Eliminating Per-Country Caps Would Be a Disaster

Photographs of the Capitol Dome and its Surrounding Grounds taken in January and early February of 2007

Despite Congress being unable to reach agreement on any number of issues related to our flawed immigration system, one immigration bill has somehow found widespread bipartisan support in both the Senate and House – the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044, S. 386). That is not good news because if it were signed into law, this bill would fundamentally alter our legal immigration system.

Our country faces an unprecedented humanitarian and security crisis raging at our southern border. Rather than focusing their efforts on remedying this catastrophe, Congress is fast tracking legislation to eliminate per-country caps for employment-based immigrant visas.

Contrary to its name, The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is anything but fair. Currently, no country’s nationals can comprise more than 7 percent of any visa category. These caps lead to diversity in employment-based immigration, which reflects the long standing American priority of welcoming talented immigrants from across the globe.

If this bill passes, nationals from other countries need not bother applying for employment-based visas. They would be completely shut out from the process due to the overwhelming number of Indian and Chinese petitions. These two countries would monopolize an entire immigration category. How would this happen?

Employment-based immigrant visas are limited and currently subject to per-country caps. There is presently an enormous backlog for Indian and Chinese employment-based visas. In FY 2018, the State Department found that Chinese and Indian applicants accounted for 68 percent of the employment-based visa waiting list.

Because of the sheer number of total immigrant visa applicants (including chain migration visas) from both countries, nationals from both countries must wait many years before receiving an employment visa because of the 7 percent per-country cap. Indians applying for an EB-3 visa could face waiting periods of 20 years.

Under H.R. 1044, Indians and Chinese nationals applying for employment visas would not face caps. Before, nationals from other countries could receive employment visas because no country could fill more than 7 percent of any employment visa category. H.R. 1044 would erase that boundary, thereby allowing the hundreds of thousands of applicants from India and China to dominate the employment categories, shouldering out applicants from other countries.

This bill would profoundly change legal immigration to the United States for generations to come; and few, if any, individuals from countries other than India or China would be able to immigrate to the United States on an employment-based visa. Our immigration system is not designed to benefit only one or two countries.

Lastly, and perhaps most alarming, this bill rewards tech and foreign outsourcing companies that replaced American workers with hundreds of thousands of low cost, less skilled H-1B guest workers. That is a slap in the face to victims of flawed guest worker programs like H-1B — American mothers, fathers, and breadwinners who lost their livelihoods to cheaper foreign replacements and outsourcing.

This bill may boast bipartisan support, but that alone does not make it a good bill. The effort to pass it is fueled by hundreds of lobbyists and corporate support masks the fact that it will harm American interests and profoundly change employment-based immigration. It is remarkable that Congress is focusing its energy on this unurgent matter instead of addressing the more pressing concerns at our southwest border.

Instead of bowing to the interests of foreign governments and multinational corporate interests, our legislators should firmly reject this proposal and focus their attention on actually reforming our legal immigration system by adopting a merit-based points system open to nationals from more than just India and China.