The backlog for an Indian national to get permanent residency or Green Card is more than 195 years, a top Republican senator has said, urging his Senate colleagues to come out with a legislative resolution to address this problem. A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently.
Senator Mike Lee said on Wednesday that the current Green Card policy did nothing for the child of an immigrant whose dead parent's Green Card application was ultimately denied because his or her job was no longer available.
"Someone from India entering the backlog today would have to wait 195 years to receive an EB-3 green card. Even if we give their children this limbo status, none of them will have a prayer of becoming a US citizen," Lee said on the Senator floor. In fiscal year 2019, Indian nationals received 9,008 category 1 (EB1), 2,908 category 2 (EB2), and 5,083 category 3 (EB3) Green Cards. EB1-3 are different categories of employment-based Green Cards.
Lee, the senator from Utah, was speaking on the legislation moved by Senator Dick Durbin that seeks to protect immigrant workers and their children who are stuck in the green card backlog. "Green cards are critical in the lives of so many who are here on temporary work visas. The backlog puts families at risk of losing their immigration status as they wait year after weary year to finally make it through this green card backlog," Durbin said.
"Our bipartisan agreement would add critical protections that were not in the original bill for immigrant workers and their immediate family members who are stuck in the backlog. They would be able to switch jobs and travel without losing immigration status. And children of immigrant workers would be protected from aging out so they will not face deportation," he said.
The Lee-Durbin agreement would make three changes to the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. First, it would immediately protect immigrants and their families who are stuck in the backlog by allowing them to "early file" for Green Cards. This would allow workers to switch jobs and travel without losing immigration status and prevent the children of immigrant workers from "aging out" of Green-Card eligibility so they will not face deportation while they are waiting for a Green Card.
Second, the amendment would create a green-card set aside for immigrant workers who are unable to "early file" because they are stuck in the backlog overseas. Finally, the amendment would crackdown on abuse of H-1B temporary worker visas by outsourcing companies by prohibiting a company from hiring additional H-1B workers if the company's workforce is more than 50 employees and more than 50 per cent temporary workers.
The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. "While we continue to debate the best way to fix the Green Card backlog, let's make sure that no children of the affected families are harmed or deported. Just that simple. I offered a new bill, very simply stated, to protect children of immigrant workers act. This brief three-page bill would ensure that children do not age out while waiting for a Green Card," Durbin said.
"Imagine if you brought your children to the United States, worked on an H-1B visa and your children are waiting for you for the Green Card, you are paying for them to go to college because they don't qualify as American Citizens for any type of federal financial aid. You're making great sacrifices for them and then the day comes when they reach the age of 21 and they can be deported and your family divided," he said. "Why would we want to let that happen?" Durbin asked.
Noting that he has met many of these young people, the senator said it breaks his heart to hear their story that they may reach a point where they age out and be deported.
"That's why I wanted to offer this specific single provision. There is no reason these children should be punished for a broken immigration system. It's not beyond our control to help them," he added.