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STEM Jobs Act of 2012

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. CONNOLLY of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, my friend from Michigan.

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time this bill has been brought before this House for consideration, so it's clear my Republican friends recognize the urgency for expanding the number of visas for high-skilled workers, particularly students with STEM graduate degrees--a worthy goal.

Yet rather than simply increase the number of visas, my Republican colleagues once again are presenting us with a false choice. Just like the previous bill, which failed, this one deceptively expands the number of STEM visas, but only at the expense of the successful Diversity Visa program, which has been the primary pathway used by generations of immigrants in American history.

This bill not only eliminates that program, but it would also reduce the total number of available visas by preventing unused slots from rolling over to be transferred to another visa program. That just shows my colleagues still haven't gotten it from the recent election in which immigrants and minorities played a growing role, and it casts doubt on whether we're going to be able to come together to achieve meaningful immigration reform, frankly, with that attitude.

The business community, particularly the high-tech employers in my district in northern Virginia, they get it about the need to expand the STEM program. But here again, this bill fails the reasonability test by creating a new process in which employers have to file an application with the State or Federal Government to certify that issuing that STEM visa is in the national interest. Talk about unnecessary regulation. And now the manager's amendment delays implementation of the bill by a year. We already know the economic benefits of expanding the high-skilled visa pool, and employers have said we can't afford to wait any longer.

Mr. Speaker, this does not have to be a zero-sum game. If my Republican colleagues truly want to help our employers and our economy, we could bring up a clean version of this bill, one for example which was introduced by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Zoe Lofgren). Or we could bring up another bipartisan bill, the Startup 2.0 Act, which I am proud to cosponsor with our colleague, Michael Grimm of New York. That would not only expand the number of visas for STEM graduates, but also those entrepreneurs looking to start up a business and create jobs right here in America.

Here is an opportunity for us to fulfill the mandate from the election and actually compromise on something that will benefit the economy. This bill, sadly, does not meet that test.


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