Senate Democrats scuttled Republican’s first stab at immigration reform, refusing to bring up a bill that would have given foreigners with science and tech degrees from American universities visas while cutting another visa program that benefits poorer, mostly African immigrants.
House Republicans heralded the bill as the first step in immigration reform, but Democrats slammed the bill’s elimination of the Diversity Visa Program, a green card lottery that awards visas to immigrants from underrepresented countries of origin, mostly in Africa. That provision was crucial to the bill’s passage in the House and was what killed the bill in the Senate.
The Senate’s Democratic leader on immigration, Sen. Chuck Schumer said Democrats support creating science and tech visas and he has a proposal that would do just that. “But what we don’t do is take away other visas or add in other extraneous positions.”
In the House debate last week, one Democrat derided the bill as racist. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who chairs the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, criticized the bill for playing favorites.
“Talk about picking winners and losers,” the representative said according to Reuters. “There was no special line for PhD’s and master’s degree holders at Ellis Island. There was no asterisk on the Statue of Liberty that said your IQ must be this high to enter.”
Killing the Diversity Visa Program secured the blessing of Numbers USA, a powerful immigration-reduction lobbyist. The founder of Numbers USA and so-called Grover Norquist of immigration, Roy Beck, told msnbc.com he doubted the bill would have passed without his organization’s support.