In the first test of a new political climate on immigration reform, the lame-duck House of Representatives is renewing a push to eliminate America's random visa lottery and replace it with a bill favored by thousands of Silicon Valley immigrant workers: one that would give green cards to foreigners with advanced U.S. degrees in science, engineering and math.
House Republicans say they are wasting no time putting the bill up for a Friday vote after a similar measure failed in September. The maneuver follows a vigorous debate in the conservative movement over how to warm up to a growing Latino and Asian-American electorate that was pivotal in re-electing President Barack Obama.
Republicans are even adding a provision they once opposed to allow the spouses and minor children of legal immigrants to join their family members in the United States instead of waiting for years in their home countries.
The election "put a spotlight on immigration issues," said Brian Berg, head of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, which supports the GOP approach. "While this is not a comprehensive immigration bill, it's certainly a very important one."
Some Democrats, however, are deriding the new push as a deceptively limited measure that will pass the GOP-led House but fail in the Senate, where majority Democrats would be reluctant to give the GOP what it wants now because it needs conservative votes to enact broader reforms next year. [MORE]