Filipinos and Latinos would benefit from a Republican-sponsored immigration bill that would give temporary visas to spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (LPR).
Known as the STEM Jobs Act, the proposed legislation would provide 55,000 additional green cards a year to foreign nationals receiving advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) The bill is seen as the Republican Party’s way of showing that they are serious about immigration reform.
Last September 20, the STEM bill was already taken up in the House of Representatives. It failed to pass even though it received the majority votes of the members because the procedure used required a two-thirds vote.
Democrats opposed the bill because it would eliminate the 55,000 green cards allotted each year under the Diversity Visa Lottery program. These green cards are given by lottery to qualified immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. The proposed bill, in effect, does not increase the total number of visas issued each year.
This time, the Republicans made the bill more appealing by adding a provision which will allow the spouses and minor children of LPRs to enter the U.S. while they wait for their own green cards. They will enter the U.S. under a temporary visa. Although they will not be able to work until they obtain their green cards, this will allow them to be reunited with their families while they wait.
At present, spouses and minor children of LPRs will have to wait over two years before they can be issued their green cards. Those who are receiving their green cards today are those who were petitioned prior to August 22, 2010.
The backlog has approximately 322,000 spouses and children of LPRs waiting for their immigrant visas. The bill would allow LPRs to be reunited with their families in the U.S. one year after they file I-130 petitions on their behalf.
Whether the Senate will support the bills remains to be seen. The provision on temporary visas for immediate families of LPRs may draw some support; however, it is clear that Democrats remain opposed to the elimination of the diversity visa program and seek to increase the number of visas.
The Democrats have introduced a version of their own STEM bill which has not been taken up in the House. Like the Republican-version, the proposed bill provides for additional green cards for STEM graduates; however, it retains the Diversity Visa Lottery program. Their proposal also includes utilizing unused visa numbers for STEM graduates to make up for backlogs in the employment-based categories.
Although the STEM bill is not a major fix to a broken immigration system, it will expand visas for STEM graduates and allow families to reunite. More importantly, passing this GOP immigration bill is a tell-tale sign that immigration reform is already in the works.