Time is running out for law holding hope for Indians stuck in endless Green Card waiting line.
Time is running out for S. 386, the Senate bill that had brought a ray of hope for tens of thousands of Indian nationals stuck in a decades-long line for the coveted green card.
The Senate passed S.386, or its version of the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act eliminating the 7% country caps for employment based green cards on Dec. 2.
But it differs substantially from HR 1044, the companion House version passed in July 2019. The two have to be reconciled and passed again by both chambers before it lands on the President’s desk.
Whether given his anti-immigration rhetoric, President Donald Trump would sign the bill into law before he departs on Jan 20, is a moot point.
For unless the lame duck Congress is able to do it all before its life ends on Jan. 3, it would be back to square one. There lies the rub.
The Congress has gone into recess without reconciling the two versions. Issue is whether the Congress would be able to reach a compromise and vote on it when it returns on Tuesday to override Trump’s veto on the Defense bill?
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Chair of the House Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee and author of HR 1044 is “very disappointed that we have not yet been able to reach a compromise” between the House and Senate versions.
In fact, Lofgren seems to have given up on the current Congress and is already pinning hopes on the new Congress.
“But I won’t give up hope that ongoing bipartisan and bicameral talks can get us over the finish line in the next Congress. I’ll keep trying,” she stated in a press release on Dec. 21.
“Unfortunately, the last-minute additions made in the Senate early this month defeated the congressional intent behind the House-passed bill,” she lamented.
“The Senate additions would create more backlogs instead of clearing backlogs, which was the very point of the House bill,” Lofgren claimed.
“To be clear, my effort at streamlining the system was aimed at people currently working in the United States – approved for work visas after their employers advertised and found no Americans to fill the job – and who now wait, sometimes for decades, for their visa numbers to finally arrive,” she stated.
“There is simply no reason that the 25 countries of Europe, with a total population of 200 million, should be allocated three times more green cards than the seven countries in the Indian subcontinent, with roughly 1.7 billion inhabitants,” said Lofgren.
“Allocating green cards by country of birth is a relic of the past that never made any sense, and it makes even less sense in the modern business world,” she said.
“Members of Congress must work together to get this right,” said Lofgren who has been “working for more than 12 years to end the per-country limits.”
Meanwhile, prominent immigration attorney Sheela Murthy, founder and president of Maryland based Murthy Law Firm, says ultimately the House and Senate “bills are not that far apart.”
The House version was “much more generous” to family based cases raising their country caps from 7% to 25% as against 15% in the Senate version, she told the American Bazaar in an interview.
Again while the House version proposes to eliminate country caps in employment based cases in three years, the Senate version seeks to do so over nine years.
However, Murthy noted there is “a lot of pushback from certain organizations and people from other countries, who are concerned about now potential delays for their country nationals who could be stuck in very long lines.”
On the chances of the current Congress reaching a compromise, Murthy said, “it depends on how much push and pull there is.”
But If the bills die in the current Congress despite huge support in both chambers, she believes “that those same concerns will continue through the next Congress as well.”
Murthy also believes that if the law is not passed now, “then there’s a risk that in the new Congress, they’re not going to be as excited to agree to sign it again.”
The immigration lawyer also cited multiple reports to suggest that an ‘anti-Chinese’ provision about denial of visas to those with any affiliation to Chinese military or Communist Party “would likely be stripped from any final compromise bill between both the House and the Senate.”
Meanwhile, many an Indian stuck in a decades-long line for the coveted green card are hoping against hope that the lame duck Congress would return from the holidays and give them a parting new year gift!
Sen. Mike Lee calls S.386 a good bill that needs to pass (February 21, 2020)
Trump talks about changes in H-1B Visa, including a possible citizenship (January 11, 2019)
Trump’s tweet on H-1B and path to citizenship evokes lukewarm response (January 12, 2019)