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Thornberry votes for a first step in immigration reform

Washington, November 30, 2012 | Jon Corley (202-225-3706)

In an effort to begin reforming the U.S. immigration system with common sense policies, area Congressman Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon) joined both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. House in voting to support the STEM Jobs Act of 2012.  The bill, H.R. 6429, is designed to attract foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) degrees into the American workforce.

“We must manage immigration so that our nation benefits.  That includes stopping illegal immigration, but also requires improving our legal immigration system,”said Thornberry.  “A random lottery that brings 55,000 people to the United States does not make our country stronger.  Keeping highly skilled and highly educated workers here will help meet a critical need,” he continued.

American employers face a shortage of workers in science, technology, engineering and math fields, which threatens their ability to continue innovating. Estimates show there are 3 million unfilled jobs requiring workers adept in science, technology, engineering and math in the United States.  Bringing high-skilled immigrants who are experts in these fields into the American workforce will help fill this shortage, boost economic growth, and make our companies more competitive.

The STEM bill will eliminate the diversity lottery green card program and reallocate up to 55,000 green cards a year to create a new green card category for immigrants who have received STEM doctorates or master’s degrees from U.S. universities.  Those immigrants would have to meet the following eligibility requirements in order to apply for a STEM green card:

  • Hold a doctorate or master’s degree from an eligible U.S. university in computer science, engineering, mathematics, or the physical sciences (other than biological sciences);
  • Have taken all their course work (including internet courses) while physically present in the United States; and
  • Be petitioned for by an employer who has gone through labor certification to show that there are not sufficient American workers able, willing, equally qualified and available for the job (unless this requirement is waived by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as in the national interest).
  • Those immigrants holding only a STEM master’s degrees must also have a baccalaureate degree in a STEM field or in the biological and biomedical sciences.

The bill also allows spouses and young children of these U.S. graduates to stay with their loved ones in the U.S.

“It doesn’t make sense to have these skilled people spend several years here in the U.S. getting their advanced degrees and then make it almost impossible for them to seek citizenship.” Thornberry continued, “Turning these immigrants and their families away helps our global competitors and, in turn, hurts American jobs and the economy.”