H.R. 3012, “The Fairness to High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” is a small bill, anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 pages shorter than the bills that normally attract a good deal of media attention. Yet H.R. 3012 continues to attract major editorial and news attention.
The bill, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives 389 to 15, would eliminate the per country limit for employment-based immigrants. That would especially help highly skilled individuals from India and China waiting a long time for green cards. The bill would also raise the per country limit from family-sponsored immigrants from 7 to 15 percent.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page used its powerful voice to call for Senate passage of the bill. “For businesses looking to hire advanced-degree candidates or skilled workers, the end of the cap is a good thing,” argued the editorial. “The 7% solution sought to make the American dream accessible to people from every nation. But today’s reality is that American universities are graduating a high number of foreign-born engineers, computer geeks, scientists, mathematicians and nurses that come from a narrow list of countries. The U.S. will be more prosperous by letting graduates who land jobs stay permanently.” (Find the editorial here, registration may be required.)
But the Wall Street Journal noted the legislation is not the ultimate solution to the employment-based green card problem: “The trouble is that the House bill does nothing to address the real problem: 140,000 green cards a year for advanced-degree and skilled workers is far too few. By refusing to increase the number, or to make a special category of green cards automatically available for American university graduates in science, technology, engineering and math, Congress is again delaying reform that could help the lackluster U.S. economy.”
In an editorial titled “Tinkering at Immigration’s Margins,” the Washington Post also weighed in on the bill, but not as favorably as the Wall Street Journal. “A bill passed by the House of Representatives last month would grant a few thousand more green cards annually to Indian and Chinese engineers, software designers and scientists, mostly at the expense of Korean, Filipino and Mexican engineers, software designers and scientists,” wrote the Washington Post. “Since the legislation makes no overall change in the paltry number of green cards available, hundreds of thousands of highly skilled employees already working in the United States on short-term visas will remain backlogged in the system, in many cases waiting for more than a decade to become legal, permanent residents. That’s what passes for immigration reform in Congress these days.”
Not surprisingly, the legislation has also made news in India. The Economic Times of India took a different tact from its American counterparts, focusing on the impact of current U.S. immigration law on the lives of individuals. (Find article here.) It cited the example of an Indian IT (information technology) specialist who came to the United States in 2003 on an H-1B visa. His employer filed for his green card in 2004 in the third preference and he is still waiting. “He is living in the U.S. under annual extensions of H1B, and every time he leaves the US, he has to apply for advance parole with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, so that he is not stopped from re-entering,” reports the newspaper. “Kumar doesn’t know when his application for green card will become current.”
The article notes it could take another 10 years or more. “Living in such uncertainty is tough. He had started toying with the idea of giving up the green card dream and returning to India. But that was till last week when the U.S. House of Representatives passed ‘The Fairness to High-Skilled Immigrants Act.’”
As of this writing, H.R. 3012 remains held up in the Senate by Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA). No one can be certain whether he intends simply to slow down the bill, force it through the committee process, or see that it never comes up for a vote.