S386 delayed

Indian employees work on laptops at Amazon's newly inaugurated largest campus building in Hyderabad on Aug. 21. The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act – whose co-author is Indian American Senator Kamala Harris – which eliminates the per-country cap for employment-based visas, was once again delayed Sept. 26 in the U.S. Senate. (Noah Seelam/AFP/Getty Images)

The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, which would eliminate the per-country cap for employment-based visas, was once again stalled in the Senate Sept. 26.

The authors of S386, Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Kamala Harris, D-California, have asked for unanimous consent on the measure, which has received support from numerous Indian American advocacy groups, including Immigration Voice. Unanimous consent allows a bill to come to the floor on an expedited track, but cannot be used if a single senator objects.

Currently, Indians who have approved green card applications are stuck in a queue with an average wait time of 75 years before they receive a green card, due to per-country caps which state that no country can receive more than 7 percent of all employment-based green cards available that year. S386 — and HR 1044, which passed the House in July — would eliminate the per country cap. In the first of three phases, Indian Americans would be eligible for 85 percent of all green cards available that year, and 90 percent the following year.

Earlier, Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, had objected to unanimous consent of the measure, noting that the number of skilled nurses from overseas would be reduced. Perdue and Rand dropped their objections to the bill after it was modified.

But Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, raised his objection to the bill Sept. 26, with news reports quoting the senator as saying he could not support the measure in its present form. Durbin’s office had not released a statement or tweet on his objections as of press time Sept. 26.

Immigration Voice has rallied its members to call the senator’s Washington office and share their stories of long wait times stuck in the green card queue with Durbin’s staff.

In a town hall meeting Sept. 25 — before the bill was scheduled to be passed by unanimous consent — Lee stated that he sat down with Perdue earlier in the week and hammered out language in the bill “that was acceptable to both sides.”

Lee noted that it was likely Durbin would raise an objection to the bill and urged listeners at the town hall meeting to call the senator’s office. “I hope that Mr. Durbin does not decide to bring about an objection,” said Lee, noting his friendship with the senator. “He and I have worked together on a number of issues,” said Lee. “If he doesn’t object, we can get this thing passed tomorrow.”

Earlier in the month, Lee spoke on the House floor to lend his support for the bill. “The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act has been a priority of mine for many years. During that time, it has been the subject of strong debate and scrutiny both on and off the Hill, and, like most bills, its path to becoming law has not always been straight or clear of obstacles.”

“But with the passage of the companion bill in the House by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 365-65, I believe now is the moment that we can finally move forward with this small, but critically important fix to our immigration system,” said Lee.

Breitbart News noted that President Donald Trump ignored the issue entirely during his visits with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The conservative media outlet has characterized Lee’s bill as a “green card giveaway.”

Harris had not issued a statement or tweet on the stalled bill as of press time Sept. 26.

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