GOP’s visa bill not real reform; Congress needs to pass comprehensive measure

In their first postelection crack at immigration policy, House Republicans seemed to have forgotten the message they got so recently from their overwhelming rejection by minority voters. They passed a bill Friday that would actually limit legal immigration.


The bill has no chance in the Democratic Senate, nor should it.

This bill would do one good thing: increase the number of visas for immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. But it would do this by eliminating a lottery that provides 55,000 green cards a year to people from countries, including many in Africa, with low immigration rates.

It’s not necessary to eliminate one form of legal immigration to increase another. That’s why it’s so puzzling that the GOP, after appearing eager to shed its mean-spirited image on this issue, would push this bill through.

Yes, the United States has to increase the number of visas for highly educated immigrants and make them easier to get. But that should be part of comprehensive immigration reform, and it should not lower the overall level of immigration, as the bill passed Friday would do.

San Jose Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the Democrats’ leading voices on immigration, said she is “cautiously optimistic” Congress can pass a comprehensive bill, one that both helps businesses compete and includes multiple ways for people from all walks of life to make this country their permanent home.

A central provision must be a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here.

Voters rejected Mitt Romney’s idea of “self-deportation” — making life so difficult for immigrants that they leave.

Mass roundups of 11 million people would simply be impossible. Creating the opportunity for immigrants to earn legal status is the only realistic strategy.

Legislation should also offer a green card to all master’s and doctoral students graduating from nonprofit U.S. universities with a science, technology, engineering or math degree, and to many entrepreneurs, as Lofgren has proposed.

These talented, driven individuals should be welcomed to start their businesses and careers here, creating jobs in America.

And the country still needs a Dream Act. An executive order from President Barack Obama now allows many young people brought here as children to stay without fear of deportation, but the law must change to provide certainty. Kids in school or the military need a fast track to citizenship.

True reform also has to include a guest worker program and increase the number of H-1B visas while fixing abuses in that system.

There’s only one way a comprehensive bill can pass, however. A majority of lawmakers finally has to accept the fact that immigrants don’t hurt America.

They strengthen it.

San Jose Mercury News

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