The Obama administration announced its opposition on Wednesday to a GOP immigration proposal that would add visas for highly skilled workers while actually reducing legal immigration. The House will vote Friday on the bill, which Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced. The measure failed in September when the House voted on it under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds vote.
Under the guise of trying to expand the number of visas available to international students who earn masters and doctorates in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, mathematics — at U.S. universities, Smith’s bill would cut the Diversity Visa program, which is intended for immigrants from countries that do not already send large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. And any unused STEM visas would disappear, shrinking overall legal immigration into the U.S.
In the White House’s statement of administrative policy against the bill, the administration emphasized its commitment to an immigration reform plan that creates a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the U.S.:
As a part of immigration reform, the Administration strongly supports legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees, to establish a start-up visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs, and to reform the employment-based immigration system to better meet the needs of the U.S. economy. However, the Administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform. [...]
Such an approach must provide for attracting and retaining highly skilled immigrants and uniting Americans with their family members more quickly, as well as other important priorities such as establishing a pathway for undocumented individuals to earn their citizenship, holding employers accountable for breaking the law, and continuing efforts to strengthen the Nation’s robust enforcement system.
In addition to President Obama’s support for comprehensive immigration reform — he said he expects to begin working on a reform bill “very soon after my inauguration” — the Congressional Hispanic Caucus outlined nine principles for a reform bill on Wednesday, including protecting families.
But while Democrats are discussing plans to address what voters say should be included in immigration reform, Republicans are pushing bills that roll back the clock on immigration. Smith’s STEM visa proposal treats immigrants as one-to-one competitors with native workers, and earlier this week, retiring GOP Sens. Jon Kyl (AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX) introduced the ACHIEVE Act that fails to provide a clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. If Republicans truly wanted to do something about immigration reform during the lame duck session, they would have worked together with Democrats. But their commitment to ideology doomed the effort from the start.