STEM Jobs Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:  Lamar Smith
Date: Sept. 20, 2012
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

When it comes to STEM fields--science, technology, engineering, and math--American universities set the standard. Our STEM graduates create the innovations and new businesses that fuel our economic growth and create jobs.

Many of the world's top students come to the U.S. to obtain advanced STEM degrees. But what happens to these foreign students after they graduate? Under the current system, we educate scientists and engineers only to send them back home where they often work for our competitors.

We could boost economic growth and spur job creation by enabling American employers to hire some of the best and brightest graduates of U.S. universities. These students become entrepreneurs, patent holders, and job creators.

The STEM Jobs Act makes available 55,000 immigrant visas a year for foreign graduates of American universities with advanced degrees in STEM fields.

Three-quarters of likely voters strongly support such legislation, and a wide range of trade associations have endorsed this legislation as well. These include the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Compete America, the Information Technology Industry Council, and the Society for Human Resource Management.

To protect American workers, employers who hire STEM graduates must advertise the position; and if a qualified American worker is available, the STEM graduate will not be hired.

This bill makes our immigration system smarter by admitting those who have the education and skills America needs. STEM visas are substituted for Diversity Visas which invite fraud and pose a security risk.

The STEM Jobs Act generates jobs, increases economic growth, and benefits American businesses. What more do we want?

Let's put the interest of our country first and support this legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, before yielding to the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hall), I'm going to yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Speaker, the gentlewoman from California said at least two things that are completely inaccurate. Let me correct those statements.

First, she said this bill is going to reduce immigration and that that was somehow the intent behind the bill. The gentlewoman from California practiced immigration law, and she knows better than to say this. Under this bill, and she knows this to be the case, individuals in other employment categories who are waiting for other types of employment visas can switch over and apply for these STEM visas if they are master's or Ph.D. holders in the STEM fields. There's no limit on those. I expect every year that the number of visas that are not used directly will be used by these individuals in other employment-based categories.

I want to make the point, too, that America is the most generous country in the world. We admit almost 1 million people legally every year. That's far more than any other nation, and it may well be as many as every other country combined.

The purpose of this bill is not to increase or decrease immigration, and I want to make that point, and also the fact that most Americans agree with this. Gallop recently reported that four out of five Americans do not want to increase the levels of immigration. Only 4 percent believe that the number of immigrants now entering the U.S. is too low. This bill reflects what the American people want.

Lastly, in regard to for-profit schools, the gentlewoman made light of that and seemed to think that this bill was going to be abused by those types of institutions.

First of all, any institution, even if they are profit-making--and why do so many Democrats oppose profits and free enterprise? I don't know--but any profit-making institution, if they otherwise qualify, which is to say if they grant doctorates or master's in STEM fields and if they are a research university as deemed by the Carnegie Institute of Higher Education, yes, they'll qualify. But I want to say to the gentlewoman from California, today, none of those for-profit institutions would qualify.

If they somehow meet the qualifications in the future, why wouldn't we want them to be eligible to have their graduates--master's and Ph.D. only--apply for these STEM visas?

I am happy now to yield 2 minutes to the chairman of the Science Committee, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hall).

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, on the way to yielding to the majority leader of the House, I'd like to respond very quickly to what the gentleman from Maryland just said.

I want to make, again, the points that the Diversity Visa invites fraud, and absolutely means that we would have a security risk if we were to continue it.

I want to quote the assistant Secretary of State. The assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services has testified that Diversity Visa fraud includes:

Multiple entries, fraudulent claims to education or work experience, pop-up spouses or family members, relatives added after the application is submitted, and false claims for employment or financial support in the United States.

The State Department's Inspector General has testified that the Diversity Visa program:

Contains significant risk to national security from hostile intelligence officers, criminals and terrorists attempting to use the program for entry into the United States as permanent residents.

We've already had one individual who was admitted on a Diversity Visa try to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993. He killed six people and injured hundreds of people. That's why this program is not good for this country.

I'm more than happy to yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Cantor), the majority leader for the House of Representatives.

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. I yield myself 30 seconds.

Mr. Speaker, no one is hurt more by the diversity visa program than unemployed Hispanics and black Americans. The unemployment rate for Hispanics with only a high school education is almost 14 percent. The unemployment rate for African Americans with only a high school education is almost 19 percent. The diversity visa program forces these unemployed Americans to compete for very scarce American jobs with those other individuals who don't have more than a high school education. Why do we want to do this to our own people?

I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Idaho (Mr. Labrador), an original cosponsor of this legislation who is very active on this subject.

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, the STEM Jobs Act spurs economic growth and spurs job creation by enabling American employers to hire some of the best and brightest foreign students who graduate from American universities. The American public, American employers, and the high-tech community all support this bipartisan piece of legislation.

I urge my colleagues to vote for jobs, vote for innovation, and vote for economic growth. Let's put the interests of America first.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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