Last week the House of Representatives failed to pass a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) immigration bill introduced by Judiciary Committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). The STEM Jobs Act of 2012 (H.R. 6429) would have replaced the current system of awarding permanent residency visas via a lottery system with one that would award visas to foreign nationals who have earned a Ph.D. or master's degree from a U.S. university in a STEM field.
Smith's bill was introduced after negotiations over broader immigration reform failed, but there are hopes that some compromise may be reached during the post-election lame-duck session. A competing approach that would maintain both a lottery visa system and a STEM-degree visa system was Rep. Zoe Lofgren's (D-CA) bill, the Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012 (H.R. 6412). Ultimately, the Smith bill became caught in a political divide over the importance of maintaining the existing lottery system which benefits immigrants from developing countries such as Africa. Smith's bill received 257 votes in support, with 158 opposed, but the measure fell 20 votes short of the two-thirds majority that was required by having the bill rushed to the House floor without committee approval.