Indian-Americans cheer as House passes Bill ending per country quota for green cards

California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship (Getty Images)

In what is expected to bring cheers to hundreds of thousands of high-skilled Indian-Americans waiting for ages for the elusive permanent residency,primarily due to delay in allocation of green cards based on annual per country quota, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the law  the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 — on July 10 eliminating the country-wise caps on employment-based immigrant visas.

The passage of the bill that fulfills a long-standing demand of Indian-Americans would also increase the per-country limit on family-based visas from 7 percent to 15 percent. Under the current law applicants from any nation can get no more than 7 percent of the Green Cards issued in a year.

But treating a country like India with a 1.3 billion population and Nepal for example, having a population of 28.61 million by the same per country cap of 7 percent rule  has posed a major problem for Indian-Americans leading to huge backlogs in green card allocation for Indian green card aspirants.

“In order for American industries to remain competitive and create more jobs, they must be able to recruit and retain the best talent in the world,” said Rep. Lofgren, Chair of the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.

“This becomes increasingly difficult when workers from high-population countries must compete for the same limited number of visas as workers from low population countries. Our bipartisan bill would phase-in a visa system where the applicant’s nationality is irrelevant, providing relief to individuals who’ve waited patiently for a green card for years, if not decades, while they continue to work and contribute to our economy,”  Lofgren said in a statement.

The Bill was passed by the 435-member House by an overwhelming majority of365-65 votes.The change would be phased in over three years if the bill passes the Senate and is signed into law by President Trump.

“As an original cosponsor, I’m glad to see that both parties came together to resoundingly pass the Fairness For High-Skilled Immigrants Act, legislation that will strengthen business development and economic expansion in America,” Congressman Krishnamoorthi (D-Illinois 8th District) said.

 “By leveling the playing field for high-skilled applicants regardless of their country of birth, this legislation will keep families together while helping American companies retain top talent.” Krishnamoorthi said.

The Hindu American Foundation that has advocated for fair U.S. immigration reform since 2003, expressed satisfaction over the bill’s passage. “We want to thank lead co-sponsors Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Ken Buck (R-NY) and all the members of House from both sides of the aisle who carried this over the finish line today,” HAF Director of Government Relations Jay Kansara said in a statement.

“It is now up to the Senate to ensure that fairness is delivered to high-skilled immigrants who have been stuck in a decades-long backlog waiting for their chance to become full-fledged contributors to the American economy. The time to act is now,” Kansara added.

Aman Kapoor, the co-founder and president of Immigration Voice, the main group that has been lobbying for the legislation, said the legislation will allow highly-skilled immigrants to start their own companies once they obtain green cards, which will be an economic benefit to American workers.

“Immigration Voice is absolutely thrilled that the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act has received this overwhelming bipartisan support and vote of confidence from the members of the House of Representatives. People are finally understanding that no matter what else is wrong with our immigration system, we can all agree that discrimination should never be a basis for deciding who is given access to permanent residency in the United States,” Kapoor said in a statement.

“The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is a win-win for the American people. It will grow our economy by allowing highly skilled immigrants to start their own companies and will make sure that these new companies hire American workers who are made more attractive by this bill. We are incredibly grateful to Representatives Lofgren and Buck for their leadership and are confident that this will be the year the bill will pass.”

Last year, a group of Indian professionals in the U.S., who have been waiting on their green cards for years, launched GcReforms.org to constitute a critical mass and garner support from Indian American political, community andspecialty groups for their cause.

Chitti Babu Pacharu, one of the founders of GcReforms.org and part of thecore group of volunteers who is stuck in green card backlog, told IndiaAbroadhe had been waiting for his green card for several years, and attended many advocacy events in D.C. “We believe it’s time for us to raise more awareness,” Pacharu, asoftwareengineer in a Seattle, Washington state-based Fortune 500 tech company,

said.

Shoumik Dabir of Houston, Texas who is currentlyinterning with HAF in Washington, D.C. said after the passage of the bill by the House of Representatives last week that Indian-origin immigrants constitute one of the hardest working communities in America and have undoubtedly been a force for good in American society. “Giving them a fair shot at getting their green card is the least we can do.”

Members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced matchingBillson  Feb. 7 this year seeking to throw out per-country limits on employment-basedgreencards, a long-standing demand of advocacy groups of high-tech workersfromIndia.

Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who has announced candidacy for 2020 presidential election, and Mike Lee (R-Utah), introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants

Act.

An identical bill was tabled in the House of Representatives by Congressman 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 Congressmen.

“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity,” Sen. Harris said in a statement earlier . “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 Senator Lee on this bipartisan legislation to ensure that our country remains vibrant and dynamic,”she said.

The passage of the Bill was hailed by Indian professionals from across the U.S., particularly those from the Silicon Valley, Seattle area in Washington, the Greater Washington DC area and the tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, according to news reports.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act has wide bipartisan support, with more than 200 Democratic co-sponsors and more than 100 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

The bill is also supported by a variety of immigration, business, and technology groups including Compete America, FWD.us, the Information Technology Industry Council, the LIBRE Initiative, and New American Economy.

Top American IT companies welcomed the passage of the bill and urged the Senate to pass it at the earliest.

“Today the US House passed the legislation to ensure people from all countries are treated alike in the Green Card process. This promotes a fair high-skilled immigration system that's good for the business and our economy,” Microsoft president Brad Smith was quoted as saying in news reports.

Last week, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce expressed pleasure  that the U.S. House of Representatives was considering H.R. 1044, which would eliminate the per-country quotas for employment-based immigrants.

“We look forward to the House passing this legislation. We hope that some inadequacies of this legislation are addressed as the legislative process continues,” it said in a press statement.

“These quotas cause a significant amount of uncertainty for employers that hire highly-skilled, highly-educated immigrant workers that were born in India and China. Oftentimes, workers from these two countries wait for years, and in many cases, decades, to receive their green cards.

“During that period of time, these arbitrary caps on visa issuance hamstring the ability of employers to promote their immigrant workers to new roles within their companies. This policy is neither fair nor wise; eliminating these caps would provide much needed relief for companies and their workers,” it said.

Despite support from advocacy groups  and Indian-Americans, who have been the worst sufferers due to per country cap, there were detractors to the measure as well.

David North, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for reduced immigration, said in a blog post that big winners under the bill would be wealthy Chinese on the EB-5 investor visa, along with many Indians on the H-1B visa, plus major tech firms employing large numbers of Indian citizens on the H-1B, according to a The Mercury News report.

“American workers would be among the biggest losers, competing for jobs against foreign nationals,” North said was quoted as saying.

Breitbart.com said these country caps are intended “to encourage companies to recruit from a variety of foreign nationals but the caps are a problem “for the many Indian contract workers who have crowded into the backlog by agreeing to take Americans’ jobs.”

It said each year, Indians get roughly 24,000 green cards, or roughly 20 percent of 120,000 EB-1, EB-2 and EB-3 green cards which are awarded each year to the employees of American companies.

“Many Americans say their incomes have been slashed by companies’ use of the green card system to attract and pay cheap labor from India,” it said.

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