.

So when I saw a Republican sponsored STEM visa bill on the House calendar this week, I thought, “Well, maybe House Republicans are changing their tune.”

On the campaign trail we heard Gov. Romney say he supported “stapling a green card to the diploma of every math and science graduate.” 

Why should we educate some of the best minds on earth and then say “sorry, no room in the U.S. economy, we have no green cards to give?”  It makes no sense.  They go away and compete against us rather than innovating and creating jobs here.

But then I took a closer look at what the Republicans are actually proposing. They haven’t turned a corner at all.  In fact, they haven’t even stepped out of their houses.  They certainly didn’t learn anything from the election. 

The STEM visa bill on the House floor this week was actually voted down in September.  It was introduced with few changes and absolutely no consultation with Democrats.

I want to find bipartisan solutions on immigration.  I’m committed to it. I know it won’t be easy. 

They say a journey of 1,000 miles begins with just one step.  The problem is the Republicans want to take one step and have the Democrats travel the other 999.9 miles.

Sadly, this bill isn’t even a step.  It’s a shuffle.  It’s a shell game.

It has exactly the same problem that the STEM bill in September had.  It moves visas from a legal immigration program that works over to the new visa category where there may or may not be sufficient demand to use those visas each year. 

Immigration is always a zero-sum game for Republicans.

We will only increase visas for immigrants we like if we can eliminate immigration for immigrants we don’t like.

But it isn’t even a zero-sum trick they are pulling here.  Best estimates are that only 20,000 or fewer STEM visas would be issued to graduates, meaning that the other 35,000 visas would just disappear.

And which immigrants do they want to exclude in order to play this game?  People from around the world who want a chance to make a new life for themselves in the U.S.  You know, people like the fathers and mothers or grandparents of almost every Member of Congress.

In this case, half of the people who come to America legally through the Diversity Visa program are from Africa.

But they come from all over.  So the Republicans would have us say to the good people of Ghana or South Africa or Sweden or Ireland or New Zealand or Taiwan, who apply to come legally, “sorry, we have to withdraw the chance you had at 50,000 visas so we can divert them to maybe 20,000 STEM graduates.” 

Once again, Republican math does not add up.

And here is something I bet you didn’t know about the Diversity Visa program — many join the U.S. military.

But these legal immigrants are the target of the Republican bill. 

I have news for my Republican friends.  You can’t fool immigrants.  You can’t pretend to be pro-immigrant and then eliminate immigration for one group to allow immigration for another. 

I woke up the day after the election and saw a new landscape for the immigration debate.  It is one where Democrats and Republicans work together to solve tough problems facing the United States. 

We should not treat it as an opportunity for politicians to score political points. 

But sadly, that is not what is happening here. 

I want Republicans to know that Democrats support STEM visas.  We don’t need to kill other legal immigration programs to create a STEM program.   But Republicans are more interested in killing the Diversity Visa Program than in creating a program for STEM graduates.

Mr. Speaker, I believe we can turn the corner on real immigration reform, but only if Republicans are willing to put on their walking shoes and take a few steps. 

Source: http://gutierrez.house.gov


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