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House set to vote again on STEM visas

November 27, 2012 06:00 AM ET

In a report released today, the IEEE-USA examines employment-based immigration worldwide, arguing that the 1990 visa lottery made itself unnecessary, and some of its original goals, "to correct for the history that had cut off immigration from Europe behind the Iron Curtain and which had never allowed voluntary immigration from Africa" have been met.

"There is now a self-sustaining flow of family and employment based immigration from all regions of the world, including the two specifically targeted as underrepresented in the 1990 Act," wrote the IEEE, which has urged passage of a STEM visa bill.

If the Senate decides to take up a STEM visa bill in the lame duck session, a point of controversy may be over how many colleges and universities will be considered STEM producing institutions. Schumer was critical of the House bill as being too expansive, but Smith claimed it wasn't.

In an earlier analysis of that bill, the Economic Policy Institute said that more than 200 schools qualify under it, too many in its view to ensure that only the "best and brightest" were granted STEM visas. It also said the House bill could allow that list to be expanded with waivers.

The greater tempest may be whether Congress is willing to take up an immigration bill apart from a comprehensive bill. Lawmakers, who support comprehensive reform and laws such as the Dream Act, have blocked efforts to take up immigration piecemeal, less they lose support for a broader effort. But that was before the most recent election.

The STEM visa bill may be the first opportunity Congress has to test itself on immigration post-election.

covers cloud computing and enterprise applications, outsourcing, government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at Twitter @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed Thibodeau RSS. His e-mail address is pthibodeau@computerworld.com.

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