Immigration Voice, a non-profit organization representing about 150,000 highly-skilled foreign workers in the U.S., announced Jan. 9 that it has hired TwinLogics Strategies, a government relations firm, to gain traction on HR 392, a bill aiming to eliminate the per-country caps for green cards.
Indian nationals whose I-140 application for a green card has been approved are currently waiting an estimated 70 years before getting their green cards because of the per-country cap, which mandates that no single country can get more than seven percent of the 140,000 employment-based green cards allotted each year. About 9,800 employment-based green cards are approved for Indians each year.
“Half a million people are stuck in this backlog. Many will die before they get their green card,” Pratik Dakwala, co-founder of Immigration Voice, told India-West.
HR 392 – also known as the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act – was introduced in the House on Jan. 10, 2017, by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. Chaffetz resigned from his seat last June. Rep. Kevin Yoder, R-Kansas, is now the lead sponsor of the bill.
HR 392 has 303 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Forbes magazine has dubbed it “the most popular bill in Congress.” Nonetheless, the bill has been stuck in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security since February 2017.
Various versions of the bill have been introduced in past congressional sessions but none has made it out of committee.
In an interview with Forbes, Yoder expressed support for his legislation, noting: “The problem is there are anywhere between 700,000 and two million or more immigrants here from India. So, if you do some simple math, you’ll realize many of these individuals will go their entire lives without ever getting their green card. Whereas there are individuals who come here from other smaller nations that can get one in a matter of two to three years.”
“As a bill with support from a nearly a veto-proof majority, it would pass tomorrow if it came to the floor for a vote,” Yoder told Forbes.
“The per-country limit is unfair,” Dakwala told India-West, equating the mandate to waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant for a burger. “If you’re from California, you have to wait in line, whereas people from other states can get their burgers first.”
“When you eliminate the per-country cap, you create a fair system. Whoever came first gets their green card first,” said Dakwala, explaining that the bill does not create more green cards.
Immigration Voice, founded in 2005, has been actively lobbying House members to co-sponsor the legislation and to get it out of committee. The organization holds quarterly briefings on Capitol Hill to explain the issue afresh to lawmakers.
“I am confident that if the bill passes through the House and Senate, President Trump will sign it,” said Dakwala.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced S 281 – the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 – on Feb. 2, 2017. The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, is currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Dakwala believes that HR 392 and similar previous measures have not come for a floor vote because of heavy lobbying from the tech industry, which – he claimed – does not support such measures.
“Tech companies have a hold on employees waiting for green cards,” he said, noting that H-1B visa holders cannot move about freely in employment nor start companies of their own, theoretically reducing competition throughout the industry.
Dakwala also noted the problem of H-4 children – dependents of H-1B visa holders – who lose their dependent status once they turn 21 and are forced to return to India, or apply for student visas in which they are classified as foreign students, despite having lived in the U.S. for most of their lives. If – after completing studies – they are able to get an H-1B visa, they must return to the back of the long line for a green card, explained Dakwala to India-West (see earlier India-West story here).
He said lawmakers should consider the issue of aging-out H-1B dependents with the same intensity given over to undocumented youth, known as Dreamers, who are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Trump rescinded DACA Sept. 5, 2017, ordering Congress to come up with a permanent solution by March. Last week, after an intense squabble with Democratic lawmakers at the White House, Trump declared a deal on DACA was effectively dead.