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Lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to eliminate per-country limits to green card

BY VEENA RAO

Atlanta, GA, February 14, 2019: Two identical bills have been introduced in the US House of Representatives and Senate to remove per-country caps for employment-based green cards. If signed into law, this could benefit thousands of Indian professionals who are waiting for their green cards.

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

Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act in the Senate last Wednesday.

“Immigrants should not be penalized due to their country of origin,” Sen. Lee said. “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 a other areas.”

“Ours is a nation of immigrants, and our strength has always come from our diversity and our unity,” Sen. Harris said. “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.”

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act 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 bill has broad bipartisan support and is additionally cosponsored by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jim Moran (R-KS), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Maria Cantwell D-WA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Krysten Sinema (D-AZ).

An identical bill was introduced in the House by Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ken Buck (R-Colo.), and 112 bipartisan members.

Lofgren and Buck are the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.

The United States makes 140,000 green cards available every year to employment-based immigrants, including many who first come here on temporary H-1B or L visas.  Current law, however, provides that no more than 7% of these green cards can go to nationals of any one country—even though some countries are more populous than others.  Because of this 7% limit, for instance, an Indian post-graduate at the top of her class at MIT may have to wait half a decade or more for a green card, much longer than a student from a less-populated country. 

The bipartisan Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act alters the per-country limits for employment-based immigrants so that all are treated equally regardless of their country of birth.

“We all know that our immigration system is severely broken, and it has been broken for decades,” said Lofgren. “At the heart of this broken system are the outdated employment- and family-based immigration systems, which suffer under decades-long backlogs. In combination with the per country limits, these backlogs keep nuclear families apart for decades, while preventing U.S. employers from accessing and retaining the employees they need to stay competitive.  The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act begins to address these problems and makes the immigration system somewhat more rational.  It is a small, but good step forward.”

“Our current immigration is broken and is in dire need of reform and repair.” said Buck. “Year after year, I have met with constituents who come here legally on work visas from India or China and face decades-long wait times for obtaining permanent residence. If we want to ensure America remains globally competitive, we need to ease the backlogs and leverage the talent and expertise of our high-skilled immigrants who help strengthen the U.S. economy and fill knowledge gaps in certain fields. These are people who have helped America grow and thrive as a nation of immigrants and we need to make sure our system continues to value those who are following our laws and doing the right thing.”

“The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is a win-win for the American people,” said Aman Kapoor, Co-Founder and President of Immigration Voice. “It would help to grow our economy by allowing highly skilled immigrants to start their own companies and hire American workers.  And, it will finally remove the last vestiges of discrimination from our high-skilled immigration system.  We are incredibly grateful Chairwoman Lofgren and Ranking Member Buck for their leadership and are confident that this will be the year the bill will pass.”

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