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Providing for Consideration of H.R. 6429, STEM Jobs Act of 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. NUGENT. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of this rule, which will allow the House of Representatives to consider H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012.

As I am sure my colleague from Colorado will point out, H. Res. 821 is a closed rule. The fact is that like Mr. Polis, I prefer an open-amendment process. Open rules let us come together on both sides of the aisle and contribute ideas to help make a bill better.

Today's rule will be closed, but that's because the crafting of the STEM Jobs Act has been in a collaborative process for the last few months. Chairman Smith, the author of this legislation, has already worked with his committee, Republicans, Democrats, and even the Senate to come up with a bill that, hopefully, everybody could support.

Unfortunately, we've since been informed that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle and in the other Chamber are looking to play politics with the STEM Jobs Act. However, that doesn't change the fact that Chairman Smith worked diligently to make sure this legislation was filled with bipartisan ideas.

The STEM Jobs Act would eliminate the flawed Diversity Lottery Green Card program and reallocate up to 55,000 green cards a year to new green card programs for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced STEM degrees.

According to a study by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, in 1990 about 91,000 full-time foreign graduate students were studying in STEM fields in the United States. That number had jumped to almost 149,000 by 2009. It was 149,000 in 2009. However, the vast majority of these highly skilled, highly educated innovators are leaving the United States where they once received their education.

We're training hundreds of thousands of highly skilled engineers, technicians, and scientists at American universities and then sending them back home to compete against us in other countries.

They aren't moving to other countries because they want to leave the United States. They're moving because the immigration system forces them out.

Currently, we only select 5 percent of our Nation's legal immigrants based on skills and education they bring to America. So the vast majority of foreign students who come to America for advanced degrees and get their education find themselves on a years-long green card waiting list and give up on the idea of staying here in the United States.

When they leave our country, they take with them all their training and all of their potential to go work for America's business competitors in Canada, Europe, and Asia. The exodus of U.S.-trained STEM professionals has been referred to as reverse brain drain.

The STEM Act of 2012 would reverse this trend. It would establish a program to prioritize green cards for immigrants with graduate-level degrees in the STEM fields. To offset the number of green cards that would be given to the STEM Visa program, the bill would eliminate the diversity lottery green card program, a program that has been repeatedly highlighted as a threat to our national security.

The result is that there would be no net increase in the number of green cards we give out as a Nation. The difference is that we will get immigrants who have the training and the skills that we need to keep American businesses competitive in a globalized and increasingly technical age. In the process, we will eliminate a visa lottery system that's rife with fraud and abuse and the State Department stated contains significant threats to our national security.

In the Rules Committee meeting last night, some opponents to H.R. 6429 said that fraud and security concerns are old problems and that they've been fixed. My colleagues were right in that these are old problems, but the State Department inspector general report published in 2003 listed the widespread abuse in the diversity lottery visa program. The inspector general pointed to identity fraud, forged documents, and national security threats. That's their words.

However, my colleagues were absolutely wrong to say that the problems have been fixed. In fact, just 2 months ago, the GAO released a study discussing the ways the State Department could reduce fraud in our immigration system, and it highlighted the diversity lottery program. Moreover, the STEM Jobs Act does this without putting American jobs at risk.

This legislation includes provisions that would require the petitioning of an employer to submit a job order to the appropriate State workforce agency. The job opening would then be posted in the agency's official Web site in an effort to publicize available jobs for Americans.

In addition to reforming the green card process for foreign students with advanced STEM degrees, H.R. 6429 also includes provisions that would help reunite families waiting on the immigration process. As it currently stands, family green cards can take 6 or 7 years to process and be approved. During these long years, families are separated. A spouse or parent can be living as a permanent resident in the United States while their loved ones wait back home hoping to be reunited somewhere down the line. This pro-family legislation would help reduce the time these families need to spend apart without speeding up or preempting the actual green card process.

Provisions contained within the STEM Jobs Act would expand the V nonimmigrant visa program to allow spouses and minor children of permanent U.S. residents to come to the United States to live with their loved ones once they have spent 1 year on the green card waiting list. The bill expressly states that these folks would not be allowed to work, taking jobs away from American citizens, nor would they inherently be entitled to any government welfare programs because of the V visa in and of itself.

Similarly, the expanded V visa program won't speed up or expedite the green card process in any way. All it does is this: It ensures that families don't have to live separately and in uncertainty as to when they can be reunited at an unknown time down the line. It brings families back together.

The simple fact is that our current immigration system is ineffective. We educate the world's best and brightest and then send them away to be our competitors. We only prioritize about 5 percent of our visas based upon what they actually contribute to our economy. We have a diversity lottery system that is subject to widespread abuse and opens up our country to entry of hostile intelligence officers, criminals, and terrorists. We separate spouses, parents, and minor children for unknown years on end.

We can do better with the STEM Jobs Act. It is an important step towards doing better. It makes the American green card process smarter, safer, and more family oriented. It protects American jobs and workers while still supporting the American innovation industry, which is why over 100 major companies and councils have supported H.R. 6429.

I support this rule, and I hope all my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will.

With that, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. NUGENT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume

To my good friend from Colorado, we agree on so many issues, particularly as it relates to immigration reform. We agree. I think this is the first step in regards to where we need to go. You have sold a very persuasive argument in regards to why it is so important, so important, that we have a STEM visa program; why it's important to us to keep that brain power that we educated in the United States, keep them here in this country to support our businesses and our manufacturing so we can be more competitive on a global market. You have made my case on that argument.

I'll agree with you that this immigration system that we have is broken. I wasn't here 2 years ago or 4 years ago when the Democrats were in power in both the House and the Senate and the Presidency, and they moved nothing forward that we're talking about today.

It's disappointing when you have all the levels of government and you don't accomplish anything as it relates to this. And now we want to turn it around and say that this is a flawed bill. At the end of the day, this meets the needs of our corporations of creating more jobs here in America, about putting more people to work, and it also rectifies an issue on the V-Visa program in regards to instead of having families split because someone has a legitimate green card as a resident here, that he has to be split or she has to be split from their family. The mother of their children or their children are kept from coming in the United States. Because today, the way the program is, they are kept from coming to the United States. So they don't have an opportunity to get a job, anyhow.

But what this does do is it rectifies a problem that allows parents to be reunited with their children. I don't know, but that's important to me as a father of three. I would much rather have had my family here if I was a resident alien here. I would rather have my family here so I could reach out and touch them and help encourage them and move them forward in the American principles--that's what I would want to do--versus trying to talk across great distances to try to bring a family together. That's no way to raise a family. But they do it because they have to. This rectifies that problem. While it doesn't allow them to go out and get a job, it does bring the family unit back together again. I know, Mr. Polis, you have a son. You would rather have your son with you than a thousand miles away, as I would.

So this is a step in the right direction. This is moving us forward, not moving us backwards. This is actually taking an approach that should have been taken 4 years ago, and the Democrats punted it down the field. In September, we voted on this initial STEM bill and we had 30 Democrats across the aisle vote with us. We didn't meet the threshold of two-thirds because it was under suspension.

I truly believe that this bill has the ability to cut across the aisle. And we heard our good friend from Oregon talk about it--for the right reasons. Just because it's not perfect doesn't mean we should just throw it in the scrap heap. And I agree that we can pass this bill and send it to the Senate. The Senate has the option to bring it up, debate it, vote on it, amend it, and send it back to the House. Do your job. I agree that that's what they should do. At least have the discussion. When the Senate comes out and says, We're going to ignore it, we're not going to do anything with it, that's a disservice to the American public, it's a disservice to those that create jobs, and those Americans that need jobs.

You talk about a zero sum game. This is not a way to reduce immigration. I don't know where my good friend got the numbers about how this is going to increase the number of illegal immigrants to this country. I've never heard that before. I've never seen anything in writing as relates to that. I'm not saying it's not true, but I don't know that. I think it just sounds like a good number. What we don't want to do is scare people to be opposed to something that is good for America.

We made an investment as a Nation in these foreign students when they came here, when we allowed them here in the STEM fields. Why let that investment leave? Why would we ignore that investment and say, you know what? we don't care, when it has a direct negative impact on this country--not on any other country--on this country it has a direct negative impact. It's just common sense. And I guess that's the problem. Sometimes common sense and Washington, D.C., are vast worlds apart.

While looking at this, it's just a small, commonsense reform to our immigration policy. But what it does do is addresses a dangerous Diversity Visa problem. Even the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Visa Services testified in front of the Judiciary Committee that visa lottery fraud includes multiple entries, fraudulent claims to education and work experience, pop-up spouses or family members, and false claims of employment or financial support in the United States. His words, not mine.

For example, one third-party agent in Bangladesh entered every single name from a phone book in Bangladesh into the lottery system in order to extort money. If your name got pulled he would go to you and extort money so you can come to the United States. Or, guess what? Sell that winning slot to someone else.

That's not what the whole program was designed for. I would suggest to you that students that are coming from foreign countries come across-the-board. We have them from China, we have them from the Ukraine, as you like to keep pointing out, and from all over the world to come to our universities, particularly for those STEM degrees, advanced degrees. So I would suggest to you that you're going to continue that diversity by getting people that have gone to the max that are going to be so productive here in America to help us. It's not a sum game. It's just a rational game.

I really wish that I knew that if we passed this today, that it would become law. The President has already kind of said he wouldn't sign it. I don't know how you can have it both ways, Mr. Speaker. When we talk about STEM, those individuals who have come to our universities and graduate with a degree in those STEM sciences, how we can just ignore them and say, Listen, this is good for America.

Instead of making this a Republican or Democratic idea, why don't we just pass it because it's the right idea? Let's do something for once that's good for America. Let's do something once that's good for those green card holders that are currently here in the United States, bringing their families together so they can become productive in whatever sense their family decides. Wouldn't we want to do that? I would want to do that. I want to see families reunited, not split apart, not kept because of some arcane rule that's going to take them 6 or 7 years, maybe, to get a green card so they can bring their family here in the United States, where this would allow them to come 1 year after being on the waiting list, they get the opportunity to come here and be reunited with their family.

For all that we hear about Democrats are always for families, this time I guess they're not. This time I guess because they're from some other country, maybe they're just not that important. They are to me. I think it's important. Here's once where the Republicans are stepping forward on an immigration issue that's good for America, it's good for the people that are currently here on green cards legally. It allows them to reinvest. How can this be bad for America? Is it because it's a Republican idea? Is that the reason why this is a bad piece of politics? I would hope not. I would hope that my colleagues across the aisle will be like Mr. Blumenauer from Oregon and look at the real merits of it.

While not perfect in any sense of the word, as is any legislation that comes out of this place, at least it's a move and a step in the right direction. And let the Senate do their job. Let the Senate bring it up. Let the Senate vote on it and amend it and send it back to the House. Let the Senate for once do their job. And then, Mr. President, you can make a decision whether you're going to veto it or not. But let's quit playing politics with immigration.

Mr. Speaker, I do want to thank my good friend from Colorado because we agree on so many issues as it relates to this. We just don't agree on everything.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time, and I move the previous question on the resolution.

The previous question was ordered.

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