Pending Congress’ actions, technical recruiters may see STEM talent influx

Improving the jobs situation through federal action has been a priority for those sitting on Capitol Hill. One of the latest measures Congress may pass to improve U.S. employment is an immigration reform bill that would grant thousands of more visas to international students studying degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields. However, partisan bickering threatens to delay the bill. Despite this, technical recruiters remain at the ready to assist employers looking for skilled talent in STEM jobs.

House passes legislation
By a vote of 245 to 139, with 48 abstentions, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 6429: STEM Jobs Act of 2012 in late November.

The bill would make 55,000 visas available to qualified immigrants who have doctorate or master's degrees in a STEM field from a U.S. university, and agree to work for at least five years in a STEM position for a U.S. employer upon being admitted permanent U.S. residence.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) sponsored the bill and said it would not only help the U.S. economy grow, but would reestablish the country as a STEM job powerhouse. It would also make the market more competitive by recruiting foreign talent to ply their highly-technical trade in the country, a scenario in which engineering recruiters can provide interested employers with valuable job recruitment skills.

Senate shoots down bill, Dems and Republicans spar
However, as is the case with most political discussion, the debate around the bill has devolved into a partisan shouting match, with those on left claiming the jobs come at an expense to others, and those on the right lambasting the left for not taking responsible action.

Senate Democrats blocked Republicans from taking the bill to the Senate floor for the moment because of objections they had to the bill's elimination of the "diversity visa lottery," from which the STEM Jobs Act would take the 55,000 visas. The diversity lottery, established by the late Ted Kennedy in 1986, is primarily used to extend visas to foreign workers in Africa and India.

President Barack Obama even weighed in on the matter, saying that while he supports the intentions of the House bill and wants more U.S. STEM jobs, he can't reconcile with the fact the bill takes away from less-fortunate visa applicants.

"The administration does not support narrowly tailored proposals that do not meet the president's long-term objectives with respect to comprehensive immigration reform," the White House said.

Despite the political wrangling, the bill is not completely dead and could resurface in the next Congress. Democrats has also fashioned a counter-proposal bill of sorts named the Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act of 2012, or BRAINS Act of 2012. Employers should remain at the ready and consult with technical recruiters to formulate the best plan of action moving forward.