High-tech, science grads favored in visa proposals for immigrants

GOP bill would kill diversity lottery

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Ukraine actually had the most winners, with 6,424 — or less than 1 percent of the 852,856 who applied from that nation. For Nigeria, 6,218 applicants were awarded visas.

Muzaffar Chishti, director of the Migration Policy Institute’s office at the New York University School of Law, said having diversity in the immigration system is a valuable goal and while encouraging more high-tech graduates to stay in the U.S. is laudable, it doesn’t need to happen at the expense of the lottery.

“Diversity is a strength, and the hallmark of America’s immigration selection system is our diversity. That’s not just ethnic [or] religious diversity, that’s diversity of skills and diversity of occupational backgrounds,” he said. “We can’t engineer this completely, but this is as good as we can get in finding some way of improving the diversity of our country.”

But Kris Kobach, Kansas’s secretary of state and a leading conservative who helped craft Arizona’s strict immigration law, said the U.S. should do a better job of picking and choosing its legal immigrants, and that means the lottery should be ended.

“Getting rid of the visa lottery is a good move regardless of where those visas go afterward,” he said. “In terms of advancing American interests, giving those visas to people with scientific or other special abilities to advance the American economy is preferable.”

This week’s House vote could be tight. Under the expedited rules being used, Mr. Smith’s legislation will need to win two-thirds support to pass, and its fate will depend on how many Democrats want to see the visa lottery system maintained.

Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, Illinois Democrat and a leading immigrant-rights advocate, said he supports more visas for these students but they shouldn’t come at the expense of other legal immigrants.

“There is no reason we need to cut legal immigration somewhere else to do that,” he said. “If we had a clean up or down vote on STEM visas, I bet most Democrats would support it, but the zero-sum approach of the Republicans, robbing Peter of his visa so Paul waits in a shorter backlog, that will probably be less popular.”

One other sticking point is what schools would qualify. Mr. Smith’s bill would apply to degrees from for-profit institutions, while Democrats’ versions would not. Democratic bills also include wage protections they said would prevent immigrant workers from undercutting Americans in the competition for jobs.

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