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House Passes High-Tech Visa Bill, Despite Reservations

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Some lawmakers in the D.C. metro area voted to help the U.S. House pass legislation to give out more of what are called "high skilled visas." It's making them more accessible to foreign students with advanced science and math degrees from U.S. universities.

The legislation is aimed at attracting master's and Ph.D. students in science, math and technology fields — all important to the region's economy. Twenty-seven Democrats held their noses and supported the bill, even though they disagreed with parts of it.

Northern Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly was not one of them. He says the STEM Act sets a bad precedent for dealing with immigrants.

"It discriminates against folks below that kind of level of educational achievement," says Connolly. "Well, our economy needs lots of talent. It needs unskilled workers, it needs semi-skilled workers, it needs highly skilled workers."

Critics say the immigration system needs to be overhauled, not patched here and there. The Hispanic Caucus laid out a nine point plan this week, which includes a path to citizenship for undocumented workers and an employee verification system. The lame-duck session is packed, and it appears negotiations on a comprehensive bill won't begin until January, and even then, Republicans may block the effort.


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