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Obama may increase Green Cards, H-1B visas by as much as 800,000 annually

Posted on August 27, 2014
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President Barack Obama is considering taking executive action on a broad swath of legal immigration next month, including freeing up more Green Cards for workers waiting in line for permanent residency, those sponsored by relatives and increasing the number of skilled immigrant workers, with the numbers being as high as 800,000 visas the first year.

An Associated Press report said Obama is considering the action after the requests made by tech, industry and powerful interest groups, which has been heard by administration officials at the White House through the summer. Some 20 such meetings were held. Coordinating these “listening sessions,” as the White House calls them, is its Office of Public Engagement, led by top Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett.

“The president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions,” said White House spokesman Shawn Turner.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama could announce the measures soon after Labor Day.

According to the AP report, one of the more popular requests among business and family groups is a change in the way green cards are counted that would essentially free up some 800,000 additional visas the first year, advocates say.

Those who support changing the green card count say each year half of the 140,000 employment-based green cards issued go to spouses and children, unnecessarily reducing the numbers available to workers. If new rules go into effect, then the spouses and children would not count towards that cap.

Another proposal would “recapture” unused employment green cards from previous years, which could produce more than 200,000 new green cards, according to high-tech lobbyists and a document outlining proposals from Compete America, a coalition of high-tech companies.

“We have thousands of employees waiting for green cards. It is a hardship for them,” said Peter Muller, director for immigration policy for Intel Corp., who participated in one of the White House meetings, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Other requests have included removing the requirement that some spouses of U.S. citizens return to their native country for at least three years before they can apply for U.S. residency, as well as extending work permits to the spouses of all temporary H1-B skilled workers, who are on H-4 visas. Once that rule takes effect, almost 100,000 work permits would be issued to qualified dependents, said AP.

The Journal also reported that Alberto P. Cardenas Jr., a Houston attorney who attended this month’s meeting at the White House, said construction clients of his pressed administration officials to make sure any undocumented immigrants who are given new work permits are required to work for legitimate companies that follow the law and pay taxes.

According to Breitbart, the move by Obama could be going against what Americans want, at least going by polls.

A Reuters poll “found that 70% of Americans feel illegal immigrants threaten U.S. beliefs and customs, 63% believe more immigration at this time threatens the country’s economy, and 45% want fewer immigrants. A recent poll from The Polling Company found that 90% of likely voters feel that “U.S.-born workers and legal immigrants already here should get first preference for jobs.” Strong majorities of those who favor a pathway to legalization and citizenship for illegal immigrants even believe that “jobs now held by illegal immigrants should go to American workers.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a bin opponent of increasing immigration, accused the Obama administration of “actively working against the interests of the American worker.”

“We have communities throughout America that are barely scraping by. Tens of millions of Americans are on welfare, unemployment, and public assistance,” Sessions said in a statement this week. “Yet the White House and their Senate Majority seem more concerned about the economic demands of large corporations, or the citizens of other countries, than about getting our own citizens back to work into stable jobs that can support a family and uplift a community.”

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