WASHINGTON: Indians chasing the “American Dream” had reason to be happy about a law on the anvil that would help techies get the coveted green card faster, but a broad fix of the US immigration system is still distant.
The system is widely acknowledged to be broken, but there is little agreement across the political divide on how to tackle the ever growing lines of those seeking entry legally or address the problem of nearly 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 200,000 Indians.
In a rare show of bipartisan support the so-called “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigration Act”, eliminating per-country caps on employment-based visas and instituting a first come, first served system, sailed through the Republican controlled House with a vote of 389-15 last week.
Currently each country, be it India or Iceland, can claim only 7 percent of the 140,000 work visas issued annually.
The removal of country caps would essentially shorten the queue for well-educated people from populous countries like India and China and cut the expected wait time for green card for skilled Indians from 70 to ten years in some cases.
The legislation that sidesteps the hot topic of illegal immigration and doesn’t increase the total number of visas provided in a year, was expected to fly through the Democratic controlled Senate too.
But then Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who has in the past worked overtime to prevent what he calls the misuse of H1B visas coveted by Indian techies, stepped in the way.
Grassley, like most other Republicans takes an even tougher stand on the illegal or undocumented immigrants as liberals call them. Opposed to “amnesty”, he wants them to “earn” any legal status by assimilation efforts such as learning English or paying back taxes.
Nearly all the Republican presidential hopefuls too have come out in favour of building a 2,000 mile-long fence along the border with Mexico from where the largest numbers of illegal immigrants sneak in, at a staggering cost of $30 billion or so with some seeking the deportation of them all.
These include some eight million, making up five percent of the US workforce, who “continue to live in the shadows, doing hard, dirty and dangerous work that most Americans won’t do” as the Washington Post said in an editorial suggesting the US and the undocumented are “mutually dependent.”
President Barack Obama, on the other hand has been plugging what goes by the acronym of DREAM Act that would provide conditional permanent residency to those graduating from US high schools who came as minors.
Jason Chaffetz, the main sponsor of the “Fairness” bill says he had tried to find a “sweet spot, even if small” to fix the legal immigration system. But politicians would have to find a much larger sweet spot to find a real solution – and that may be a tough call in a presidential election year.
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Faster green cards: Can US fix its high-skilled immigration system?
Posted on December 7, 2011