Ever since she was in high school, Manasvi Perisetty knew she wanted to be a computer engineer. So when her acceptance letter arrived last month from the University of Texas Cockrell School of Engineering, Manasvi should have been elated. Instead, his anxiety arose. Her family’s pending green card application means she could be forced to return to India before graduating from college.
18-year-old Manasvi and his family are still waiting for a green card that would allow them to live and work here permanently. Manasvi is allowed to stay in the country as part of her parents ‘visa application, but on her 21st birthday she will age off at her parents’ request and be forced to self-deport to India.
“I grew up here, it’s my home, I’m as American as everyone else”, Manasvi said.
Skilled Indian workers such as Manasvi’s father, an engineer at Intel, currently make up 75 percent of the roughly 1.2 million immigrants awaiting an employment-based green card, with some Indians facing a period of hardship. wait of up to 84 years. About a quarter of these applicants are “Documented dreamers” like Manasvi, dependents of visa holders who will eventually age out of their place in the queue. For each new green card made available, two petitions are added to the queue. By 2030, the already insurmountable backlog is expected to double.
Immigration law allows 140,000 employment-based green cards each year – spouses and children count towards the cap – but only 7% of these can be awarded to people of one country every year. If the number of sponsored people from a single country is more than 7% per year, they are placed in the backlog and are not considered until a visa is available.
There is no good reason for these caps to stay in place. The boundaries are arbitrary and inherently unfair – a holdover from an immigration system that has historically favored European migrants – regardless of the size of the country or the demand for visas. A Norwegian national, for example, will wait a much shorter period for a green card than the 74,000 Indians and 23,000 Chinese mired in immigration purgatory.
In a perfect world, a complete overhaul of our immigration laws would include aligning the federal supply of green cards with the demand for permanent residence among temporary workers. Removing country-specific immigration ceilings for employment-based visas would break the applicant deadlock, to the great benefit of our national economy. Alas, although such bills exist, there is virtually no momentum for a grand bipartisan deal to move these policies forward.
A more politically feasible solution would be for Congress to simply redistribute the old clearance slips. In some years, the number of green cards issued in the family and professional visa categories fell below the caps per country. A provision of the United States Citizenship Act, a comprehensive reform bill proposed by President Biden on his first day in office, “reprise” nearly 1 million of these unused family and business green cards dating from 1992 and making them immediately available to people on standby. The Niskanen Center estimates that adopting this provision alone would contribute $ 815 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next decade.
The green card clawback has historically drawn votes from Republicans – the first successful green card clawback was a Republican-sponsored bill – with even senior senator from Texas John Cornyn indicating months ago that he would support a stand-alone bill. U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican from North Carolina, introduced a bill in September that would collect a smaller number of unused visas from 2020 to 2021, opening a potential path for compromise legislation with the Democrats.
Finding the old green cards is hardly a panacea for legal immigration. The backlog will still exist and the country caps will remain in place until Congress decides to do something about them. But it would be of great help to the thousands of immigrants who have built their lives here, paying taxes and contributing to the economy despite limited upward mobility in the workforce and few labor rights. These people have gone through the system the right way and applied for permanent residence, only to fall victim to the decades-long failure of Congress to overhaul our immigration system. It is time we got the better of them.
– Chronicle of Houston