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Brief Update on H.R. 3012 & Other High-Skilled Immigration Bills in the Drafting Stage

January 17, 2012

The Washington Post profiled H.R. 3012 recently, noting that, although stalled in the Senate, it pits immigrant groups against each other by potentially dissolving the status quo of distributing green cards based upon country of origin (country of birth) to distributing them on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Supporters say the measure, which zipped through the House of Representatives in November with bipartisan support, would give people of all nationalities a more equal chance to attain permanent residency. But it unexpectedly screeched to a halt in the Senate last month, when Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) complained that the bill would do “nothing to protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs in this time of record-high unemployment.”

Trying to slow the bill’s momentum, Grassley tacked on several amendments, potentially adding months of debate and delay.

. . .

By ending the per-country quotas, the bill would raise or lower the waiting times for hundreds of thousands of current green card applicants. Some immigrants from smaller countries say it is unfair that the bill might increase their wait by about two more years.

It is not clear whether H.R. 3012 will ultimately pass or not, as negotiations are underway.

Computerworld reported last month on a more ambitious effort by Republican Congressman Tim Griffin (Arkansas) to increase the number of green cards available to foreign students who graduate with Master’s degrees or doctorates in STEM fields.

“So far, I have seen this as a bipartisan effort,” said Griffin, who spoke Thursday at an American Enterprise Institute forum. He plans to call his bill the Brain Act, or Bringing and Retaining Accomplished Innovators for Our Nation. He also said they had considered calling it the Nerds Act, for New Employees for Research and Development in STEM. (STEM is shorthand for science, technology, engineering and math.)

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