With Congress as divided as it is, it's kind of refreshing to see 90 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives all get behind a bill, particularly one related to immigration reform.
Yesterday, the House voted 389 to 15 (29 not voting) to pass H.R. 3012, the "Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act." All of San Diego's Congressional delegation voted for the bill, except one—Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, a Republican representing East County.
Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a protege of local Rep. Darrell Issa, the bill would eliminate a rule that limits the number of employment-based immigrants who can come to the U.S. from a single country (currently no more than 7 percent of the 140,000 employment green cards issued each year can come from a single country). It also raised the limit for family visas that can be issued to immigrants from a single country.
As Rep. Steve Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee, was quoted in The Hill: "Because of this per-country limit, a country like India, with a population of 1.2 billion, is limited to the same number of visas as a country like Iceland, with a population of 300,000 and a lot of ice."
A UCSD professor's research was cited by the Cato Institute in its support for the bill:
Many potential highly skilled immigrants graduate from American universities. According to Gordon Hanson of the University California at San Diego, in an upcoming article for the Cato Journal, foreign students account for three-fourths of doctorates awarded by U.S. universities in mathematics, computer science and engineering, three-fifths of doctorates in physical sciences, and one-half of doctorates in life sciences. “Today, the difficulty is not in attracting top foreign students to America,” Mr. Hanson writes, “but in keeping them here after they graduate.”
....America's immigration system sends the signal to those foreign-born students with valuable skills that we would really prefer that they return to China or India to start companies and file international patents rather than remain here in the United States. And if U.S. companies cannot hire the workers they need here, they eventually will relocate their productive facilities to nations where they can.
That sounds like the sort of bill conservatives could get behind, particularly in a county like San Diego that is heavily dependent on its high-tech sector.
Whenever I see a local member of Congress stray from the pack, I send his or her staff an email asking why. Here's the email thread between Hunter's spokesperson Joe Kasper and me:
Kasper: His position is border security first. Once we secure the border—this is one issue among others to consider.
Me: So, it's like a boycott vote? No immigration bills until the border is secure? That's it?
Kasper: Border security before any element of comprehensive reform. That's been his position. Voting for the bill would have been inconsistent with his position that we must put security first.