Comments by Sanwar Ali:
This is what you would expect. It is extremely difficult for both Houses of Congress to agree on substantial immigration reform legislation. Trump himself has had to use executive orders to try and make some changes. If Biden wins by a big margin over Trump in the Presidential elections in November 2020, then perhaps there will be significant immigration reform. If so, this will be the first time in many years. Joe Biden promises to remove the limits on certain employment based visas and increase the number of employment based immigrant visas.
Employment based Green Card reform is a controversial area. If you remove the per-country cap on employment based immigrant visas without increasing the overall number of green cards, then Indian and Chinese nationals will benefit at the expense of other nationals. This is what was intended in this new immigration bill.
A bill that would clear the current US employment-based green card backlog has been blocked in the US Senate. The 2019 Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is targeting an end to country caps for employment-based green cards. According to senator Mike Lee, some green card applicants face wait times of up to 200 years.
Senator Rick Scott of Florida opposed the bill, which comes after Mike Lee and Senator Dick Durbin had earlier opposed certain provisions in the bill back in December 2019. There is currently an annual seven percent country cap on employment-based green cards and Indian nationals reportedly face the longest wait times to secure permanent residency.
During a recent hearing, Senator Lee said: “I’ve always been struck by the fact that the government has conditioned green cards. There may have been some legitimate reason many decades ago for this, but has led to a system that largely discriminates against Green Card applicants from one country.”
“I mean, literally one country. This is inconsistent with our founding principles. This is not how we try to do things as Americans, and it’s not right. Today, if you’re a work-based immigrant from India entering into the green card application process, you will wait almost 200 years before your application is even considered solely because of where you were born,” Lee added.
No new vote date decided for immigration bill
No new date has been set for the bill to be voted on again.
A new version of the bill was drafted in December, which also proposed changes in the H1B visa program. The new draft included an option for applicants to change jobs and travel while awaiting their green card, without losing their status. The provision also protected children from losing their status after turning 21.
The new draft of the bill was opposed by Senator Dick Durbin who said that it wouldn’t clear the backlog because more green card applicants would emerge.
Durbin claims that the latest version of the bill includes several provisions that were not featured in Lee’s original bill, such as filing to protect workers and their families currently stuck in the backlog.
800,000, mainly Indians, waiting for green cards
According to official government figures, nearly 800,000 people are waiting for a green card, most of which are Indians. The passing of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would have benefitted all those currently waiting for a green card. However, the bill would have impacted a lot of Indian IT firms.
The bill was cleared by the US House of Representatives earlier in 2020.
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