The Hill reports:
The Obama administration on Wednesday announced its opposition to an immigration bill by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that is designed to boost the number of visas for foreign-born graduates with advanced technical degrees from U.S. universities, saying it fails to fulfill the President’s long-term goal of achieving comprehensive immigration reform.
Backing this bill should be a two minute decision – and the first minute’s for coffee. If you come to America and earn an advanced degree, your diploma should come with a green card stapled to it. Eighteen percent of Fortune 500 companies were founded by immigrants. These are the innovators, inventors, and entrepreneurs who will help us grow our economy — exactly the kinds of people we want to keep in this country.
But instead of keeping smart, educated people here when they graduate from American universities, we send them home – and they end up working for our competitors in places like Europe and Australia that are more welcoming. We are losing more than 60,000 highly-educated immigrants each year. That’s insanity. The STEM Act would stop that brain drain by adding 55,000 green cards for foreign students who earn masters and doctoral degrees here in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Seems like a no-brainer. So why does President Obama oppose it? Simple: Because he wants to hold onto a visa expansion for highly-educated immigrants (which Republicans support), and use it as leverage next year to pressure the GOP on comprehensive immigration reform. In other words, he’s willing to let the brain drain of talent from this country continue until the GOP agrees to a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
The president’s defenders point out that he opposes a provision in the bill which cuts “diversity visas” for citizens from low-immigration countries. Diversity visas are basically a visa lottery, where immigrants are picked at random to receive green cards. There is an argument to be made for selecting immigrants based on the skills and education they bring to America, not picking them at random through a lottery.
But if that was really President Obama’s only problem with the bill, then why didn’t he issue a statement of administration policy saying he supports the bill so long as the elimination of the visa lottery is removed? Instead, the White House statement says he opposes the bill because “the administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president’s long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform.”
There’s some real hypocrisy going on here. Just this week, Obama was holding campaign events to demagogue Republicans for refusing to extend the Bush tax cuts for middle-income Americans unless such an extension was tied to comprehensive tax reform. Obama said this week, “if both parties agree we should not raise taxes on middle-class families, let’s begin our work with where we agree…. I’ve got a pen. I’m ready to sign it.” But when it comes to immigration, that logic goes out the window. Obama opposes a stand-alone bill to do something we supposedly all agree on – expand visas for highly educated workers — unless it is part of comprehensive immigration reform.
What’s really happening here is Obama is holding green cards for highly educated immigrants hostage to get Republicans to support green cards for illegal immigrants.