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Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 6429, the misnamed STEM Jobs Act of 2012.
The ability our nation to attract the world's best and brightest has contributed greatly to the creation of American jobs and the success of American businesses large and small. However, many foreign students who graduate from our best universities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields become victims of a broken visa system. The absence of specific visas for graduates in these critical fields has resulted in long wait times and forces many to move back home, taking their valuable skills out of the American economy. Clearly, the time has come for change.
Unfortunately, H.R. 6429 isn't the change we need. It follows the pattern of the Republicans' approach of giving with one hand while taking with the other. This bill would create STEM visas at the expense of eliminating the Diversity Visa Program. Diversity visas provide a legal path for people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Half the recipients are from Africa and almost a third are from Asia.
Democrats and Republicans agree that we should establish a STEM visa program, but unfortunately Republicans inserted a poison pill in this bill that guarantees it will not pass. It is also clear that the Senate will not take up the bill with this provision included.
We in Hawaii know that diversity is a strength. Hawaii has been enriched by the diverse immigrants who call it home, hailing from places like the Philippines, Japan, Samoa, Portugal, and around the Pacific Rim. While I believe we should be looking for ways to encourage the best and brightest to come to our shores and create American jobs, we don't need to do it at the expense of the Diversity Visa Program.
As an immigrant, I know the promise America offers and the hopes of those who come to our shores seeking a better life. That's why I support efforts to improve our immigration system and encourage those with needed skills to come and work for our businesses. Furthermore, a strong economic foundation depends on a world class American education system that prepares the young people of our country to compete in the STEM fields. I am convinced we can find a way to come together to create a fair STEM Visa Program and to strengthen our STEM education so more Americans can get these jobs.
H.R. 6429 is a flawed bill, and I urge my colleagues to oppose it.
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