Even after House vote, roadblocks remain for ending green card backlog

The passage of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 10, eliminating the country-wise caps on employment-based immigrant visas, a long-standing demand of Indian-Americans, may have cheered many, but not all the roadblocks for it to become a law seem to have been cleared so far.

The bill now needs to be passed by the Senate before it can go for signature of the President in order to become a law. That is where it seems to be faced with obstacles as of now.

In a report titled ‘Green Card Cap Legislation Remains Blocked Despite H-1B Deal,’ Bloomberg Law noted July 5 that a deal between two Republican senators was expected to clear a roadblock that for years has stalled legislation to eliminate per-country caps on employment-based green cards, which has not taken place. Also, a previous sponsor of the measure torpedoed it.

It another report July 10, Bloomberg said the future of the bill in the Senate is uncertain, with opposition already forming.

It said Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently teamed up with Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) to include in the legislation provisions related to oversight and enforcement of the H-1B specialty occupation visa program. Grassley, who’s pursued H-1B changes for years, has been a key figure in blocking the bill’s passage.

“But it was Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) who blocked the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (S. 386) when Lee tried to bring it to the floor late last week,” the Bloomberg Law report said, adding that Paul, who co-sponsored the bill in the prior Congress, said he had “offered a modest compromise amendment” and that “better dialogue” was needed before a floor vote.

The amendment would create a visa carve-out for nurses, who its advocates say would be shut out of green cards , if S. 386 were to pass in its current form.

According to JDSupra.com legal news, though the Senate measure has bipartisan support, its prospects for passage, and the prospect of ultimately reconciling the House and Senate bills in a conference committee, remain uncertain.

Bloomberg noted that despite its bipartisan appeal, the bill is opposed by groups that advocate for lower immigration levels, such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform and the Center for Immigration Studies.

“We do very much hope that Sen. Paul stops blocking this bipartisan legislation as he is the only senator holding it up,” a spokesman for Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who is the sponsor of the Senate bill that is identical to the House-approved one, was quoted as saying by in Sojourners.net.

“Unfortunately, his bill does not have bipartisan support and has no future.” the July 29 report in Sojourners.net said quoting the spokesman.

According to Bloomberg Law, S. 386 has 34 co-sponsors, representing both sides of the aisle. The House version, H.R. 1044 easily cleared the two-thirds threshold needed to pass the bill.

Its chief sponsor, House Judiciary Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee Chairman Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), last month asked to put the bill on the Consensus Calendar, which would require it to be considered on the floor without going through committee. The House bill doesn’t contain any H-1B language.

The difficulty of its passage is not just due to the uncertainty in the Senate.

Politico.com in a report said that former White House senior adviser Stephen Miller has maintained a “singular obsession” with the public charge rule that would allow the Department of Homeland Security to bar legal immigrants from obtaining green cards if they receive certain government benefits. Miller reportedly had sent a series of emails to top immigration officials pressing them to limit green cards. It said in the emails Miller has pressured the Department of Homeland Security to move faster on regulations to limit immigration.

According to National Law review, the Office of Management and Budget has posted the conclusion of DHS/USCIS Public Charge Rule review.

It said August 1, the Department of Justice awaits conclusion of OMB review of the rule as to certain matters under its jurisdiction, “but today’s action moves DHS closer to issuance of a final Public Charge rule.”

According to news reports, including in Huffpost.com, the rule, whose public benefits change would not be applied retroactively, would still have disastrous results, according to multiple studies and experts, even for those who aren’t directly affected.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for CIS , told Bloomberg Law she thinks it’s a bad idea to scrap the per-country caps, at least independently of a major overhaul of the entire system.

“It will reward this dysfunctional employment visa system, but also cut off the opportunity for green cards to people from the rest of the world, who tend to be more uniquely qualified than the folks who are waiting after having been contract H-1B workers.”

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