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Mr. MEEKS. Mr. Speaker, regretfully, I have to oppose H.R. 6429 although this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. There is a need for legislation that attracts and allows highly-skilled immigrants and students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees to live and work in the United States. The STEM Jobs Act of 2012, however, fails to address fundamental issues while creating additional inequities in immigration.
It is increasingly necessary to American industries to keep these highly qualified individuals, whom we have educated, to help develop and grow our businesses instead of forcing them to take their talents elsewhere. The number of full-time graduate students in STEM fields who were foreign students (largely on F-1 nonimmigrant visas) grew from 91,150 in 1990 to 148,923 in 2009, with most of the increase occurring after 1999. Despite this rise in foreign student enrollment, the percentage of STEM graduate students with temporary visas in 2009 (32.7 percent) was comparable to 1990 (31.1 percent). The visas are not increasing to keep up with the talent; and according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, ``growth in STEM jobs was three times as fast as growth in non-STEM jobs'' over the past 10 years.
Clearly we must create a way to incorporate this untapped potential into our own economy instead of creating a ``brain-drain'' and sending these highly-skilled immigrants overseas. Our economy needs the growth that comes with filling these jobs.
If enacted, this bill would allocate immigrant visas to a select group of individuals and would eliminate the long-standing Diversity Visa program that allows individuals from countries with low rates of immigration access to visas. It places a band-aid on an issue that needs a real long-term solution, and does not allow for equal and fair access to visas. H.R. 6429, as constructed, is a poison pill that obscures the true need for comprehensive immigration reform.
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