Michael Barone

One sponsor is Silicon Valley's Zoe Lofgren, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee. Another, who apparently copied much of Lofgren's bill, is Idaho freshman Republican Raul Labrador.

And it appears that the chairman of the full Judiciary Committee, Lamar Smith of Texas, is interested. This is noteworthy because Smith has been an implacable opponent of any bill containing legalization or amnesty provisions.

But Smith agrees that it is a travesty not to admit STEM graduates educated at American universities who want to apply their talents in this country.

He does have some concerns. He points out that graduates with doctorates are far more productive than those with just master's degrees. And he cautions that diploma mills could make profits grinding out degrees to foreigners intent on gaming the system.

Lofgren says those concerns are reasonable and that her bill addresses them by limiting it to graduates of research universities designated by the National Science Foundation.

Reaching agreement on such provisions does not seem impossible. "With tweaks to our immigration system," Smith said earlier this month, "we can accommodate those graduates whom American universities and businesses most desire and who are most able to contribute to our economy."

It's not clear whether the Judiciary Committee will act on this or whether a bill will come to the floor of the House, much less the Senate.

But it does appear that serious legislators of both parties are moving toward the kind of reform proposed last year by a bipartisan panel assembled by the Brookings Institution and Duke University's Kenan Institute.

The central thrust is to shift legal immigration slots from family reunification bringing in low-skill workers to high-skill immigrants, as Canada and Australia did years ago.

That's an approach in line with current demographic realities and current national needs. The president and the presidential candidates may not have not caught up with that, but apparently some influential members of Congress have.

Michael Barone

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner (www.washingtonexaminer.com), is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics. To find out more about Michael Barone, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM