Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Mike Lee have a plan to ease their agony.
Two US senators, one Republican and the other Democrat, have a plan to reduce green card waiting time which in the case of Indians may stretch to a mind-boggling 195 years thanks to country caps.
Under the current rules, there is an annual per country green card cap of 7% for all nations big or small, from the tiny Nepal to India with a population of 1.35 billion, leading to a huge backlog for Indians.
Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin and Republican senator Mike Lee want to change that by tweaking the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (S.386) passed by the House in July last year to eliminate the cap on permanent residency permits.
The current green card policy did nothing for the child of an immigrant whose dead parent’s green card application was ultimately denied because his or her job was no longer available, Lee told the Senate Wednesday.
“Someone from India entering the backlog today,” he estimated, “would have to wait 195 years to receive an EB-3 green card,” for skilled workers doing a job for which there are not enough qualified workers available in the US.
“Even if we give their children this limbo status, none of them will have a prayer of becoming a US citizen,” Lee said.
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In fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 EB1 green cards for priority workers with extraordinary abilities like outstanding researchers or professors who have won “sustained national or international acclaim.”
In EB2 category for those who have advanced degrees, exceptional ability in the sciences, arts, or business, or a National Interest Waiver, 2,908 cards went to Indians. A total of 5,083 Indians received the lowest category EB3 employment-based green cards.
“Green cards are critical in the lives of so many who are here on temporary work visas,” said Durbin moving the bill to add “critical protections” in S.386 for immigrant workers and their families stuck in the backlog.
“The backlog puts families at risk of losing their immigration status as they wait year after weary year to finally make it through this green card backlog,” he said.
The Durbin-Lee bipartisan plan would make three changes to S.386. First, it would allow immigrants and their families stuck in the backlog to “early file” for green cards.
“This would allow workers to switch jobs and travel without losing immigration status,” he said. “And children of immigrant workers would be protected from ‘aging out’ so they will not face deportation.”
Second, the amendment would create a green-card set aside for immigrant workers who are unable to “early file” because they are stuck in the backlog overseas.
Third, it would crack down on abuse of H-1B visas for skilled professionals by outsourcing companies by prohibiting those with more than 50 employees and over 50 per cent temporary workers, from hiring additional H-1B workers.
There are about 583,420 H-1B visa holders working in the US, including thousands of Indian professionals stuck in the ever increasing backlog, according to a recent USCIS report.
“While we continue to debate the best way to fix the green card backlog, let’s make sure that no children of the affected families are harmed or deported,” Durbin said.
Once the children of H-1B workers stuck in the green card line “reach the age of 21 they can be deported and your family divided,” he said. “Why would we want to let that happen?” Durbin asked.
“There is no reason these children should be punished for a broken immigration system,” he said. “It’s not beyond our control to help them.”
Meanwhile, a hiring freeze and budget issues at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has further aggravated the backlog in the actual production of green cards and other documents, CNN reported.
In June, USCIS reduced its capacity to print secure documents, such as green cards and employment authorization documents, when it ended a contract with an outside company, it said citing an alert issued by the agency’s ombudsman.
The current production backlog is roughly 115,000 green cards and employment authorization documents, CNN said citing a USCIS spokesperson, with the oldest pending card order in the queue from July 6.
The agency, according to CNN, is bracing to furlough more than half its staff next month — a move that could grind the US immigration system to a halt.
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