Schumer to push high-skilled immigration bill
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to introduce a bill on Wednesday that is aimed at increasing the pool of green cards available to foreign-born graduates with advanced degrees in science, math and technology fields, according to three people familiar with the legislation.
The measure is similar to a high-skilled immigration bill by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that is set for a vote in the House later this week. But Schumer's version would not eliminate the diversity visa program like Smith's bill does.
The introduction of Schumer's measure will add another layer of politics to the fight for high-skilled immigration reform. Smith's bill has come under fire from House Democrats because it proposes to eliminate diversity visas.
Schumer's bill would create a two-year pilot program that would provide 55,000 new green cards each year for foreign-born graduates from U.S. universities with a master's degree or higher in science, math, technology or engineering (STEM) fields. The graduates must also have a job offer in the U.S. for a STEM-based position to obtain a green card.
Schumer plans to make the bill — called the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act (or BRAINS Act) — public on Tuesday and formally introduce it on Wednesday, according to the three people familiar with the bill. The New York Democrat's office is currently reaching out to industry to rally support for the measure.
A spokesman for Schumer could not be reached for comment.
House Democrats have been critical of Smith's bill because it would eliminate the diversity visa program, arguing that it would wipe out an avenue for legal immigration. However, the two parties see eye to eye on most of the other measures in Smith's bill.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a high-skilled immigration bill on Friday that is very similar to Smith's measure, but it would keep the diversity visa program in place.
Smith plans to introduce his bill this week and it is expected to be taken up by the House on Thursday.
The diversity visa program makes 55,000 visas available to people who have met certain eligibility requirements and come from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The visas are allocated by random selection.
Like Lofgren's measure, the BRAINS Act maintains the diversity visa program and includes a sunset provision. The two bills also state that graduates with STEM degrees from for-profit colleges or Internet-based university programs will not be eligible for the new visa program.