In midst of H-1B visa uncertainty, call to action grows on fairness for skilled immigrants

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Bipartisan support has grown exponentially this year for the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044), legislation that aims to remove per-country limits to employment-based visas.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, center, with team from Save the Children Action Network which is gong to attend Illinois Advocacy Summit. (Photo: Twitter June 19, 2019)

The bill, which for years has been introduced in different avatars in Congress, even as far back as 2011 (112th Session), when the House passed it but it failed to get through the Senate. It also died in the 115th Session of Congress last year.

“There’s a certain urgency on this issue compared to the past,” Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois told Desi Talk. “So folks like me are trying to stitch together a coalition. 2019 is a time different from any other. I feel we’ve learned from the past on what to say, how to e persuasive, Right now it is a call to action,” he asserted.

This year H.R. 1044 has already  gathered 309 co-sponsors since it was reintroduced Feb. 7, by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-CA, who was also a co-sponsor in 2011. According to Congressional records, the bill’s support this year has jump from the original 116 at round the time it was introduced in February, to 310 today, of which  203 are Democrats and 107 Republicans, a majority of them signing on from March through June 21, and growing.

Rep. Krishnamoorthi believes this growth early in the 116th Congress compares well with the number of supporters by the end of the 115th Congress when some 329 lawmakers, 176 Democrats and 153 Republicans, signed on..

“This time I am cautiously optimistic though I can’t say with 100 percent certainty. But I feel there is a certain momentum that our office working with outside advocates, has achieved – There is hope that we can take it to the finish line,” Krishnamoorthi told Desi Talk.

Bill 1044, like those before, increases the per-country cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% of the total number of such visas available that year to 15%, and eliminates the 7% cap for employment-based immigrant visas. It also removes an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.

The bill also establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability), EB-3 (skilled and other workers), and EB-5 (investors) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas. Of the unreserved visas, not more than 85% shall be allotted to immigrants from any single country.

A sister bill, S. 386, is making its way through the Senate. It was also introduced Feb. 7. Sen. mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced it, and today it has 33 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee.

Krishnamoorthi, who was one of the original co-sponsors along with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, said he is proud to be an original cosponsor of this bipartisan legislation which now gained nearly triple the number of supporters it had earlier in the year. He said his office has worked with immigration reform advocates to bring the bill where it is now, and now it was necessary to advance it further.

 

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