President Joe Biden has unveiled a social policy and climate change bill that includes an immigration provision that could help millions of families and foreign workers stay in the country.
“The proposal would free up hundreds of thousands of green cards that various administrations failed to use over several decades, making them available for immigrants who are currently caught up in the backlog,” according to the New York Times.
Biden’s proposal would also provide protection from deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants who are long-time residents of the country and will require the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to efficiently process immigrant applications.
“I am certainly supportive of clearing the visa backlog,” said Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., who previously expressed concern about supporting an immigration proposal “for businesses” without providing a pathway to citizenship.
This latest proposal would keep skilled workers and their immediate family members and other relatives in the United States.
“I got 15 years in the U.S and I’m still considered a visa holder or alien,” said Dr. Pra-nav Singh, who returned to India last summer after years of waiting for the visa. “How long can you stand that level of abuse?”
Singh spent 10 years treating people with respiratory issues, then realized how the green card backlog forced him to leave his family and job in Iowa. If his employment changed, he could lose his visa. The U.S has limited each country to a number of green cards per year, so countries like India where many people applied to work in the U.S. must wait many years.
The number of green cards available for foreign employees is typically 140,000 while there are usually roughly 226,000 visa cards available for relatives hoping to join families in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of cards, neglected and unused over decades by different administrations, would be available to immigrants in the waiting list.
The Trump administration suspended travel from some African and Muslim countries and suspended visa processing during the pandemic. Elizabeth MacDonough of the Senate Parliament has repeatedly shot down any efforts to include immigration provisions in Biden’s pending social package, the newspaper reported. But Democrats argue that things are different now because they are only asking for previously approved green cards and visas to be reap-proved. It won’t raise the debt ceiling or widen the scope of the immigrant population, they say. Ritchie Torres, D-N.Y., is contacting Senate colleges trying to overrule the parliamentarian because they believe she has no intent to support any immigration proposal.
The unused green cards would be recaptured and available to applicants; those on the waiting list could pay higher fees to move up in line for the legal status under the new provisions. This proposal comes when Democrats are pushing to make good on the president’s pledge to restore the immigration system, the story said. California Democrat Zoe Lofgren said the backlog for families and employment-based visas is growing steadily, from 8.7 million petitions in 2018 to more than 9 million in 2021. “Extremely well-educated individuals are now being poached by our economic competitors,” Lofgren said.