While most people of Indian origin in the United States were busy celebrating Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, the Senate in Washington, DC, blocked a bill that would have helped highly skilled tech workers who had been waiting years to become permanent residents.
Senate Bill S386—Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019—got blocked by Sen Dick Durbin, D-IL. When people found out, they wondered if President Donald Trump could be the savior for the engineers who had flocked to watch him and Modi speak in Houston, Texas.
S386, sponsored by Sen Mike Lee (R-UT), aims to increase the country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% of the total number of such visas available in a given year to 15%. It would also eliminate the 7% cap on employment-based immigrant visas.
The bill, introduced in February, was supported by Sen Kamala Harris, D-CA and a candidate for the presidential primaries in the Democratic Party.
Reacting to the block, a tech engineer from Dallas, Texas, said how does it matter even they have added biometric in H4 EAD, which would take few months to get cleared
(The H4 EAD program was an executive order introduced by the Obama Administration, which gives certain H-1B visa spouses on H4 dependents, a work authorization in the US and the biometric executive order was issued in March 2019, to, for better screening and vetting for national security).
“We hope President Trump could help,” said the engineer, who did not want to be named.
Reacting to the block, Trump’s friend Shalabh ‘Shalli’ Kumar told indica, “Trump, it’s not his job, this is the United States of America. To expect the Senate to pass a bill by unanimous consent, which has never happened in the history of the United States on any legislation.” Unanimous consent allows a bill to come to the floor on an expedited track but has a high possibility of getting rejected if even a single senator objects.
“What they should do is take it through the Judiciary Committee, then you need only 60 votes to pass, here you need 100,” Shalli Kumar pointed out.
Asked what the solution would be for Indians waiting for decades to get their green cards, Shalli Kumar said, “We don’t need comprehensive immigration, you need to pass the BELIEVE Act by Sen Rand Paul, that takes care of the entire one million Indian American backlog.”
In July, the bill passed the House in a 365-65 vote with substantial bipartisan support.
Paul’s BELIEVE Act would quadruple the number of employment-based visas to address the backlog problem that particularly affects nationals from large countries. Additional measures proposed by this bill would exempt dependents and certain categories of specialists from the cap altogether.
Sen Paul (R-KY) introduced the Backlog Elimination, Legal Immigration and Employment Visa Enhancement (BELIEVE) Act on July 11. The act will modernize aspects of the US legal, merit-based immigration system and fully eliminate the “green card backlog” within a matter of years.
However, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allocates 140,000 visas annually for employment-based lawful permanent residents. And owing to high demand from certain industries, the current cap of only 7% per country has created a backlog in some employment-based green cards, especially for Indians and Chinese.
A letter by Sen Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to the Senate says: “Any viable solution to the green card backlog issue should protect American workers, move us toward merit immigration and right-size family-sponsored migration. It should eliminate loopholes that allow for large corporations and international outsourcing companies to commit fraud and abuse.”
The US Center for Immigration Studies (USCIS), which pushes for reduced immigration, said the S386 bill would help Big Tech replace US workers with contract workers and that employment-based green cards should be issued on merit instead of citizenship.
Under existing regulations, applicants from India receive 20% of the employment green cards. Most applicants from India hold temporary visas (usually H-1B) as contract workers in technology occupations, and the number of green card applicants greatly exceeds the number of visas available, especially with the country cap.
But according to the USCIS, if the cap were to be eliminated, citizens of India would suddenly see a positive change.