Issue in Focus
Mar 01 2019
Ashish Patel first came to Utah legally in 2005 on a temporary high-skilled work visa. Since that time Mr. Patel worked hard at his job, paid taxes, followed the law, got married, and had two kids, both of whom were born American citizens.
In February 2011, Mr. Patel’s petition to earn a Green Card, the legal document that gives an immigrant the right to live and work in the United States permanently, was approved. If Mr. Patel was from any country in the world other than India, or China, he would already have his Green Card today.
But current immigration law caps the number of visas that can be given to immigrants from any given country at 7% of the total number of visas awarded for any given year. This means that immigrants from countries with large populations, like Mr. Patel, have to wait over ten years for their visas to be approved – even though in the vast majority of cases they are already living and working in the United States.
While these immigrants are patiently waiting for the per-country backlog to clear so they can earn permanent residence, they are severely limited in their ability change jobs. They can’t threaten to quit if they are not being paid well and they can’t leave to start their own business if they have an innovative new idea that can create new jobs and wealth.
The status quo is simply unfair to these immigrants in limbo. It depresses wages for everyone by tying immigrants to employers and it hurts job creation by preventing immigrants from starting their own businesses.
The system needs reform.
That is why I have teamed up with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) to introduce the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. Without increasing the number of employment-based visas, this bill would create an even playing field for high skilled immigrants and U.S. employers by eliminating the per-country caps. This means that immigrants will receive green cards on a “first-come, first-serve” basis, rather than having their wait times depend on their country of origin.
Immigration is often a contentious issue, but we should not delay progress in areas where there is bipartisan consensus just because we have differences in other areas. There is a clear consensus that immigrants should not be penalized due to their country of origin. Treating people fairly and equally is part of our founding creed and the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act reflects that belief.