What would the legislation, introduced by its House sponsors on Wednesday and by its Senate proponents late last month, do?
The bill would offer 50,000 new visas so that US-educated foreign students achieving a master’s degree or PhD in so-called STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, or mathematics – can receive green cards. It likewise offers 75,000 visas for entrepreneurs who have legally immigrated to the US to stay in the US for up to three years. Both options also include a path for the visa recipients to become permanent residents or American citizens.
Those changes would shake up a system of immigration that critics deride as built for the 1960s, with too few opportunities given to talented foreigners who have studied at American universities or who want to start businesses in the United States.
"Immigration and jobs are tied together," said Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D) of California, a leading co-sponsor of the bill, during a press conference Tuesday. "And it's about time this country figured that out."
What does America at large need to figure out?
That the nation is getting grayer. The labor force is expanding at a meager 1 percent per year while the median age continues to rise, meaning that in the absence of more immigration the US will have to wring more and more productivity out of a steady number of people in order to grow its economic output. That's a tall order, economists say.