Green cards targeted in US senators ’ bill to halve legal immigration


Washington: Two US senators have proposed a legislation to cut the number of legal immigrants to the US by half within a decade, a move that could adversely hit those aspiring to get a green card or permanent residency in the US, including a large number of Indians.

The Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE Act, introduced by Republican senator Tom Cotton and David Perdue from the Democratic Party, seeks to alter the US immigration system to significantly reduce the number of foreigners admitted into the country without a skills-based visa.

The bill proposes to reduce the number of green cards, or permanent residencies issued every year, from about a million currently to half a million within a decade.

The passage of the legislation, which is said to have the support of the Donald Trump administration, will have a major impact on hundreds and thousands of Indian Americans, who are currently waiting to get their green cards on employment-based categories.

The current waiting period for an Indian to get a green card varies between 10 years and 35 years and this wait could increase if the proposed bill becomes a law.

The bill does not focus on H-1B visas.

Cotton argued the growth in legal immigration in recent decades has led to a “sharp decline in wages for working Americans” and that the bill represented an effort to move the US “to a more merit-based system like Canada and Australia”.

“It’s time our immigration system started working for American workers,” said Cotton.

“The RAISE Act would promote higher wages on which all working Americans can build a future—whether your family came over here on the Mayflower or you just took the oath of citizenship,” Cotton added.

The RAISE Act would lower the overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its tenth year, a 50% reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.

“We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system,” Perdue said.

“Returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages,” he added.

The RAISE Act, among other things, will retain immigration preferences for spouses and minor children of US citizens and legal permanent residents while eliminating preferences for certain categories of extended and adult family members. It also proposes to eliminate the diversity visa lottery.

“The diversity lottery is plagued with fraud, advances no economic or humanitarian interest, and does not even deliver the diversity of its namesake. The RAISE Act would eliminate the 50,000 visas arbitrarily allocated to this lottery,” the legislation said.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa Program (DV Program) makes up to 50,000 immigrant visas available annually, drawn from a random selection among all entries to individuals who are from countries with low rates of immigration to the US.

The legislation also proposes to place responsible limits on permanent residency for refugees.

It seeks to limit refugees offered permanent residency to 50,000 per year, in line with a 13-year average.