If you’re thinking Congress took a step toward cooperation on immigration policy with a recent action on the STEM Jobs Act, don’t believe it.

First, there is the matter of priorities. Congress has a lot on its plate between now and Dec. 31, notably budget issues and the “fiscal cliff.” As many believe there can be no real resolutions until after a new Congress is seated in January, it is nearly certain that the lame-duck crew on Capitol Hill now will not be able to agree on substantive immigration reforms.

The action came in the Republican-controlled House, with the GOP apparently anxious to show quickly it has softened positions on immigration policy in the wake of rejection of the party at the polls by Hispanics and other minorities.

By a 245-139 vote, the House approved the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Jobs Act that would make green cards accessible to foreign students graduating with advanced science and math degrees from U.S. universities. The legislation is supported by high-tech industry, which is looking for qualified workers amid the reality of foreign students receiving nearly 60 percent of U.S. engineering doctorates and more than 50 percent of doctorates in mathematics and computer science.

GOP leaders also added a provision making it easier for immigrants working in the country legally to bring their spouses and children to the United States while they wait for their visa applications to be approved. ...

But as much pro-business and pro-family sense as the changes make, they represent little more than symbols by Republicans who have made a name for themselves, rightly or wrongly, as anti-immigrant.

According to an Associated Press report, Democrats, including members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, reacted to STEM passage by calling the GOP’s hand on its intent. They note the legislation offsets projections of 55,000 new permanent-residency visas by eliminating a program that provides green cards to people with traditionally lower rates of immigration, particularly those from Africa. ...

Before being attacked from the right more than a half-decade ago when then-President George W. Bush made immigration reform a priority, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham was out front in supporting a comprehensive approach.

Now, in a new bipartisan effort, he is joining Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in pitching changes that would bolster security at the borders while providing a pathway to citizenship for the millions in the country illegally.

With the election providing new incentive for cooperation, Republicans and Democrats should get behind Graham and Schumer in aggressively pushing the effort toward big-picture solutions. The immigration rhetoric has gone on long enough.