New hope for Green Card applicants as bill to end per country cap is introduced

Sen. Kamala Harris (Getty Images)

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced matching bills Feb. 7 that would end per-country limits on employment-based green cards, a long-standing demand of advocacy groups of high-tech workers from India.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) who has announced candidacy for 2020 presidential election and Mike Lee (R-UT), introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act that would also adjust per-country limits for family-based green cards.

An identical bill was tabled in the House of Representatives by Congressmaen Zoe Lofgren and Ken Buck, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, with co-sponsorship of a bipartisan group of 112 members of Congress.

“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity,” Sen. Harris said in a statement. “We must do more to eliminate discriminatory backlogs and facilitate family unity so that high-skilled immigrants are not vulnerable to exploitation and can stay in the U.S. and continue to contribute to the economy. I’m proud to join with Sen. Lee on this bipartisan legislation to ensure that our country remains vibrant and dynamic,” she said.

Sen. Lee said that immigrants should not be penalized because of their country of origin. “Treating people fairly and equally is part of our founding creed and the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act reflects that belief. Immigration is often a contentious issue, but we should not delay progress in areas where there is bipartisan consensus just because we have differences in other areas."

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act bill also increases the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent. Without adding any new green cards, S. 386 creates a “first-come, first-served” system that alleviates the backlogs and allows green cards to be awarded more efficiently, the senators said in a press statement.

News reports said the bill has broad bipartisan support and is additionally cosponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim Moran (R-KS) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), among others.

The bill has also been endorsed by Immigration Voice, Compete America Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council, Google, Microsoft, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, The Heritage Foundation, La Raza, and many others.

In a report last year, the Congressional Research Service noted that eliminating the per-country ceiling for employment-based Green Cards, a major stumbling block in the way of faster admission of lawful permanent residents, would allow countries like India and China to dominate the path to American citizenship and would also end “de facto discrimination” in the labor market.

The Dec. 21 report by CRS noted that particularly workers from India, and to a lesser extent the Chinese and Filipino nationals, sit in much longer queues of pending employment-based petitions submitted to USCIS and visa applications to Department of State than their counterparts from other countries and consequently they must wait the longest to obtain green cards.

Immigration Voice, an advocacy group that has been spearheading the demand for removal of per country caps for the past several years and had worked with Congressman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) said in August 2017 that because of these country caps over 1.5 Million legal high-skilled immigrants like doctors, engineers and researchers, mostly from India, are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs.

“Most will die before they get a green card if the current system exists,” it noted.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), which represents major Silicon Valley tech companies and also outsourcing firms that receive vast numbers of H-1B visas, announced its support for last week’s bill that eliminates the per-country caps on employment-based immigrant visas, allowing U.S. employers to attract and retain the world’s best and brightest employees to compete in a global marketplace.

“There is consensus that reforms to fix the nation’s immigration laws for high-skilled workers are long overdue,” said Andy Halataei, ITI Senior Vice President of Government Affairs.

“The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would allow U.S. employers to attract and retain the world’s best and highly-educated employees, enabling highly-skilled workers who are committed to the United States to propel American innovation, grow the economy, and help create jobs in America. This bill will help maintain U.S. competitiveness as a nation,” it said.

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