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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Measure Would Offer Temporary Student Visas to Some Illegal Immigrants

CQ reported that: A new effort from Sen. Michael Bennet would offer temporary student visas to young people brought to the country illegally as children who enroll in college.

The Colorado Democrat has been a proponent of granting legal status to this group, but legislation to that effect was blocked in the Senate last year, and the 112th Congress has been reluctant to take up the issue.

Bennet’s draft bill, introduced Tuesday, would also make it easier for foreign graduates in high-demand fields to stay in the country, but the provision on undocumented students is likely to prove unacceptable to many conservatives.

Asked about the political viability of his proposal, Bennet said, “The candid answer to that is that as long as we’re unwilling to face facts here, it does create a political hurdle that needs to be overcome.”

Bennet also sought to distance his legislation from those earlier proposals for a pathway to legal status, known as the DREAM Act.

“This would not replace the DREAM Act,” he said. “This would allow people who are here that have nowhere else to go — this is the only country that they know — to have a student visa, which they don’t currently have even though they’re paying for their education.”

A DREAM Act bill passed the House in 2010, but was five votes short of the 60-vote threshold needed in the Senate to cut off debate.

The executive director of a Washington think tank that favors tough enforcement of «immigration» laws called Bennet’s bill “an attempt to find a middle ground.”

“It’s obviously less problematic” than the original DREAM Act, said Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for «Immigration» Studies. “It’s just a regular student visa, although all it does is kick the can down the road, because if you think they should be allowed to stay, this doesn’t accomplish anything. When they finish school, their visa turns into a pumpkin.”

Bill Aims to Ease Worker Shortages

Bennet’s bill would primarily create a new green card category for graduates in science, technology, engineering and math — known as the STEM fields — that would ease the shortage of workers in these areas. Advocates for these changes say it makes no sense for the United States to train bright students in these areas, only to deny them the opportunity to stay in the country and contribute to the economy.

The measure would also use visa fees to improve STEM education for American students by offering scholarships and grants aimed at students from low-income families, minority-serving colleges and universities, unemployed people and returning veterans.

Bennet’s bill is similar to other bipartisan bills that have been introduced on this subject. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., is sponsoring a measure (HR 2161) that would expand the number of green cards available to foreign graduates in STEM fields. On the GOP side, Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona introduced a bill (HR 399) that would grant residency to those who earn doctorates. Nine of Flake’s 17 cosponsors are Democrats.

Although the idea has earned support from lawmakers of both parties, many of these bills are locked up in committee, partly out of concern that lawmakers might try to use them as vehicles for more controversial «immigration legislation and jeopardize their passage.

But even when these bills emerge from committee, there is no guarantee they will reach the president’s desk. The House on Nov. 29 passed, 389-15, a bipartisan measure (HR 3012) that would eliminate per-country caps on employment-based green cards, but it is being held up on the Senate floor after Sen. Charles E. Grassley placed a hold on it.

The Iowa Republican said he was concerned that the bill would make it harder for American workers to compete for high-tech jobs.

Bennet, a former school superintendent in Denver, said he hoped the provision in his bill to expand American STEM education would help it pick up some support.

“It’s vital for us to develop our own people to be able to compete, and that’s why this bill is different,” he said.

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