A top American Senator has sought increase in the per annum cap on issuing of Green Cards or permanent legal residency to employment based immigrants, as several lawmakers had an intense debate on Senate floor about what is more important for the US: maintaining diversity or attracting best talent.
Participating in a debate on the Senate floor, Democratic Senator Dick Durbin argued that increasing the existing Congressional-mandated Green Card cap of 140,000 is the best available solution to end the long waiting period for talented young professionals, in particular from countries like India who as per the current trend would have to wait for 200 years to receive legal permanent residency.
While Republican Senator Mike Lee is seeking to remove the existing per country seven per cent cap on issuing of Green Cards, his party colleague from Florida Senator Rock Scott argued that such a move would have an adverse impact on diversity. As such he is seeking to have the cap based on language, so that diversity can be maintained in the US.
"In being stuck with a 140,000-limit on green cards for employment visas and country caps for that 140,000 limit, we will continue to run into the problem illustrated by the Senator from Florida," Durbin said.
Currently, there is a backlog of almost one million foreign nationals and accompanying family members lawfully residing in the United States who have been approved for, and are waiting to receive, employment-based Green Cards. The largest number of them are from India.
"There will be those who will want to create an exception to the overall quota or the country caps, and there will be compelling, personal, and family reasons for them to ask for it. Time and again, they will find that, if they get a privilege, it will be at the expense of someone else, and there will be an objection. The only rational answer is to raise the cap on the green card quotas," he argued.
"These 140,000 employment-based visas a year might have made sense 30 or 40 years ago. They make no sense today in the world that we live in. We are talking about people in the United States who are working, who are trying to make lives here of a more permanent nature. They love this country enough to want to bring their families here" to relocate and live," he said.
Senator Scott argued that removing per country quota would be a big disadvantage to people from various countries like those from Latin America or even from China.
"I offer an amendment today to make sure we are not creating an unfair system that favors certain nations or that would disadvantage immigrants who don't happen to be from the nations that are the largest drivers of the employment-based visa backlog that we see today. I know my colleagues share my desire to preserve the diversity of our Nation, and I look forward to their accepting my amendment today," he said.
Scott said that his goal is to be fair to the many wonderful and skilled people who want to build lives in the United States.
Senator Mike Lee from Utah disagreed. "What is it about the speakers of these languages...the native speakers or speakers who hold a degree in the languages of Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian, Creole, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Hokkien, or Hakka that makes them more deserving of an allocation of an employment-based immigrant visa than the speakers of Hindi, of Urdu, or of any of the languages spoken in India?" he asked.
"Overwhelmingly, the per-country cap punishes would-be immigrants from India in a way that doesn't affect any others, except maybe some from China. By the way, he covers some of the language groups spoken in and around China, including Cantonese and Taiwanese. So why not Mandarin? Then, if Mandarin, why not any of the languages spoken in India?" he said taking a dig at Scott.
"Imagine two otherwise identical applicants for a visa, wherein they are exactly the same in all respects those being their academic degrees they have earned, their employment experience, their background checks, their family statuses, their earning potential, their job commitment, and professional certifications."
"Imagine they are identical in every single respect except for one that immigrant A happens to hail from Sweden and that immigrant B happens to have been born in India. Immigrant A will be eligible to have an employment-based immigrant visa application considered immediately. Immigrant B, simply by virtue of having come from India, will, in many circumstances, have to be on a waiting list for 200 years. This is wrong," Lee said.
The Senators were debating on Lee's unanimous consent request that the Senate now proceed to pass the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 1044), as passed by the House, that would eliminate the seven per cent per-country ceiling, along with his amendment. The legislation would allocate employment-based visas to prospective immigrants by application date on a first-come, first-served basis without regard to country of origin.
However, it would not reduce the backlog because it would not increase the number of foreign nationals receiving Green Cards. As passed by the House, HR 1044 would include a three-year transition period from the current system to the new system.