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What other newspapers are saying: Recapturing unused green cards will aid legal immigration – Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Dec 31, 2021
Ever since she was a high school junior, Manasvi Perisetty knew she wanted to be a computer engineer. So when her acceptance letter came last month from University of Texas’ Cockrell School of Engineering, Manasvi should’ve been ecstatic. Instead, her anxiety stirred. Her family’s pending green card application means she might be forced to move back to India before graduating college.
Manasvi, 18, and her 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 out of her parents’ application and will be forced to self-deport to India.
“I grew up here, this is my home, I’m very much 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 waiting for an employment-based green card, with some Indians facing a waiting period of up to 84 years. Around a quarter of those applicants are “documented dreamers” such as Manasvi, dependents of visa holders who eventually will age out of their place in line. For every new green card made available, two petitions are added to the line. By 2030, the already insurmountable backlog is expected to double.
Immigration law allows 140,000 employment-based green cards every year — spouses and children count against the cap — but only 7 percent of those can go to individuals from a single country annually. If the number of people sponsored from a single country is greater than 7 percent annually, they are placed in the backlog and not considered until a visa becomes available.
There is no good reason why these caps remain in place. The limits are arbitrary and inherently unfair — a vestige of an immigration system that historically gave preference to European migrants — with no regard for the size of country or demand for visas. A Norwegian national, for instance, will wait a much shorter period for a green card than the 74,000 Indian and 23,000 Chinese individuals mired in immigration purgatory.
In a perfect world, a wholesale revamp of our immigration laws would include aligning the federal supply of green cards with the demand for permanent residency among temporary workers. Getting rid of per-country immigration caps for employment-based visas would break the logjam of applicants, to the great benefit of our national economy. Alas, while such bills exist, there is virtually no momentum for a bipartisan grand bargain to move these policies forward.
A more politically feasible solution would be for Congress to simply recirculate old permission slips. In some years, the number of green cards issued in family- and employment-based visa categories fell below the per-country caps. A provision of the U.S. Citizenship Act, a comprehensive reform bill proposed by President Biden on his first day of office, would “recapture” nearly 1 million of these unused family- and employment-based green cards dating back to 1992 and make them immediately available to individuals in the backlog. The Niskanen Center estimates that passing that provision alone would contribute $815 billion to the national gross domestic product over the next decade.
Green card recapture has historically attracted Republican votes — the first successful green card recapture was a Republican-sponsored bill — with even John Cornyn, Texas’ senior senator, indicating months ago that he’d support a standalone bill. U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, a North Carolina Republican, introduced a bill in September that would recapture a smaller number of unused visas from 2020 through 2021, opening a potential pathway for compromise legislation with Democrats.
Recapturing old green cards is hardly a panacea for legal immigration. The backlog will still exist, and per country caps will remain in place until Congress decides to do something about them. But it would be a tremendous help for the thousands of immigrants who have built a life here, paying taxes and contributing to the economy despite having limited upward mobility in the workforce and few labor rights. These individuals have gone through the system the right way and filed their petitions for permanent residency, only to become casualties of Congress’ decades-long failure to overhaul our immigration system. It’s time we did right by them.
— Houston Chronicle
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