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Stem Jobs Act of 2012

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. CONYERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

I want to begin by pointing out that the same poison pill that defeated this bill on suspension is now being brought up again with the same poison pill that pits immigrant and minority communities against one another and makes the legislation, therefore, unworkable.

Rather than simply creating green cards for STEM graduates, the majority insists that we must pay for the new visas by completely eliminating Diversity Visas, a longstanding legal immigration program. 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.

Rather than reaching out to minority and immigrant communities, the majority is for some reason steamrolling through a bill that we otherwise agree with that cuts visas for minorities and signals their continued support for a Grover Norquist-style ``no new green cards'' pledge that says you can't create a green card for one person without taking one away from someone else.

Even worse, it is shamefully designed to reduce the overall level of legal immigration. Under current law, unused visas in one immigration category roll over to immigrants in other categories who are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs. But H.R. 6429 doesn't do this, thereby ensuring that unused visas are wasted and legal immigrants must continue to suffer in long backlogs. This is a naked attempt to satisfy anti-immigrant groups that have long lobbied for reduced levels of legal immigration.

If this is a new strategy on immigration, it sure looks a lot like the old one. A zero-sum rule means our immigration system can never be fixed. We would not be able to craft solutions for the DREAMers who were brought here as children, for the agricultural workers growing the food on our tables, or for the American families whose loved ones are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs.

We're not fooled by the majority's assertion that this latest version of the bill actually helps families. In reality, the provision that the majority touts is a step backwards from the LIFE Act enacted under a Republican Congress in 2000. Under that act, undocumented spouses and children of lawful permanent residents were able to obtain V visas and eventually adjust their status to lawful permanent residents. The bill offered such family members protection from removal and explicitly granted work authorization.

In contrast, the provision that my colleagues herald this morning as helping families grants certain spouses and children who have already waited abroad for over a year temporary V visas. There is no work authorization, and undocumented family members would be excluded altogether from participating in this program.

While the majority bill provides permanent green cards for businesses, it provides nuclear families with nothing more than temporary visas without work authorization--and then, only after a 1-year separation. And to undocumented children and spouses of lawful permanent residents, the bill offers nothing at all.

So I regret that this legislation was brought to the floor without any committee process, without any opportunity for amendment, and without
any input from those on this side of the aisle. I hope that in the coming Congress the majority will cast aside this political theater and join me in the hard work of finding workable bipartisan solutions to fix our immigration system.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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