The 2007 Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill, being touted as a “Grand Bargain”, ostensibly claims to reward merit. However, high-skilled workers who would supposedly benefit from the bill dispute such characterizations. After analyzing the fine-print of the Bill, the Core group members of Immigration Voice shared their views at a recent nationwide conference call. They represent the interests of half-a-million legal high-skilled immigrants whose Green Card applications are stuck in the quagmire of processing backlogs. Immigration Voice released a Position Paper during this event and believes the truth is hidden ‘under the spin’.

Immigration Voice, a non-profit organization, has over 12,000 members, drawn from various facets of the industry, including Medicine, Information Technology, Consulting in the Banking and Finance sector, Research and Teaching at the University level.

“In a ‘Nation of Laws’, one would expect that the Bill would reward, or at least treat fairly those who play by the rules and abide by the Law. It has actually done the very opposite.” says Immigration Voice President, Aman Kapoor.

The annual quota for legal skilled immigrants is minuscule compared to undocumented immigrants: Jay Pradhan, a Computer Programmer says, “The annual Green Card quota available to undocumented immigrants under the proposed Z visa would be approximately 2.2 million per year for the first 5 years. Compare this to the current legal, employment-based Green Card system that faces backlogs of 5-6 years – not including the various processing delays. The annual quota of 140,000 Green Cards for legal skilled immigrants has been reduced to 90,000 instead of being increased. One wonders who the so-called ‘Comprehensive’ Bill benefits? Certainly not the legal high- skilled workers, who have worked so hard and followed all Laws of this country.”

Existing backlogs exacerbated by lowering the numerical cap for legal skilled immigrants instead of raising it and diverting those visas to the future guest-worker program: Naren Baliga, who works for a German Software Multinational and holds a US Masters in Engineering, says, “Half a million high-skilled workers and their families have been in the queue patiently awaiting their turn for 5-6 years. The bill not only cannibalizes from the already limited quota by reducing the annual cap but also diverts a large portion of these annual visas to Y visa holders under the proposed Guest Worker Program and also to an untested, untried merit-based points system. Y Visa holders benefit at the expense of high-skilled, legal workers waiting for their Green Cards to be approved for several years.”

The proposed merit-based points system puts undocumented immigrants ahead of the legal skilled graduate degree holders in the queue for available Green Cards. “The proposed merit-based points system is flawed. It awards more points for the illegal presence and low skills and, less points to legal, skilled immigrants. For example, a previously undocumented Z visa worker can score 21 points with 3 years of agriculture experience while a legal skilled immigrant with an MBA, MD or Graduate degree scores 20 points for education. The points system is poorly designed and unbalanced. Additionally, several high-skilled workers are waiting for their Green Cards to be approved, and transitioning to a new points-based system would mean that they lose their spot in the queue,” laments Himanshu, an Advertising and Design professional who has a Masters Degree from a US University.

No country-limits for the undocumented, but, country-limits for legal high-skilled: “By Law, there can be no discrimination based on country of origin, when hiring an employee. Jobs go to the most qualified person, regardless of origin. But, when it comes to retaining high-skilled people in this country – there is a per-country limit. But, the limit applies only if one is a legal, high-skilled worker. Per the bill, no per-country ceiling exists for undocumented workers (Z visa holders) when applying for Green cards,” says Alok Sharma, a physician. Dr.Sharma has seen physicians from other countries get their Green Cards in a year or less, while he, a citizen of India, may not be able to get one for several years, even with an approved Immigration petition due to the huge backlogs.

“The current immigration bill provides no genuine relief to high-skilled workers at all. Is this how a ‘nation of laws’ treats those who follow the Law?” ask all of them pensively.

Immigration Voice is a non-profit national grassroots organization committed to feasible solutions to a broken employment-based immigration process. Immigration Voice is advocating for technical changes that will improve the quality of life of several individuals that are stuck in the backlogs/delays, and help the system to work as it was intended.

Aman Kapoor
Immigration Voice