The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) have raised similar concerns with Smith's bill, the STEM Jobs Act. They argue that eliminating diversity visas would cut a legal path for immigration to the United States, particularly for many African nations.
"I don't think that the two largest minorities in the country can afford to sit silently when there is legislation, whether intentional or not, that will reduce the number of people coming into this country who make great contributions," Cleaver said.
Smith's bill is scheduled to be voted on Thursday under suspension of the rules, meaning it will require two-thirds support in the House to pass. The bill has received wide support from House GOP members, as well as from technology trade associations that represent IBM, Intel and Google. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) is the lone Democratic co-sponsor of the bill.
Cleaver said the bill was being pushed through the House because "it's a political talking point" ahead of the election.
"There's no question it's a messaging bill," Cleaver said. "You understand it will not pass the Senate, it will not be taken up in the Senate, it will not be glanced at in the Senate.'
The STEM Jobs Act would eliminate the diversity green card program and reallocate up to 55,000 green cards a year to foreign-born graduates with doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines from U.S. universities. Any remaining visas would be available to graduates with master's degrees. Graduates would be eligible for these visas if prospective employers verify that there were no other American workers available and qualified for the job.
The Congressional Tri-Caucus — comprising the CBC, CHC and CAPAC — have backed a rival measure by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) that is similar to Smith's but keeps the diversity visa program in place.
In a statement on the House floor, Smith said the bill "makes our immigration system smarter by admitting those who have the education and skills America needs."
"STEM visas are substituted for diversity visas, which invite fraud and pose a security risk," he said.