“At best, the immigration bill is just a hope, till it becomes a law.”
Experts have been keenly awaiting the comprehensive immigration bill that President Joe Biden unveiled earlier on Thursday. The bill delivers what Biden had promised to millions of immigrants in America during the campaign.
For those on employment-based visas, it was an important moment to watch out for as hints about revamping the temporary H-1B visa had been doing the rounds for some time now. Those who are on a long line for green card were also keenly hoping that the bill addresses their unfair wait.
While the bill added 30,000 employment-based visas increasing the total amount from 140,000 to 170,000, what would it actually bring on the table, for those either awaiting green cards or those still struggling to maintain their visa status every few years?
“I would put it frankly and say, such bills are just carrots to retain professionals in the US,” said immigration consultant Netra Chavan. “Authorities are well-aware of this and it seems that in the fear of losing hard working foreign employees with advanced knowledge, they make efforts of just releasing these bills with no quick-fix or results that would take it to the end.”
Chavan added, “At best, the immigration bill is just a hope, till it becomes a law.”
The sentiment may be shared by those awaiting the legal immigration reforms too.
Pasadena, California, resident Nalin Nair is on an H-1B visa and has about 100 year wait before he can secure a green card. He has been planning to initiate paperwork to apply for a Canadian permanent residency ever since the Trump administration had taken office. When asked if with the coming of the bill, does he plan to defer his plans for the time being, Nair said, “I have been talking to immigration consultants who have warned me that even though the bill may be introduced, it does not mean that it will actually be passed into a law. There are serious concerns if the Biden administration actually has a sound strategy to pass it.”
Asked what he expects from the Biden immigration reform bill, he said, “With the change in administration, we hoped that per country cap will be removed and we would be able to truly call America our home.”
“How can you talk about immigration reform without addressing the legal immigration system that is currently working against some of the most skilled tax-paying, law-abiding residents?”
For most, it came as no surprise that Biden’s unveiling focused on undocumented immigrant reforms.
Bridgewater, NJ,- based Rachna Shah who is on a H-4 visa and lost her job during the pandemic said, “While we have nothing against reforming and providing provisions for undocumented immigrant, sometimes you can’t help but feel funny as the undocumented route to American citizenship can turn out to be faster than legal route to secure a green card.”
READ: Is the bill to end green card country caps, S.386, dead? (December 26, 2020)
Chavan said, “It’s a bitter irony that today in America, many on legal work visas wish they were undocumented, as that would at least bring the attention towards them. Many Americans, senators, law makers etc. are well aware how the immigration system affects the legal immigrant. It is sad that even after being in the country for decades or even through their 50’s they still have to maintain visa status.”
The president has also called for reforms for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and obtaining swifter legal status for agriculture workers under the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. Other important aspects that are likely to be part of the bill include the No Ban Act, which would prohibit visa discrimination during visa applications.
So is it really difficult to actually bring about changes in the legal immigration system?
As Chavan puts it:, “Is fixing legal immigration or making sensible decisions to help high skilled individuals on work-based visas tough? The answer is “no.” Where there is a will, there is a way. But perhaps the will is lacking as more than 500,000 of high-skilled legal immigrants continue to live in uncertainty and never-ending cycle of visa maintenance.”
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)