November 30, 2012

House tests waters of changing policy on immigration

However, the Democratic Senate is likely to ignore the House bill in the final days of the session.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Testing the waters of what is expected to be a turbulent battle over immigration policy next year, the House voted Friday to make green cards accessible to foreign students graduating with advanced science and math degrees from U.S. universities.

MAINE REPS SPLIT VOTES

Maine’s two representatives, both Democrats, split on Friday’s immigration vote.

U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, District 2, voted in favor of the measure while U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, District 1, opposed it because the bill eliminates the Diversity Visa Immigrant Program that allows up to 50,000 people to immigrate to the United States every year.

“Instead of throwing out this valuable program, I believe Congress should pursue meaningful reforms to the immigration system that reflect our values as a nation of immigrants and the contributions immigrants bring to our economy and society,” Pingree said in a statement.

Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of MaineToday Media, the publisher of the Portland Press Herald.

– Kevin Miller, Washington, D.C., bureau chief

But even this limited step, strongly backed by the high-tech industry and enjoying some bipartisan support, is unlikely to go anywhere this session of Congress, dramatizing how difficult it will be to find lasting solutions to the nation’s much-maligned immigration system.

A more sweeping bill presumably would deal not only with legal residents but also the estimated 11 million people here illegally.

Republicans largely shunned by Hispanic voters and other minorities in the November elections used Friday’s 245-139 vote for the STEM Jobs Act to show they have softened their hardline immigration policies and are ready to work for more comprehensive legislation.

Republican leaders added a provision making it easier for immigrants working in the country legally to bring their spouses and children to the United States while they wait for their visa applications to be approved. Typically, family members now wait more than two years to be reunited. About 80,000 such family-based visas are issued every year.

But for many Democrats and the Obama White House, this first step was more of a misstep.

Democrats, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, assailed the legislation for offsetting the 55,000 new permanent residency visas by eliminating a program that provided green cards to people with traditionally lower rates of immigration, particularly those from Africa. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The White House, in a statement opposing the GOP-crafted bill, said it was encouraged that Congress “appears to be ready to begin serious debate on the need to fix our broken immigration system.” But it said the administration does not support “narrowly tailored proposals” that do not meet long-term objectives of achieving comprehensive reform.

That approach includes dealing with the young people brought into the country illegally, establishing a solution for agriculture workers, creating an effective border enforcement system and worker verification program and deciding by what means those living in the country illegally can attain legal status.

The Democratic-controlled Senate is seen as likely to ignore the House STEM bill in the waning days of the current congressional session.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)