Indian American leads 40 lawmakers seeking end of employment-based green card backlog in reconciliation package
Drawing attention to the plight of Indian and Chinese nationals facing decades-long wait to become permanent US residents, Raja Krishnamoorthi led a coalition of 40 colleagues seeking Congressional action to end employment-based green card backlog
In a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer Tuesday, the coalition led by the Indian American Representative requested that the budget reconciliation package provide relief to the 1.2 million individuals stuck in the employment-based green card backlog, strengthening US economy in the process.
The 40 signatories include two other Indian American lawmakers, Pramila Jayapal, representative from Washington state and Ro Khanna from Silicon Valley.
“Under current law, the American economy is unable to access the full international talent pool of high-skilled workers already present and working in the United States today – indeed, the very scientists, inventors, health care workers, entrepreneurs, and other professionals that give the United States its edge over its global competitors today,” the representatives wrote.
“This is because there is effectively a green card ban on high-skilled immigrants from India, China, and other countries with large populations of workers eager to remain in America and power forward our economy and social safety net programs for generations to come,” they pointed out.
“Right now, no more than 7% of employment-based green cards are available to individuals from a single country, which has created a decades-long backlog for would-be immigrants from India and China,” the lawmakers said.
“Indian nationals face a particularly daunting backlog of 80 years, and an anticipated 200,000 will die before achieving lawful permanent resident status,” they wrote citing a study by David J. Bier of Cato Institute, a Washington think tank.
“This arbitrary cap is keeping some of the world’s most talented individuals from permanently calling America home, encouraging them to take their inventions, expertise, and creativity to other countries instead.”
“Most workers in the employment-based green card backlog are already in the United States on temporary nonimmigrant visas, such as the H-1B visa for workers in specialty occupations, that are renewable but greatly restrict beneficiaries from reaching their full potential,” the lawmakers wrote.
“H-1B holders are unable to change jobs or start their own businesses – despite the fact that they have been shown to boost overall productivity, wages, and new patents.”
“The temporary nature of the H-1B visa forces beneficiaries to live in a constant state of uncertainty, preventing them from becoming entrepreneurs, buying homes, employing more Americans, or otherwise fully establishing themselves as permanent fixtures within the American economy.”
“An especially painful aspect of the H-1B experience is that dependent children, known as ‘Documented Dreamers,’ are often forced to self-deport to their country of birth if they reach age 21 before their parent obtains a green card, despite having lived most of their lives in the United States,” the lawmakers pointed out.
“Failure to provide a path to lawful permanent residence for the 1.2 million people in the employment-based green card backlog, most of whom are H-1B visa holders, would be tantamount to staging an economic recovery with one hand tied behind our back,” the Representatives wrote.
“Permanently relegating H-1B holders to nonimmigrant status while China, Russia, and other major powers are ascendant on the world stage – and hungry to be home to the innovators of the 21st century – is simply nonsensical.”
“This can and must be addressed in the budget reconciliation package currently under negotiation,” the lawmakers wrote
In order to fully unlock the economic potential of high-skilled immigrants, a pathway to lawful permanent residence must be cleared and the system must be reformed, the lawmakers wrote.
Reforming this immigration system will be especially helpful to the United States as its economy and workforce continues to recover from the pandemic, they wrote.
“For over a decade, there has been strong bipartisan support for helping individuals stuck in the green card backlog, as recently demonstrated by the resounding 365-65 vote to pass the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044/S.386) in the House last Congress,” the lawmakers pointed out.
“Every comprehensive immigration reform effort over the past 20 years – as well as President Biden’s immigration bill – has included the concept of clearing the green card backlog,” they noted.
As a co-chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Immigration Task Force, Krishnamoorthi has remained committed to advancing immigration reform throughout his time in Congress, he said in a press release.
He is also an original cosponsor of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, which passed the House last Congress.