Members of the U.S. House are expected to vote this week on a bill that would expand immigrant visas for science, technology and engineering students. The legislation also includes a measure that would make it easier for immigrants with green cards to bring their families into the United States.
The vote will be an early reading of how likely Congress is to pass a larger comprehensive immigration reform bill next year.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have supported more visas for immigrants in the so-called STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) for years. But efforts to pass something have been scuttled by political divisions.
This week, members will consider the STEM Jobs Act that was introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. If passed, H.R. 6429 is expected to add 55,000 more visas for skilled workers and students.
Republicans are also willing to bend and adopt principles that President Obama embraced last year to keep families together while they work out their immigration issues. The provision under consideration would expand a program that allowed spouses and minor children of people with green cards to wait in the United Stats while their own green cards are granted -- instead of requirements that force them to return to their homelands.
H.R. 6429 has 67 co-sponsors and many supporters waiting in the Senate. An attempt to pass the bill in September failed largely because of election politics.