President Obama came out Wednesday in opposition to Rep. Lamar Smith's (R-Texas) STEM Act, which would increase the number of visas available to highly skilled immigrants while reducing the visas available to people coming from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The bill would add 55,000 visas for masters and doctoral degree holders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and it would eliminate all of the so-called "diversity" visas.
"The AFL-CIO believes in diversity—the election results were a vindication of the view that America is stronger for its diversity—and yet now Lamar Smith and the GOP literally want to end diversity in our immigration system," said Ana Avendano, Assistant to the President for Immigration and Community Action at AFL-CIO. "They just don’t get it."
The AFL-CIO is also urging members of Congress to vote against Smith's bill. From an AFL-CIO letter to members of Congress:
We believe it is imperative for Congress to begin the work required to enact comprehensive and common-sense immigration reform, but the STEM Jobs Act is the wrong starting point.
H.R. 6429 would end the diversity lottery visa program and give that program's green cards to foreign-born graduates of U.S. universities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. It is in essence a zero sum game that would unjustly pit one group of immigrants against another.
Critics of Smith's bill say it would lower the number of immigrants legally allowed into the country because unclaimed STEM visas would disappear rather than be reallocated. Democrats oppose the bill, with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) saying it is dangerous to treat immigration as a "zero-sum game."
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus also opposes Smith's bill and has proposed an alternative based on a broad set of principles it says is more common sense and comprehensive.
"Let me be clear about this—we want to work with Republicans to find common ground, help the American people and help America's immigrants," said caucus member Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.). "But common ground is based on common decency and common sense. These principles reflect that common decency."