The Corner

Tech Immigration and the Visa Lottery

A fight is brewing over an immigration bill which would give green cards to foreign students receiving graduate degrees in science and engineering fields from U.S. universities. The disagreement between Republicans and Democrats does not seem to be over whether to include master’s degree recipients, something business has demanded and which was one of my main concerns. Representative Lamar Smith’s STEM Jobs Act (draft text here, summary here) allows any extra visas (within the 55,000 allowed by the category) not used by Ph.D. recipients to be used by master’s degree recipients, though both are limited to top research universities, thus excluding pop-up visa mills (something even Brookings and the State Department have warned about, as I mentioned here).

The real problem lies elsewhere; as Computerworld noted last night:

The big political issue for law makers, however, may be the visa lottery. Democrats keep the diversity or green card lottery, which issues 55,000 visas annually to lottery winner. The Smith bill repurposes the 55,000 diversity visas to the STEM green cards, eliminating the lottery.

While I’m cautious even about the Ph.D. issue, since the National Science Foundation has openly promoted the admission of more foreign grad students as a way of keeping academic salaries low, the fact is that almost all foreign Ph.D. recipients who want to stay already do so under current law. But if we’re going to create a program like this, the least we can do is eliminate the egregious and stupid visa lottery as an offset. In fact, I could probably live with doubling the program if we also eliminated the brother-sister chain migration category, which over the long term is probably the most harmful of all the myriad immigration categories.

The fact that Democrats would oppose the STEM bill, which is backed by bags of money from industry, just to maintain an annual flow of 55,000 additional random people regardless of their skills, is clear evidence of the left’s one-word immigration platform: “More.” This hit home years ago when I tried to get prominent people on all sides of the debate to give me specifics of their ideal legal immigration policy, with numbers and categories. (This was the final product.) But I couldn’t get most of the top people on the high-immigration side to submit anything because they reject the very idea of limits on immigration. “More” is their immigration policy.

Of course, “more” applies to all other aspects of the Left’s political agenda: more welfare, more bureaucracy, more taxes, more government, more debt. So there’s no reason to expect anything different with regard to immigration.

Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.

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