- Last Updated: 2:57 AM, December 1, 2012
- Posted: 1:51 AM, December 1, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Republican-run House yesterday jumped headlong into the immigration debate, voting to offer green cards to immigrant students earning high-tech degrees from US universities.
But it took a nasty partisan fight to pass the bill and foreshadowed a tough battle next year when Congress takes up full-blown reform of immigration laws.
After passing in a near party-line 245-139 vote, the legislation headed to an almost certain death in the Democrat-run Senate.
Republicans said the bill, titled the STEM Jobs Act, would help create jobs and reward legal immigrants who achieve advanced degrees, in science, technology, engineering or math and used the legislation to demonstrate that the party is easing its hard-line immigration policies and reaching out to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly backed President Obama in the election.
The bill would even make it easier for Latinos and other immigrants with green cards to reunite with spouses and children living abroad.
Still, Democrats blasted the measure as “racist” because it offset the 55,000 new green cards by eliminating a visa lottery program geared toward people with traditionally lower rates of immigration, mostly from Africa.
“That is racist, if not in its intent, then certainly in its effect,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).
The White House issued a statement opposing the GOP bill, saying it was a “narrowly tailored proposal” and did not satisfy the need for comprehensive reform.“Our commitment to foreign STEM graduates is a commitment to American job creation,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). “American employers are desperate for qualified STEM workers no matter where they are from.”
Republicans insisted it tackled both immigration and jobs issues.