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Record pace for green cards won't last without congressional action

Suzanne Monyak, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

“I think that the fact that the agency was able to issue twice the normal annual allocation, over 280,000 employment-based immigrant visas, is a significant accomplishment,” Turansick said. “It did clear out a lot of cases that have been pending for a long time.”

“Having said that, the backlogs are still significant,” he said.

Even as the green card demand stays high, legislative proposals to reduce the backlog have languished in Congress, despite enjoying some bipartisan support.

Congress came close two years ago to passing legislation that would eliminate the per-country caps, which prevent any one country from eating up more than 7% of total employment-based green cards. These caps disproportionately affect applicants from populous countries like India and China.

Both chambers passed their own versions of the bill with bipartisan support, but the session ended before the two could reconcile their differences and send the legislation to then-President Donald Trump’s desk.

Reps. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., and John Curtis, R-Utah, in the House, and Sens. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., in the Senate proposed similar bipartisan versions of that bill this Congress.

 

Democrats have proposed an alternative version in both chambers, with support from Senate Judiciary Chairman Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., that would eliminate the country caps while increasing the overall number of green cards available.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina also proposed legislation, joined by one Democrat and three Republicans, to reduce the backlog by reclaiming the unused employment-based green card slots that expired in recent fiscal years because of USCIS delays.

But none of these measures have made it to either chamber floor, previewing bleak odds for any to become law this year. And next fiscal year, with consular operations improving, USCIS predicts it will have fewer extra employment-based green cards to issue than it did this fiscal year, with roughly 60,000 extra slots for a total of 200,000 employment-based visas.

Xiao Wang, co-founder of Boundless Immigration, a tech startup that helps immigrants apply for green cards and citizenship, said there “isn’t anything that has a hope of passing the Senate that’s related to immigration right now.”

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