If you ask the average American – regardless of political views – whether the United States should be prioritizing Big Tech and its foreign workers at a time when 11 million Americans are unemployed, the reactions would most likely be a mix of bewilderment and anger. “What?! Why?! That makes no sense!” Unfortunately, in the Bizarro World of Washington, D.C., politicians all too often seem to see things very differently and have their priorities backwards. That applies to immigration as much as almost any other issue. A case in point is the recent passage by unanimous consent (in the middle on unrelated floor remarks) of legislation scrapping per-country caps for employment-based green cards.
The bill in question – S. 386, the so-called “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 – was originally sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) in February 2019. It has since gained many cosponsors from both parties, including Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), showing that while our politicians may disagree on many issues, there is often a bipartisan consensus among the political elite when it comes to benefits for special interests and foreign nationals at the expense of ordinary Americans.
The bill was being blocked by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who eventually agreed to lift the hold in exchange for two provisions that do not tackle the heart of the problem. When it was sent back to the House, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) expressed her disapproval of the additions, which means that she and Lee are at an impasse. House and Senate leaders will now have to reach a compromise on their differences. The final nod to the bill has to come from President Donald Trump. So far, the White House has not indicated whether the president will sign or veto the bill.
S. 386 eliminates the 7 percent annual per-country caps for employment-based green cards while raising the per-country cap for family-based visas from 7 to 15 percent. There are other, equally bad provisions in the bill – which Jessica M. Vaughan from the Center for Immigration Studies analyzes in detail – but the bottom line is that the legislation would, in practice, allow Indian nationals to monopolize employment-based green cards for the foreseeable future.
The proponents of S. 386 justify this by claiming that our immigration system is supposedly unfair. For instance, Sen. Lee has asserted the U.S. country-cap-based arrangement that “rigid, arbitrary, antiquated, outdated,” and that the legislation he has been so vigorously pushing “lives up to our founding principles by ending nationality discrimination in our nation’s employment-based green card system.”
The reality is that per-country caps are a key feature of the immigration system created by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which ended policies favoring immigration from Northern and Western Europe and replaced them with the principle of equal treatment for all nationalities. Indian nationals are thus subject to the same 7 percent quota as the citizens of any other country.
While it is true that the Indian employment-based visa backlog is large and exceeds that of any other country, and the waiting times are often extremely long, this does not constitute “nationality discrimination.” Rather, it is a direct result of India’s huge population (1.4 billion) combined with the addiction of Big Tech and other sectors of the U.S. economy on foreign guestworkers, including H-1Bs (whom “dual intent” allows to eventually apply for employment-based green cards).
Perhaps, rather than bending over backwards to accommodate and take care of foreign nationals and special interests, our politicians should consider prioritizing Americans, i.e. the people that they are supposed to serve? Rather than a “fairness” for foreign workers act, what Congress should be doing is reforming our broken and abused guestworker programs, which have become a cheap labor subsidy that allow rich and powerful corporations to become even richer and more powerful. Time for real fairness for American workers for a change!