House drops bill aimed at increasing visas for science and engineering grads

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., argued that visas for foreign-born graduate students should be given priority over less-educated visa-seekers.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., argued that visas for foreign-born graduate students should be given priority over less-educated visa-seekers. AP / Alex Brandon

You can tell it’s a bad day on Capitol Hill when Democrats and Republicans are fighting over something they both want: more visas for highly trained scientists and engineers who studied in America. The GOP bill died Thursday in the House.

Both sides agree it should be easier for highly-skilled graduate students from foreign countries to stay in the U.S. The disagreement was over whether 55,000 visas — set aside for science, technology, engineering or math majors — should come at the expense of visa seekers from other walks of life.

Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez told colleagues if this was the rule on Ellis Island, many of their ancestors wouldn’t qualify: "If they were simply a hardworking man or woman in search of a better life, prepared to sweat and toil in the fields or our factories, they wouldn’t have been good enough under this bill."

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of Temecula protested that we’re already the most generous country in the world. "America allows more people to emigrate to our shores than the entire rest of the world combined does to theirs," he said. Issa cited a Congressional Budget Office report that says less-educated immigrants cost the government a billion dollars a year.

The measure failed to get the two-thirds votes necessary to pass.

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