NEW YORK – It’s the mother of all immigration bills for the Indian and Chinese communities. H.R. 392, or the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, is now once again before Congress, awaiting decision, as early as next week, as the infuriating impasse over financing of a wall on the Southern border continues to dog Capitol Hill.
If passed, H.R. 392 would make a Green Card available very quickly for hundreds of thousands of workers on visas, and their dependent families. The crazy wait time ranging from 15 to 150 years (the latter as estimated by the Cato Institute, for visa workers who applied for a Green Card in 2018) for an Indian on an H-1B visa could change dramatically to as low as 5 months to five years.
Question is: Is that Green Card going to come soon in the mail or is it just a mirage?
Is the bill going to raise hope and expectations of skilled workers on a visa, before being cruelly dashed, once again? Will it flounder in the face of rising opposition by immigration hawks?
The legislation in question aims to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigration. At the moment, each country has a numerical limit of 7 percent or 9,800 of the 140,000 green cards issued per year, regardless of its population, reported Foreign Policy. The bill intends to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate limitations relating to place of birth.
More than 306,000 Indians and 67,000 Chinese immigrants were waiting in the employment-based green-card queue, according to USCIS figures reported in May. If it becomes law, the bill will most probably mean that the majority of employment-based Green Cards issued in the next decade will go to people from India, noted Foreign Policy.
When H.R. 392 was introduced as a stand-alone bill in 2017 by Representative Jason Chaffetz, it received strong backing by 329 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, reported Forbes. However, the bill was later attached to H.R. 6776, the Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act of 2019, to have a better shot of passing.
The biggest hurdle is also the Senate where, despite support from it from some GOP Senators, it would find it hard going. The real tussle would begin if there is reconciliation for the bill. For now, it’s in limbo.
The Center for Responsive Politics reported that in an interview with its website OpenSecrets.org, Aman Kapoor, a co-founder of Immigration Voice – the organization championing the bill, said that the decades-long wait time for a Green Card was unacceptable.
“Imagine somebody who is already here in a backlog for fifteen years,” Kapoor said. “Then imagine a man and a woman in Malaysia who have not even met yet. One day they will meet, one day they will get married, one day there will be a child then that child will go to primary school, high school, then go to college. And then imagine somehow a U.S. employer wants to hire that child … That child, who is not even born yet, will get a green card before somebody who is already in the country for fifteen years.”
Immigration Voice spent $15,000 for lobbying in favor of H.R.392 in 2017. The entirety of that lobbying budget was paid to a firm called TwinLogic Strategies. A significant portion of the lobbying done in favor of H.R.392 was bankrolled by tech companies.
Over 100 lobbyists worked on the original H.R.392 bill, representing companies like Microsoft, Texas Instruments, IBM, Amazon and Bangalore-based tech-giant Infosys LTD. Chaffetz, who sponsored H.R.392, also counted companies like Amazon.com, Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft as top contributors, reported OpenSecrets.org
Internet billionaire Marc Benioff is also a huge supporter, urging President Trump to fast-track the bill.
“This is good for our economy,” Benioff said in a Tuesday tweet that was applauded by Silicon Valley lobbyists, reported Breitbart. “We need to grow our workers to grow our economy.”
There is stiff opposition from immigration hawks, to passage of the bill.
Kevin Lynn of U.S. Tech Workers, an anti-immigration group, has a solution for the backlog for the workers on an H-1B visa: eliminate the possibility of permanent residency altogether, do away with the possibility of a Green Card.
“The best way to engineer a fix to this is just to say the H-1B visa is just an employment visa and not an immigration visa or a dual intent visa,” Lynn told OpenSecrets. “Change that and we end the backlog overnight.”
Breitbart noted that America’s workforce now includes roughly 1.5 million foreign college-graduate contract-workers who are imported via the H-1B, L-1, OPT, O-1, J-1, and other visa programs.
‘These outsourcing workers are not immigrants, but instead, they are contract workers hired for one to six years, at lower wages, to take jobs that would otherwise go to American graduates,’ wrote Breitbart in a report.
The Canadian American Bar Association on December 12 submitted a letter to the U.S. Congress opposing H.R. 392. CABA said the legislation “threatens to impede the free movement of highly skilled Canadian workers” and “cause harm to American businesses operating in cross-border industries.”
If significantly more visas and green cards are prioritized for employment-based immigrants from one nation, those in other countries and their related industries will suffer, said Foreign Policy, highlighting the plight of nationals from a country like Iran.
In many ways, the cause of the Indian and Chinese nationals waiting for a Green Card is the same as that of the ongoing Affirmative Action lawsuit against Ivy League universities, brought forward by several Asian organizations fighting for merit to be the sole criteria.
The stance by these institutions has been to promote diversity, ignore the merits of many hardworking and academically superior students of Indian and Chinese-origin, who would otherwise swamp the Freshman class every year. These universities, like anti-immigration groups, argue that diversity would be sacrificed in the process.
In the battle for a Green Card, the rationale is that these best and brightest of foreign nationals from India should be given cognizance first. Then the rest of the nationals from around the world can be taken into account.
Will Congress accept their plight and do what’s right?
(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)