Per-country limitation for green cards may go

The change has been incorporated in the House appropriation bill that could be passed this year

Ritu Jha

A bill eliminating the per-country limitation on green cards for employment-based immigrants has been included in the Department of Homeland Security’s Appropriations bill, providing cause for some celebration in the community.

The bill, originally tabled as HR 392, or the “Fairness for High‐Skilled Immigrants Act,” had 327 co-sponsors, and was actively pushed by Immigration Voice, a national volunteer non-profit organization for high-skilled immigrants in the United States. If there are no other blocks, it could be passed this year, perhaps as soon as September.

Besides changing the Immigration and Nationality Act by eliminating the per-country limitation for employment-based immigrants, HR 392 also increases the per-country numerical limitation for family-based immigrants from seven percent to 15 percent of the total number of family-sponsored visas. This would help to alleviate the severe green card backlog while ensuring international diversity in the family categories.

Congressman Kevin Yoder, who also is the Homeland Security Subcommittee chairman, introduced HR392 as an amendment to the DHS Appropriations bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee.

While Immigration Voice calls it a significant first step forward opponents of the effort term the inclusion a poison pill.

The bill also known as the Homeland Security funding bill, directs $51.4 billion in discretionary funding for DHS targets funds for critical programs such as aviation security, border and immigration enforcement, customs activities, protection against cyberterrorism, natural disaster response, and efforts to stop the smuggling of drugs and people into the US.

Congressman Yoder represents the 3rd Congressional District of Kansas, which is also the district of Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, the IT professional who was killed last February in an alleged hate crime.

“I was proud to make reform for our high-skilled immigration system one of my priorities in my Homeland Security funding bill last week,” he said. “The committee unanimously adopted my amendment to add language from my Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act to the bill – which will lift the per-country caps on employment-based green cards and end the backlog of Indian and Chinese immigrants stuck in our unfair system.”

He added: “This was especially meaningful with my friend Sunayana Dumala in attendance at the hearing. I will continue working hard on this effort until the bill is signed into law and this broken system is finally fixed.”

Aman Kapoor, president, Immigration Voice, said at an IV conference call August 1, thanked the group’s supporters for their hard work and termed the moment a significant one. He asked them not to give up talking about the bill to their district representatives and senators.

He said passing the bill, which the group has been trying to get through since 2011, was not something meant to be quick and easy. The system was designed to take a significant amount of time to address it, he said.

He thanked Dumala for her support and strong advocacy.

Lauding Yoder’s effort to help include the bill, Kapoor said the Congressman understood the issue when IV representatives explained the issue to him. He said the bill does not discriminate nor favor any group but was just a bi-partisan bill to remove discrimination in the employment-based green card system.

“Immigrants coming to the US get stuck with their employers and companies, and that creates disadvantages in the marketplace, resulting in an environment when American workers are discriminated against,” he said.

According to him, the system means that an immigrant has a fewer right.

“This bill ensures that nobody is stuck with their employer for 80 years – or even 10 years,” he said. “It ensures people are getting processed out of the system and creates an ecosystem where everybody is treated equally.”

He said the idea was not to favor India or China.

“We are saying to treat everybody equally based on merit. This bill takes out this arbitrary concept of per country for origin and evolution process of green and ensures the system more merit-based,” Kapoor said.

Varun Soundararajan, an IV member based in Silicon Valley, said the progress augured well for the future.

“It’s a significant first step to get the bill done,” Soundararajan told indica, describing it as the first step towards fairness for every high skilled immigrant in this country.

Another IV member who declined to be named and who has been waiting for a green card for over a decade, said nationality as a criterion did not make sense.

“I think it’s a fair bill,” he said and brought up concerns about the children of aging skilled immigrants, even some children with special needs.

Meanwhile, the US Tech Workers, sponsored by Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) that protect American workers from unemployment and wage suppression, called it a poison pill inserted into the appropriations bill.

Dan Stein, president of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), decried Yoder’s efforts, saying, “Without those caps in place, just a few countries, like China and India, will consume the lion’s share of the permanent skilled visas, creating a discriminatory system that favors a handful of countries. It shreds any pretense that programs like the H-1B and L visa are anything but a track for intending immigrants – not a short-term foreign labor program for unforeseen emergencies. No one promised temporary guest workers that they would ever have the chance to immigrate permanently.”

He added, “No hearings were held on these proposals – [there is] no public record and no opportunity for public participation. This is what creates cynicism among the voting public. How long can Congress fail to fix the overarching flaws in our immigration control system while creating new loopholes at every turn?”

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