As the Budget Reconciliation vote gets closer it is imperative that stakeholders in the employment immigration system pick up their phones and start calling Congress. As of today, there is a small contingent in Congress who have recognized the need for new legislation to address the green card backlog and the need for a fix to the broken immigration system. This group needs support from stakeholders to push this agenda forward.
As recently as last year several sources found that STEM companies were one of the single most recognizable elements driving the U.S. economy. In fact, one study found that 67% of U.S. jobs and 69% of the nation’s GDP (gross domestic product) are supported by STEM employers and STEM jobs, showing that this segment of the U.S. economy accounted for $2.3 trillion in federal tax revenue annually. Additionally, STEM jobs are a high growth sector for new employment – many of these jobs are for skilled labor, individuals who do not have a bachelor’s degree. The Department of Labor has noted that the STEM positions pay higher wages and have more growth opportunities.
With the growth in this sector the U.S. has had to seek out talent from around the world. Today the majority of STEM based foreign nationals living and working in the U.S. are from either India or China. These employees work for U.S. companies in a vast array of positions, from technology to health care to business. Most of these employees work under the H1B visa and have a long waiting period to obtain legal permanent residence. The H1B system itself offers 85,000 visas each year to an applicant pool of almost four times that amount. The annual lottery therein leaves out many qualified and skilled potential employees who have offers from U.S. companies. Meanwhile the law has country limitations for legal residence, leaving long lines for India and China two countries that supply many of our STEM employees.
Let’s face it the current situation for H1B Visas and Indian nationals is untenable as they are forced into a system that doesn’t provide a reasonable path to residence. Indian nationals make up a big group of employees who have been unfairly subjected to long waiting periods, well over ten years to obtain residence. Public policy should consider the general fact that we want students who are educated in the United States, who then find U.S. employers to find a fast process to residence. It simply makes sense. Think about it, when college educated individuals get jobs in the U.S., they effectively enter the middle class, pay taxes, and contribute to society – it follows that they should also have a quick and reliable path to legal residence. Not a lottery system for visas and a residence process with interminable long waiting periods.
Ways to Fix the Backlog?
One idea floating around is an amendment to the Registry Law. This idea was first noted by David Bier, from the Cato Institute. This Registry Law currently states that any individual who can prove they were present in the USA since January 1972, is eligible for a green card. The new proposal would amend Registry so that the active date will be 2011. This law would include individuals who are on the H1B program who would qualify based upon physical presence since 2011. While this proposal does not address the country specific backlog it is a way to amend a law that we have today and allow individuals who are both in-status and those without status to reap a huge benefit. From a political viewpoint this might be enticing for different members of Congress who want to appeal to different groups. The overall appeal is that it would be a quick political fix since it is a small amendment to an existing statute.
The Reconciliation Bill is coming for a vote on September 27, 2021. This bill has specific rules attached to it such that it has a very high chance of being passed by both the House and the Senate. Today several immigration plans have been floated as potential new laws to be included in the Reconciliation Bill – the Fairness in High Skilled Immigration Act from 2020 has been discussed along with a general amnesty and the Registry amendment. While there are many possibilities it is crucial that you act by getting on the phone, so you can talk to your Representatives in Congress to explain your support for changes to legal immigration.
In Congress they have aides assigned to answer the phone so that they can track topics and provide information on what people in the district are thinking. The point is that it works to call your Representative and Senator to tell them what you think. It gives them an understanding of what people are thinking and influences how they vote. Keep it short, make a good point and let them know that you want a change to the legal path to residence. Find the number to contact your Senator or Representative at the websites listed below.
Bier, David J. “Reforming the Immigration System: A Brief Outline .” Cato.org, CATO Institute, 11 Nov. 2020, www.cato.org/study/reforming-immigration-system-brief-outline.
McEntee , Chris. “STEM Supports 67% of U.S. Jobs.” Eos, AGU News , 28 Jan. 2020, eos.org/agu-news/stem-supports-67-of-u-s-jobs.
Table 1.11 Employment in STEM occupations, 2020 and projected 2030. (n.d.). [Table]. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/stem-employment.htm
Author: Sumeet Lall, Esq.Editor: Marisa Chavez