Democrats' plan to overhaul legal immigration focuses on backlog of green cards

WASHINGTON – As Democrats scramble to ensure that protections for millions of undocumented immigrants are included in a broad set of soc...


WASHINGTON – As Democrats scramble to ensure that protections for millions of undocumented immigrants are included in a broad set of social safety nets, Dr Pranav Singh is focusing on a lesser-known plan to address the backlog of the green card that prompted him to quit his family and work in Iowa.

After nearly a decade of treating patients with respiratory problems, Dr Singh could no longer endure the uncertainty of living in the United States on a visa that could be revoked in the event of a change in employment.

“I spent 15 years in the United States and am still considered a visa holder or an alien,” said Dr Singh, who returned to India last summer after years of bureaucratic languor. “How long can you take this level of abuse?” “

When President Biden unveiled the outline of the latest version of the draft law on social policy and climate On Thursday, it included a provision on immigration that could help Dr Singh and millions of other families and foreign workers, but only if it can get past the Senate Parliamentarian, who has strict rules on what can be included. in the package.

The proposal would free up hundreds of thousands of green cards that various jurisdictions have not used for decades, making them available to immigrants who are currently caught in the backlog.

The United States has country caps on the number of green cards issued each year, which means applicants from countries like India, where many people apply to work in the United States, end up waiting for years.

Under the new provision, these unused green cards would be “clawed back” and made available to applicants. Foreigners stuck on waiting lists could also pay higher fees to get on the legal status queue.

The proposal comes at a time when Democrats are increasingly desperate to keep the president’s pledge to overhaul the immigration system, especially as the party also holds both houses of Congress. Many Democrats and supporters believe this is the best chance to move forward on the budget bill issue.

But the plan faces an uncertain path ahead.

Elizabeth MacDonough, the Member of Parliament for the Senate, has repeatedly rejected efforts to include immigration measures in Mr Biden’s social safety net, which passes through Congress in a special process known as the name of reconciliation that protects him from obstruction. Only relatively narrow provisions that have a direct impact on government revenues can be included in such bills, and the parliamentarian previously ruled that two other immigration plans failed this test.

Democrats argue the new proposal should satisfy the parliamentarian because it involves the clawback of visas already approved by Congress – a modest change to the law, they say, rather than a sweeping proposal such as increasing the card cap. green or the granting of legal status to a new immigrant population.

Yet skepticism abounds in the halls of Congress. Some Democrats, including Rep. Ritchie Torres from New York, began asking their colleagues in the Senate to override the parliamentarian, saying they didn’t think she would accept the immigration proposals.

In addition to the visa clawback provision, Mr. Biden’s $ 100 billion plan to overhaul the immigration system includes a proposal to protect millions of long-resident undocumented immigrants from deportation. date in the country and $ 2.8 billion for US citizenship and immigration services to more effectively process migrants.

Some Democrats have been reluctant to isolate the legal immigration proposal after more ambitious plans to relieve undocumented migrants were rejected by the parliamentarian. Negotiations over the spending package have already forced the administration to make deep cuts to community college investments, paid vacations and proposals to tackle climate change. The tension over the extent of the trade-offs has spread to immigration policies, an area in which supporters are increasingly eager to see drastic changes.

“I am certainly in favor of eliminating the visa backlog,” said Senator Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, who last month expressed concern about supporting an immigration proposal “for businesses “without paving the way for citizenship.

But the latest proposal would not just keep skilled workers in the United States. It would also connect parents with their families. The number of green cards available to foreign employees is typically 140,000, while there are typically around 226,000 visas available for parents wishing to join a family in the United States.

In recent years, as the Trump administration invoked various travel bans from African and Muslim-majority countries and suspended immigration processing during the pandemic, the United States has failed to issue many visas.

The result, according to Representative Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, hurts both American families and businesses. The backlog of family and work visas has grown steadily in recent years, from around 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,” Ms. Lofgren said.

For Daishi M. Tanaka, who arrived in the United States with his parents in 2004, both the proposal to tackle the legal immigration system and the plan to establish protections for those living in fear of it. deportation would be crucial.

Her Filipino mother and Japanese father, who balanced their jobs in carpentry and senior care in the United States, returned to the Philippines in 2016 after 12 years of waiting for their green cards to be approved.

“They understood that they were coming home to their country and had a certain sense of health care,” said Mr. Tanaka, a 24-year-old Harvard graduate. “They are not afraid of being deported and I thought I could see them while traveling.

Tanaka, meanwhile, received protection against deportation and the opportunity to work legally through the Deferred Action Program for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that President Barack Obama put in place in 2012. If Mr. Tanaka left the country, he would risk losing these protections. He has not seen his parents since their return to the Philippines.

The provisions previously rejected by the parliamentarian would give him stability while the legal immigration proposal would improve his parents’ chances of obtaining a permanent place in the United States.

A senior Democratic official familiar with the parliamentarian’s thinking warned that she had not given the green light to any provision to be included in the reconciliation package. This includes the visa clawback provisions that Republicans enacted when they controlled the Senate in 2005, but which they have become resistant to in the current political climate.

That year, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas praised the recovery of unused visas for highly skilled workers under a reconciliation program as a way to “keep jobs here in America, rather than export them to countries like India and China ”.

But an aide to Mr Cornyn said the senator would support a stand-alone political bill but not support such a provision as part of the reconciliation package, which has many other provisions he opposes.

Dr Singh said his frustration came from leaders from all political walks of life who had failed for years to make lasting changes to the immigration system.

He became particularly concerned about keeping his family in the United States as he began treating patients for the coronavirus, realizing that if he fell ill or lost his job, they would most likely lose the protection that depends on him. his work visa.

He recently received an email from one of his former patients asking if he would be returning to the clinic soon.

“Unless I see something that gives me stability,” he said, he replied, “I don’t think I can ever come back. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Democrats' plan to overhaul legal immigration focuses on backlog of green cards
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