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Supporters of a measure to ease green card access for those with advanced science and technology degrees are trying to build support with a key Senate Republican, Chuck Grassley.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) met with Grassley (R-Iowa) on Thursday to advocate for the provision, a senior congressional aide said. The move comes as House and Senate lawmakers are scrambling to reach agreement on a bill (H.R. 4521) focused on US competitiveness with China. Each chamber passed vastly different versions of the legislation.
Cantwell and Grassley declined to discuss the meeting in detail, but Cantwell told Bloomberg Government “we do know that workforce issues are paramount to being competitive in the nation.”
Grassley appeared unconvinced. “I think that immigration bills should not be put in other bills,” he said in a hallway interview on Thursday.
The provision would give immigrants with advanced science, technology, engineering, and math degrees a swifter path to a green card in the US. National security professionals from both political parties have argued the provision is needed to allow the US to recruit and retain talent for many critical sectors, including defense and aerospace.
“At a certain point, if the staffs can’t get it all worked out, it just won’t find its way in the bill, which I think would be a shame,” said Sen. John Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), a member of the conference committee in charge of working out differences in the bills.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who backed the measure in the House, on Wednesday said it was still “an important element.”
Some Republicans have previously expressed openness to the STEM provision but said it may fall out of the package in the interest of moving forward quickly on a bipartisan measure.
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a key conferee, in an interview said the immigration provisions represented one of “the more challenging provisions” and that “could complicate negotiations.”