H.R. 6429: Political Games

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posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 07:19 PM
I wrote a paper for a politics class. Initially my interest was just in researching a bill more thoroughly. What I found was a game of politics being played, and sadly this behavior is a common theme of Washington politics. Hopefully this bill will inform you about both the bill, and the way the political game is played in D.C.

H.R. 6429 (STEM Jobs Act of 2012)

The 112th Congress passed the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 by a vote of 245 to 139 on November 30th, 2012. As it waits to be voted on in the Senate, it’s important to take a look at how this act will affect our country. The first and most important question is to ask what specifically is this act going to accomplish. After that, it’s prudent to investigate how this bill would enact positive or negative changes. Upon further research, a similar proposal was introduced around the same time which was killed in committee. Due to the similarities between the two proposals, it may be helpful to understanding the topic if it can be understood why one passed the house while the other was sent to committee. While it would be undoubtedly useful, a long term analysis of the economic impacts of this act would be speculative at best and doesn’t do much to paint an accurate picture of the facts. Detailing what this act is geared to do, hearing the positive and negative aspects of this bill, and comparing the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 with a similar proposal should help provide all the necessary information to come to an informed opinion on H.R. 6429.

According to the Library of Congresses website, “(Sec. 2) Amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to make up to 55,000 visas available in FY2014 and subsequent fiscal years to qualified immigrants”(H.R. 6429 CRS Summary). These qualified immigrants are listed as people with doctorate or master degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, which is where the acronym STEM originated. However, the process doesn’t end there. The bill makes further stipulations as to how these visas will be distributed. If you have a degree in the aforementioned field, you must have an employer who is willing to sponsor you, agree to work for said employer or in the U.S. in the STEM field for a minimum of five years, and the employer must also show there’s not a sufficient number of able U.S. workers to fill the job (“Fact Sheet STEM Bill”). The bill also details the specific qualifications universities must meet to qualify. According to the GOP.gov website, “the bill would require that the state workforce agency post the job order on its official agency website to make it more accessible to American workers seeking employment” (“Legislative Digest”). An important detail is that unused visas can be “rolled-over” into following years.

A major part of the bill, detailed in section three is the elimination of the Diversity Visa program that’s currently in place. The Diversity Visa program gives 55,000 visas to a variety of qualified people from countries where immigration to the U.S. is particularly low. The qualifications under the Diversity Visa program however are much less stringent than the STEM Jobs Act, requiring applicants to only be high school graduates or have work experiences that meets specific guidelines. Essentially, the 55,000 visas eliminated from the Diversity Visa program would be replaced with the STEM Jobs Act visa program. The bill does detail how it will offset any potential economic costs caused by this act, but since that’s outside the scope of paper it will not be described further. This is a summary of the purpose of the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 and the changes that will be made.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 on September 18th, 2012. The House.gov website for Lamer Smith claims, “The STEM Jobs Act boosts job creation”(par. 1) by bringing the top performers in the STEM fields here to the U.S. to work jobs that are not being filled by U.S. workers. The idea is that by luring the best and brightest of those fields, we can maintain the upper hand on foreign competition. It’s painted as needed reform to help turn our immigration system to a more advanced degree focused program.
What’s interesting is where the partisan division comes into play. The key disagreement that largely drew partisan politics into play wasn’t the emphasis on advanced degree programs, something the Democrats had also proposed days earlier which will be discussed later. The key disagreement came from the elimination of the Diversity Visa program. The question of why this Diversity Visa program needs to be eliminated must be asked. Why couldn’t the two both exist simultaneously? Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) summarized the opposition most Democrats had toward H.R. 6429 by stating “supporters of legal immigration would not have to kill one immigration program to benefit another” (Qtd. in McNaull) in reference to the Diversity Visa program. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) further elaborated by stating, “The elimination of the Diversity Visa program will drastically reduce immigration from African nations because immigrants from Africa normally comprise half the Diversity Visa program’s annual beneficiaries” (Qtd. in McNaull). This means certain groups will have little opportunity to immigrate to the U.S. if this is implemented.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 07:20 PM
However, the motivation behind the act may be an effort at immigration reduction. This proposed theory is elaborated on by Rep. Lofgren:
“[The STEM Jobs Act of 2012] is actually designed to reduce legal immigration. Taking 55,000 green cards from one category and putting them in another may seem like an even trade, but it is not if the new category is drafted to ensure that green cards go unused. According to the National Science Foundation, American universities currently graduate about 30,000 foreign students with degrees that would qualify them for green cards under this bill. Assuming every single one of them wanted to stay and could find an employer willing to offer them a permanent job, which is certainly not the case, that would still leave 25,000 green cards unused. This bill shamefully prevents those green cards from being used to help other employment and family-based immigrants suffering in long backlogs” (Qtd. in McNaull)
It may or may not be the case, but it’s a compelling theory either way. Even if every graduate every year all wanted to stay here, that’s still 25,000 visas that aren’t being used. That means every year we would have to find 25,000 people with STEM degrees that aren’t already here and aren’t recent graduates. That’s an unlikely prospect. Either the Republican side of congress feels that you can’t give out a green card without taking it away from somebody else, or they devised a plan to decrease the overall amount of green cards that will be given out. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Supporters of the bill, such as Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), however want to make it clear that, “Only 5 percent of immigration visas today are based on skills of education and other capacities--only 5 percent…. But today what we're dealing with is the ability to make a profound difference of 55,000 opportunity jobs” (Qtd. in McNaull). The problem with this is if you look at the Department of Homeland Securities immigration statistics, you’ll find that many of these degree holding people already seem to getting green cards without the implementation of this program, as 66,831 “professionals with advanced degrees” obtained visas in 2011 (p. 21) which is probably the 5 percent Rep. Issa is referring to.

Assuming that the statistics quoted by Rep. Lofgren given by the National Science Foundation are correct, then there’s little doubt that the assertion is correct and many of the visas made available by this program will go unused. This wouldn’t be such an issue if it weren’t for the fact this program is replacing the Diversity Visa program as oppose to being implemented in addition to it. Rep. Smith has stated that the Diversity Visa program “invites fraud” (Qtd. in Dinan). Under the Diversity Visa program, there is a lottery among countries with low immigration to the U.S. and people are selected at random for a visa. This lottery is free to register for; you just need to submit all the paper work through the correct channels. However, there are people who call themselves “visa agents” who charge a fee to do this process for you.

Both sides agree that a visa program should be created to lure advanced degree holding individuals to reside here in the U.S. In fact, the Democrats had proposed a very similar bill just four days earlier. H.R. 6412 was introduced by Rep. Lofgren on September 14th, 2012. The bill was called Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012. According to Govtrack.us, the bill is meant to “To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for immigrant visas for certain advanced STEM graduates, and for other purposes” (H.R. 6412). It’s interesting how much H.R, 6412 resembles the STEM Jobs Act of 2012 introduced by Rep. Smith. The summary states that 55,000 visas be made available for STEM based degree holders, have a job offer in a STEM field, are going to be paid wages at least that of what would be paid to somebody of similar qualification or experience, and most importantly that any unused visas would be made available to other employment based visa categories (H.R. 6412). The unused visas would be redirect to another employment based program instead of being “rolled-over” into the next year, essentially being left unused.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 07:21 PM
There are some noticeable differences between the two core ideas of the two bills. H.R. 6412 keeps the Diversity Visa program intact. These are two important distinctions between the two bills. H.R. 6412 focuses heavily on equal wage pay to create a level playing field and avoid exploitation of foreign labor. It also ensures that no visas will be cut from the Diversity Visa program and no visas will go to waste in the new STEM program. It is baffling why the Republicans went through such efforts to make these subtle but important alterations. This bill provided a program that both parties wanted, the STEM visa program, and ensured fairness in wages would be upheld, a principle that Rep. Smith claimed to be for. Yet all mention of equal pay was eliminated from H.R. 6429. Furthermore, the additions to H.R. 6429 are what caused the partisan vote. By an outside perspective, it makes little sense to go through such efforts and make such partisan modifications yet gain so little from these modifications. The alterations don’t make the STEM visa program any more effective, nor does it guarantee the equal pay that H.R. 6412 did. In fact, it does the opposite on that issue. Why did the Republican controlled congress send H.R. 6412 to die in committee, only to come out with a similar yet much more partisan version of the bill, forcing it through knowing they had a majority vote?

Given the research presented here, an unfortunate picture gets painted from what should have been a beneficial step towards enticing STEM degree holding visa seekers into a partisan ploy to reduce legal immigration on the whole. Furthermore, the lack of detail H.R. 6429 includes when it comes to equal wages is worrisome. The text on equal wages in the original version of the proposal is gone. There was little reason for the Diversity Visa program to be eliminated, or why the two programs couldn’t co-exist. It’s the failure of the Republican lead congress to adequately explain why these changes occurred and how they benefit us that cause a great deal of concern as to how often this type of practice happens. The Democrats proposed an idea, the Republicans send it to committee, and then come out with essentially the same idea slanted very much to the right wing of the issue saying it’s their own. This practice should be disheartening to say the least and appears to be a shady use of power to reinforce partisan politics.

posted on Dec, 16 2012 @ 07:22 PM

Work Cited

"Digest for H.R. 6429X." GOP.gov. N.p., 29 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

Dinan, Stephen. "House passes bill to cancel diversity visa lottery."
Washington Times. 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

"Fact Sheet: The STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429)." Judiciary.house.gov.
Web. 9 Dec. 2012. .

McNaull, Aline. "STEM Visa Bill Passes House; Stopped in Senate." American
Institute of Physics. 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012.

"Strong Support for Smith’s STEM Jobs Act." Congressman Lamar Smith. house.gov,
20 Sept. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. lamarsmith.house.gov...

"2011 Yearbook of Immigration Statistics." Department of Homeland Security.
N.p., Sept. 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2012. .

United States. Cong. House. Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012. 112th
Cong. H. 6412. Print.

United States. Cong. House. STEM Jobs Act of 2012. 112th Cong. H. 6429. Print.

posted on Dec, 19 2012 @ 07:08 PM
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