WSJ Columnist Ignores Nature Of Obama's Opposition To House Immigration Bill


In noting President Obama's opposition to a Republican-promoted House bill allowing more skilled workers into the U.S., Wall Street Journal columnist Gordon Crovitz failed to mention the reason for Obama's opposition: The House bill eliminates a visa program for immigrants from countries with low rates of immigration to the U.S., and is too "narrowly tailored" to achieve Obama's goal of comprehensive immigration reform.

WSJ's Crovitz Criticized Obama's Opposition To House Immigration Bill

Crovitz: Obama "Declared Dead On Arrival The Latest Effort To Admit More Skilled Workers." In his December 2 Wall Street Journal column, Crovitz criticized Obama's opposition to the House immigration bill without noting the reason for Obama's opposition:

President Obama last week declared dead on arrival the latest effort to admit more skilled workers.

Republicans in the House passed a bill that would expand visas for skilled workers, easing the waiting list that can be a decade or longer for technologists from populous countries such as China and India. It would repeal a law that limits visas from any one country to 7% of the total -- a quota system modeled on the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, which limited immigrants from any country to 2% of the number of people from that country already in the U.S. as of 1890.

Under current law, if you're from China or India, you're out of luck, but if you're from tiny Belgium or Iceland, places are available. The Republican bill would end this quota and instead allot spaces to people based on their skills in sciences, technology, engineering and math.

President Obama never delivered on his pledge early in his first term to craft broad immigration reform. He now risks alienating loyal supporters. A headline last week on the CNET technology website: "Obama Opposes Silicon Valley Firms on Immigration Reform," reporting him at odds with "many of the Silicon Valley firms and executives who bankrolled his re-election." [The Wall Street Journal, 12/2/12]

But Obama Supports Adding More Skilled Immigrants As Part Of Comprehensive Reform

White House: House Bill Is "Narrowly Tailored," Eliminates Diversity Visa Program. A "Statement of Administration Policy" issued by the White House on the House immigration bill stated that while the Obama administration "values reforms to attract the next generation of highly-skilled immigrants," it "does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform." The statement added that the bill would eliminate a visa program "that makes immigrant visas available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States":

The Administration values reforms to attract the next generation of highly-skilled immigrants, including legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees; however, the Administration opposes House passage of H.R. 6429. This legislation, if enacted, would allocate immigrant visas for advanced graduates of a limited set of STEM degree programs, would offer a limited number of visas for families through the "V" nonimmigrant visa program, and would eliminate the long-standing Diversity Visa program that makes immigrant visas available to certain individuals from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The Administration is deeply committed to building a 21st-century immigration system that meets the Nation's economic and security needs through common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. As a part of immigration reform, the Administration strongly supports legislation to attract and retain foreign students who graduate with advanced STEM degrees, to establish a start-up visa for foreign-born entrepreneurs to start businesses and create jobs, and to reform the employment-based immigration system to better meet the needs of the U.S. economy. However, the Administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the President's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform. [The White House, 11/28/12]

Diversity Visa Program Issues Visas To Immigrants From Underrepresented Countries. A Congressional Research Service report explained that the purpose of the diversity visa program is to "encourage legal immigration" from underrepresented countries to the U.S.:

The purpose of the diversity immigrant visa lottery is, as the name suggests, to encourage legal immigration from countries other than the major sending countries of current immigrants to the United States. Current law weights the allocation of immigrant visas heavily toward aliens with close family in the United States and, to a lesser extent, toward aliens who meet particular employment needs. The diversity immigrant category was added to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) by the Immigration Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-649) to stimulate "new seed" immigration (i.e., to foster new, more varied migration from other parts of the world).

To be eligible for a diversity visa, the INA requires that the foreign national must have a high school education or the equivalent, or two years experience in an occupation that requires at least two years of training or experience. The foreign national or the foreign national's spouse must be a native of one of the countries listed as a foreign state qualified for the diversity visa lottery. Diversity lottery winners, like all other aliens wishing to come to the United States, must undergo reviews performed by Department of State consular officers abroad and Department of Homeland Security immigration officers upon entry to the United States. [Congressional Research Service, 4/1/11]

International Educators Group Opposes House Bill, Citing Its "Zero-Sum Approach." NAFSA: Association of International Educators, which describes itself as "the world's largest nonprofit professional association dedicated to international education," issued a statement opposing the House bill because it embraces "a mistaken, zero-sum approach to permanent immigration":

NAFSA: Association of International Educators opposes H.R. 6429, the STEM Jobs Act of 2012, because it perpetuates a divisive, us-versus-them approach to immigration reform.

NAFSA supports the goal of creating a direct path to green cards for graduates of U.S. institutions of higher education, including but not limited to the STEM fields. Talented, innovative people are found in all fields, and all who are prepared to become productive members of our society and to contribute to our economy should be welcome. We do not support creating a new path for international students by eliminating another immigration program.

In the acrimonious political debate about immigration reform, we lose our way by embracing a mistaken, zero-sum approach to permanent immigration. Proposals like H.R. 6429 in this context appear guided by the fear of doing anything that increases the number of people who may immigrate to the United States. There is no reason to regard the current annual limit on the number of green cards as sacrosanct law.

We believe immigration is an opportunity, not a threat. Immigrants renew this nation and have done so since the country was created. The United States has been successful at attracting and integrating immigrants who have added tremendous value to our country and economy. We must continue to do so through a reformed immigration system that meets the needs of the whole nation. [NAFSA, 11/29/12]

And Similar Bill Introduced In Senate Does Not Eliminate Diversity Visa Program

Senate Bill Adds 55,000 Green Cards For STEM Degrees While Maintaining Diversity Visa Program. In September, The Hill previewed a Senate bill introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer that would increase the number of green cards for immigrants with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and also kept the current diversity visa program:

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is planning to introduce a bill on Wednesday that is aimed at increasing the pool of green cards available to foreign-born graduates with advanced degrees in science, math and technology fields, according to three people familiar with the legislation.

The measure is similar to a high-skilled immigration bill by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that is set for a vote in the House later this week. But Schumer's version would not eliminate the diversity visa program like Smith's bill does.


Schumer's bill would create a two-year pilot program that would provide 55,000 new green cards each year for foreign-born graduates from U.S. universities with a master's degree or higher in science, math, technology or engineering (STEM) fields. The graduates must also have a job offer in the U.S. for a STEM-based position to obtain a green card. [The Hill, 9/17/12]

Posted In
Immigration, Immigration Reform
L. Gordon Crovitz
The Wall Street Journal
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