EAGLE Act, a game changer for green card backlogs?

A good compromise bill is better than none, say immigration experts.

Earlier this week when Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren and Rep John Curtis introduced the HR 3648 or the EAGLE Act 2021, (Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act), it was met with mixed reaction.

After all, this is not the first time that a bill to reform the outdated immigration system in America has been introduced.

While skepticism remains on whether this bill has the potential to become a law or would change the landscape of the green card backlog anytime soon, some immigration experts believe that a good bill is better than no bill.

Talking to the American Bazaar, San Francisco Bay Area-based Prashant Prasad, a volunteer for Immigration Voice, a grass roots organization representing the high skilled immigrants in the US, explains why the current bill may be good news.

He says, “We started advocating for a simple bill which would remove the per country caps for employment based green cards many years ago. The primary purpose of this was to ensure that employment based green cards are given on a first come first served basis.

“Over the last couple of congresses, we have realized that a simple bill would not pass because of the different needs and concerns of various House members and senators.

Read: How will EAGLE Act benefit H-1Bs in green card backlog? (June 2, 2021)

“While a simple removal of per country caps, would have provided green cards faster to the backlogged community, the current bill will take longer.

“However, a compromise bill, which has a better chance of passing than a simple vanilla bill, is definitely welcome. We cannot leave a good bill for the best bill,” Prasad said.

On how the bill helps those in the backlog and how it may be different from the previous versions, Prasad says, “This bill helps the backlogged community, protects the people from other countries who are already in the green card lines and helps protect American jobs and wages.”

“I think this is a decent bill, which should cater to the needs of all senators and representatives,” he says breaking down how exactly the itl would help the backlogged community from both professional and personal aspects.

He gives these pointers explaining the bill’s advantages

Professional

1. Today about 80% of the people are not able to or do not change jobs because of the fear of starting the green card process all over again as it can take anywhere from 1.5 years to 4 years after most job changes.

2. The increased restrictions on H-1B holders, means that people who have been here for many years and may well be experts in their areas, fear that their visas may not renewed for some flimsy reasons, as has been the case for the last few years.

3. Losing a job for an H-1B visa holder means one has to find a job within 45 days (60 days today, but 15 days are required for LCA processing and H-1B filing) otherwise they have to leave the country with family.

4. Many companies do not hire H-1Bs, due to restrictive company policies in recent years driven by the ever increasing restrictions on H-1Bs in the previous Trump regime.

Hence, when I switched jobs just before Covid impacted this company, the entire team of about 8-9 people, who were recently hired, had to look for new jobs.

While I was lucky to land a job within the available timeframe, many of the companies for whom I was a perfect fit and wanted to hire me, could not do so, because they were not hiring H-1Bs.

5. Ambitions get impacted as a majority of people just sacrifice career growth for the safety and stability of their jobs and hence the family.

Personal

1.  It is a big disruption. If one has to move their family back to India especially with kids who have grown up in America and do not deserve an abrupt change.

2. My daughter came here when she was one year old and hence will not be covered by my green card process when she turns 21.

Even though she has grown up here, studied here, identifies with the school system here, has her friends here, I am worried that she will age out if I don’t get my green card before she turns 21.

My priority date is 2014 and if no change happens in the law, I will probably not get a green card in another 20-25 years. There are many like me who live with the fear of kids aging out of the system.

3. I studied at a college which is ranked among the best for entrepreneurship and I was very enthused to start an entrepreneurial venture of my own, while still in college.

However, being on H-1B has more or less killed that dream, as we always have the visa situation at the back of our minds. The bill if implemented will solve this problem for many.

Read: House bill gives legal access to detained citizens, green card holders (April 26, 2021)

4. My wife, who herself is a M. Tech (Computer Science) and used to work in India, could not start working here for many years, until the H-4 EAD regulation came into effect.

Staying in a place where technology jobs are in abundance but unable to even try for one, was a very painful situation for her. H-4 EAD holders have been fighting a brave battle in the country from sacrificing careers to long wait for work permits. They do deserve a better deal than the current one.

5. Issues like delaying decisions to buy a house, deferring international travel, in the last few years due to challenges with H-1B stamping etc. are also a major reason why H-1Bs are leading uncertain lives in America.

According to experts, getting out of the backlog will provide them a chance to change jobs, to start their own companies, to make investments and a freedom from the bondage of their organization rules specially on changing jobs, promotions, etc. So, it may be worth a try to push for the bill and hope for the best.

READ MORE:

 Indian healthcare workers in green card backlog protest at Capitol Hill (April 12, 2021)

Indian American health workers protest green card backlog (March 18, 2021)

Is Indians’ Green Card backlog limbo about to end? (December 3, 2020)

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