Immigration legislation could help those with STEM degrees

Dec 6, 2012

New legislation would allow 55,000 thousand green cards to be earmarked for foreign graduates of U.S. universities with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math has made it through the House of Representatives. But the bill still has an uphill battle ahead.

Rochester Institute of Technology professor of public policy, Ron Hira says the STEM Jobs Act is a positive step forward, but it's ultimately just part of the bigger policy debate around immigration reform.

Hira believes the bill will fail the vote in the Senate, due to the dynamics of the current lame-duck session, and because the GOP-backed bill isn't broad enough to garner bipartisan support at this stage.

But, he says the House vote does signal that the stalemate on immigration issues in Washington may be easing.

"I think people have to be patient because this is going to take a long time. The parties and the interests are very far apart and there is a long way to go before any kind of compromise comes through. This is a small but important piece of a larger puzzle," said Hira.

The bill would eliminate the current diversity green card lottery -- highly regarded by many Democrats -- and allow for greater selection of immigrants based on the skills and education they would bring to the U.S.

Hira says the current draft of the bill will be received well by employers but could also be interpreted as generating additional competition to American workers, and highlight fears about job security.