Headline, Immigration

White House endorses Eagle Act to eliminate green card country cap

Passage of legislation would bring great relief to 700,000 Indians stuck in decades long backlog

As the US House of Representatives prepares to vote on the ‘EAGLE Act,’ the White House has come out in support of the legislation to phase out 7% per country cap on employment-based immigrant visas or green cards.

Passage of the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, which also raises the 7% per country limit on family-sponsored green cards to 15%, would bring great relief to Indians facing a decades long wait for green cards or permanent resident permits.

As of March 2022, over 692,000 Indians (including spouses and dependent children) were stuck in the employment-based green card backlog, followed by 106,000 Chinese, with a wait time of more than 50 years, according to FWD.us, a bipartisan advocacy group.

Read: EAGLE Act, a game changer for green card backlogs? (June 6, 2021)

“The Administration supports efforts to improve our immigrant visa system and ease the harsh effects of the immigrant visa backlog,” the Executive Office of the President stated in a Statement of Administration Policy on Dec 6.

“Accordingly, the Administration supports House passage of HR 3648, the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act, and its goal of allowing US employers to focus on hiring immigrants based on merit, not their birthplace, by eliminating the ‘per country’ limitation on employment-based immigrant visas (green cards).”

Allaying fears that the legislation would discriminate against some, the White House noted, “As currently written, these changes would take effect over a nine-year transition period to ensure that no countries are excluded from receiving visas while the per-country caps are phased out.”

“During the transition period, visas would also be set aside for nurses and physical therapists to address urgent needs in the healthcare industry, and for employment-based immigrants and their family members who are not currently in the United States,” it said.

“HR 3648 also seeks to improve the H-1B specialty occupation visa program by strengthening recruitment requirements, increasing protections for US workers, improving transparency, and easing the process for the Department of Labor (DOL) to investigate H-1B employer abuses,” the White House said.

“As this legislation moves forward, the Administration urges the Congress to work with the Department of Labor to ensure that the legislation effectively advances these goals and to address any administrative issues or unintended impacts on the current enforcement regime.”

“HR 3648 also includes important provisions to allow individuals who have been waiting in the immigrant visa backlog for two years to file their green card applications,” it noted.

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

“Although the applications could not be approved until a visa becomes available, this would allow employment- based immigrants to transition off of their temporary visas and provide them with additional flexibilities in changing employers or starting a business.

“Importantly, the bill would also keep families together by ensuring that children of employment-based immigrants do not age out of dependent status or lose their eligibility for a green card.

“These changes would help alleviate the effects of the visa backlogs that have left hundreds of thousands of immigrants waiting for years to receive permanent residence simply because of their country of origin.

“For generations, immigrants have contributed to key sectors of the US economy and fortified our most valuable competitive advantage–our spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship,” the White House said. “Immigrants keep our economy growing, our communities thriving, and our country moving forward.”

“In addition to passing HR 3648, the Administration urges the Congress to pass the US Citizenship Act, which would further reform and improve the immigrant visa system by increasing lawful pathways to the United States, provide a path to citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants, and establish a new system to responsibly manage and secure our border,” it said.

Welcoming White House support for the legislation, Immigration Voice, an advocacy group noted, “Your advocacy is having an impact. The White House has issued an endorsement for the Eagle Act. However, it is not done, until it’s done. Keep calling and visiting your representatives,” it said urging supporters to press lawmakers on the issue.

“You have one more morning to call every House office in your area & ask them to do the right thing & end discrimination by voting yes on the Eagle Act. Tell them they have never had the chance to save 1 million identifiable people’s lives with just 1 vote. Now is their chance!” it tweeted Thursday.

Read: What is EAGLE Act? Indian-Americans to benefit from US Bill that ends per country quota – Know more  (December 8, 2022)

“This legislation would be life-changing for hundreds of thousands of immigrants currently stuck in legal limbo as they wait for green cards,” said Neil Makhija, executive director of the Indian American Impact.

“The per country cap on Green Cards is a relic of a discriminatory system that excluded Asian immigrants entirely in the past, he said. “The caps were enacted decades ago and do not reflect our country’s values. It is time for Congress to act and provide fair and equitable treatment to so many immigrants who call this country home.”

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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