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Green Card Backlogs, Per country Limits and bill H.R.392

The Employment  based (EB) green card system is completely broken due to excessive delays and backlogs of processing petitions of nearly 1.5 million highly skilled workers (plus their families) who are certified by US Government to be doing jobs that no US citizen or green card-holder is willing, qualified or able to do. The delays in obtained permanent residency are primarily due to single reasons - Per-country caps on employment-based green cards.

As the result of these Per-country limits on Employment-Based green cards, today, the system takes anywhere between 50-70 years to process Employment-Based green card petition to some of the best and brightest of the world who have chosen America as their home. 

These future Americans are facing significant quality of life issues and their employers are facing difficulty in attracting more of the best and brightest of the world due to the broken system. The system prevents these highly-skilled workers from accepting promotions and switching jobs/employers for the time-period it takes to process their green card petition. By stagnating career growth and suffocating the creativity of the most innovative and technical minds of the world, America is creating a class of future Americans, who would see no career growth for 50-70 years and making under-achievers of these high-skilled individuals. And it is common knowledge that each of these adult immigrant workers will be 6 feet under in 70 years.

Under the current system, there is no Per country limits to any of the non-immigrant visas like H-1B, L-1, J-1 etc., which are all feeder system into Employment Based green card system. However, there is a 7% per-country limit on the Employment-Based green card system. With time, in last 20 years, employers tend to bring more workers from India, China, Philippines and Mexico, so there is a huge EB backlog for immigrants from these countries. Additionally, unused visas from the remaining countries that don’t use the 7% allocated visas are mostly never allotted to these 4 countries that offer highest number of skilled workers, scientists, engineers and doctors willing to make America their future home. It is discriminatory to have laws that subject immigrants from 4 nations to more backlogs and the resulting hardship from such backlogs. And as the result, today, around 1.5 million high-skilled immigrants and their families are waiting in green card backlog that spans 70 years. And while an immigrant employee is waiting for the green card, they are not allowed to change jobs, which is indentured servitude mandated by law. When immigrants are stuck with the same employer for 70 years, unwillingly and unknowingly they are bound to depress wages because the system created and preserved by Congress ensures that immigrant workers have no leverage.

The backlog is so long that imagine someone who is not even born yet in another country, whose parents have not even met, they will one day meet, get married, then conceive that child, that child will grow up, go to school, will one day graduate from College and let's say that child decides to come to the US and applies for a green card. That child who is not yet conceived will receive a green card before people waiting in green card backlog today.

And this legalized form of indentured servitude for people in green card backlogs incentivizes companies to hire more people from India. The companies know that if they hire from India, then that person is no longer a worker, but rather, that person is a property of that company for rest of the life of that person. Consider a French company - Capgemini. One would think that given a higher unemployment rate in France that a company like Capgemini would want to hire French "skilled workers". But no. Like every other tech or outsourcing company, Capgemini wants to hire Indian "skilled workers" in large numbers. You can easily find out that although the largest number of workers in all tech companies is Americans, but is also a fact that immigrants from Indian make the 2nd largest number of workers in all of the large tech companies. The only logical and scientific conclusion could be that "Indians" are smarter or better than everyone else on the planet. But we all know that is not true. No residents of any country or race are better than anyone - and that is the universal truth. The real reason why all sorts of companies want to hire more workers from India is - these companies know that once they have hire workers from India, they will "own" these Indian workers because of the 70-year green card backlog. And it all comes down to Per country limits on the Employment-Based system. Often folks on blogosphere tend to attack immigrant workers for their accent, or that they have fewer skills etc. The thing is, these immigrant workers are not the enemy or the aggressor, but they are as much the victims of the system created and preserved by Congress on behalf of tech companies. A system which ensures that specific immigrant workers have fewer rights so it is very difficult for these employees to change jobs allowing employers to exploit them and take advantage of them. But the thing is, in a society in which some people have fewer rights, those with more rights are put at disadvantage in the marketplace or when applying for jobs.

Adam Smith in his book 'The Wealth of Nations" said that in a room full of people, if some people are "less equal" than others, that means no one is equal to anyone else. Likewise, extrapolate that to the economy of 110 million people in which if 1.5 million immigrants are "less equal" (meaning have fewer rights) than everyone else, it means no one is equal in the larger marketplace of 110 million people. And now we have a marketplace where workers with fewer rights are exploited. But workers with more rights are discriminated against and they will not land a job, or, will be gradually replaced by workers with fewer rights. And that is at the core of the whole issue and the real reason for instances like Disney, Southern California Edison, and GE etc. Equal rights and equality are not just some nebulous concepts. It is very much visible in the context of immigration.

Outsourcing: Why are outsourcing companies only from India? How many people are required for an outsourcing company? Say, 10,000 or 25,000 or even 50,000 or 100,000 skilled + semi-skilled workers. You can go to any large city in the world today and you can find those workers. You can find these workers willing to take outsourced jobs in Santiago, Chile or Johannesburg, South Africa or Bangkok, Thailand. But then, why do we not have outsourcing companies from Chile, South Africa or Thailand? Why only India? Here is the real reason - for the outsourcing company, it is very important to bring in the small number of employees to the client site to gather the requirements and have the majority of the employees back home in the mother-ship. But the key is to lower the cost for outsourcing business is to have a lower cost for the small set of employees who come to the client site (in this case to America on H-1B or L-1 visas). To lower the cost for these employees in America, outsourcing companies have to ensure a way that they can get away with paying lower wages to these employees and to ensure that these employees are unable to change employer because replenishing new workers from mother-ship is costly. If these employees would be from Chile or Thailand, they can join another employer who will file their green card and they will get it in 1-2 years. However, because these employees are born in India, they know that they will not get a green card for long long time. So they accept exploitation and cycle of outsourcing company as a normal business.

Now, imagine a system without Per-country limits on the Employment-Based green cards. In such a system, no immigrant's green card petition is given preferential treatment, all applicants will be treated equally, regardless of which country they are born. All immigrants in Employment based category will be waiting equally for 3-4 years as per the data made available by the State Department. This will be a system in which employers no longer have an incentive to hire workers from India over workers from other parts of the world, creating more diversity in the workforce. Such a system won't force immigrants to work for the same employer, but rather let immigrants live up to their full potential to change jobs or start a business which will create more jobs in America. Such a system will take away the wrong incentive from bad employers to hire immigrant workers over US workers, such a system will also ensure that employers don't have a wrong reason to hire workers from India over other parts of the world. Such a system will ensure that if required, employers will hire skilled-workers not just from India, but would rather hire from all across the world. AND, because companies will no longer have wrong incentive to hire workers from India, they will no longer be able to replace native workers with immigrant workers from India. And outsourcing companies from India will no longer be able to use the green card backlogs to gain competitive advantage.

The pressure on backlogged skilled immigrants to go back to their home countries are increasingly each day as many world economies, especially India and China are booming and they also happen to be the country of origin of more than half of these skilled foreign-born workforce. If America delays reform of the broken system of employment based immigration, the pressure on these individuals to go back would neutralize the incentive to wait here and tough it out with the broken system. It would result in a reverse brain drain where the talent and human capital flows from developed west to the burgeoning Asian economies. The reverse brain drain would exacerbate the effects of overseas outsourcing on economy. These future Americans have waited for reform for more than 12 years but Congress hasn't reformed the system yet. The fight for the best and brightest in the world is America’s to lose.   

America has had per-country ceilings since decades on family based and diversity-lottery based visas and it makes sense to have uniform distribution of visas to countries where the basis for immigration is family relationship and family reunification. However, in the employment based immigration system, the petitioner is the employer who wants the retain the employee and facilitate employee retention based on skills, knowledge, education and talent. Employability has nothing to do country of birth. We do not allow employers to discriminate hiring based on their nationality or country of origin. Therefore, the employment-based immigration, which is a derivative benefit of employment, should also be free from rationing based on nationality or country of birth.

Therefore, bill H.R.392, The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, Congressman Kevin Yoder's [KS-03] bill will make minor technical change to the system by eliminating Per country limits in 3 year step-down process whereby bad employers will no longer have wrong/bad incentive to hire the immigrant workers over American workers so change the system so it works in the best interest of America, Americans, and the immigrants.


The Organization

Immigration Voice is a non-profit organization (501 (c) (4)) . We act as an interface between this set of immigrants and the legislative and executive branches of the government.

Immigration Voice has hired Patton Boggs, a top public affairs firm, to help us reach our goals. Patton Boggs brings a bipartisan, multi-disciplinary approach to helping clients tackle public affairs challenges. The firm’s government relations and communications professionals have a strong understanding of the White House, the U.S. Congress, Senate, Federal agencies, advocacy groups and the media. The firm and its members are consistently recognized as among Washington's most influential and effective by various publications. 

Immigration Voice is a non-profit organization. All of our volunteers are unpaid. All monies collected by Immigration Voice go towards grassroots efforts and obtaining advice from our strategic counsel Patton Boggs. As a 501(c)(4) organization, Immigration Voice is obligated to file tax returns with the IRS and have its accounts audited by a CPA.

Immigration Voice upholds the right of the people of the United States to impose immigration laws for the advancement of the nation. Immigration Voice acts within the framework of the constitution of the United States.

Our big initiative currently is towards addressing delays and other flaws in the employment based green card process. Immigration Voice has hired Patton Boggs, a top public affairs firm, to help us reach our goals.


Mission Statement

When untethered from employers, high-skilled legal immigrants strengthen the United States' economy and help maintain American technological superiority. The mission of Immigration Voice is to organize grassroots efforts and resources to solve several problems in the employment based green card process to prevent immigrants from being treated as indentured servants so bad employers cannot use immigrants with fewer rights to replace American workers. For this purpose, our mission is to (a) Eliminate per country limits in Employment-Based green cards system (b) advocate changes to the immigration system so immigrants can change jobs and employers, or, start companies so immigrants can live up to their full potential by getting green cards or while waiting for adjudication of green card petition.


History of the formation of Immigration Voice

Immigration Voice was founded by a group of volunteers who were closely following the Senate debate in November of 2005 that aimed to provide relief from green card delays. Those reform provisions failed in the House-Senate conference in December. It was a huge disappointment for nearly 500,000 legal skilled immigrants stuck in backlogs. During this time, Aman Kapoor (aka WaldenPond)  an active poster at the forums announced a conference call to start this non-profit organization with the objective to end retrogression by creating representation for the community that had no representation. After an initial lukewarm response, few other active posters joined the team. Thus was born Immigration Voice.



Immigration Voice contributions to the debate

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Immigration Voice Position on H-1B and L-1 Visas

Each one of us have heard a lot of people say that “We are a nation of immigrants”. But no matter what our personal belief is, we all acknowledge that immigration is a complicated and difficult subject. We believe that there is very important distinction between “pro-immigration” and “pro-immigrant”. Immigration Voice is a “pro-immigrant” organization i.e. our goal is that immigrants to be treated fairly, immigrants have certain basic rights, so we are not exploited by employers, lawyers and other institutions, which also help to prevent depressing wages or displacement of US workers. We will not (never have) advocate to bring in more new immigrants from outside of United States in the current flawed system. Rather, we want that when immigrants come here (or when immigrants are brought here), that they have certain basic rights, which allows them pursuit of their happiness, without interfering with the working conditions of US workers.

Although the two words sound similar, “Pro immigrant” is significantly different from “pro-immigration”. “Pro-immigration” means when someone wants to bring in more immigrants from outside of the United States. “Pro-immigrant” means to make sure that immigrants are treated fairly and they have certain basic rights so employers are unable to exploit them. To put things in perspective, here is what we have observed: 1.) Immigration Lawyers are “pro-immigration” because they want more new immigrants to be brought into United States. New immigrants coming into US means more business for them. So their position is self-serving.

 

And generally, Immigration Lawyers are “anti-immigrants” because they don’t want skilled immigrants to get certain basic rights, including right to their own paperwork, We think that Immigration Lawyers believe that if immigrants have more control over the process, then less employers will be incentivized to hire more immigrants, which will result in reduced business for immigration lawyers. For long time, Immigration Lawyers have given a blind eye to the exploitation and abuse of immigrants by their employers.

 

So Immigration Lawyers are “pro-Immigration” but “anti-immigrant”. But when Immigration Lawyers go to Congress, they pretend as if they speak for and on behalf of “immigrants”, which is not the case, because they only speak for themselves.

 

Immigration Lawyers and their organizations push for more complicated laws and regulations to make sure that everyone who has anything to do with immigration are forced to hire lawyers. That is the primary goal of the lobbying by immigration lawyers.

 

2.) Immigration Voice is a “pro-immigrant” organization. We want immigrants to have certain rights including the ability to change employer with as much ease as everyone else in the system, so immigrant or perspective employees are not held captives to their employers.

 

Immigration Voice is a “pro-immigration” organization for a system which is “pro-immigrant” and “pro-US workers”. We have always held that new immigrants should not be brought into the current flawed system because the current system of H-1B and L-1 visa system makes immigrant employees captives of their employers, allowing exploitation of immigrants, who come here to seek freedom and start a new life. This also leads to wage depression and displacement of Americans, which is widely documented. Some examples are – Disney, Southern California etc.

 

A system which is not “pro-immigrant” and that bring in more new immigrants will end up hurting America, Americans, and the new immigrants. That system may work great for handful of employers and immigration lawyers (as is the case right now). But in the long run, such a system, is doomed to fail because it is unnatural and it defies laws of nature.

 

3.) Companies usually create front groups in Washington to push for their skilled immigration agenda. They usually hire big name professors to do “research” and “studies” that have predetermined outcome. These studies are all paid-for and used by front group of companies to lobby and push for their agenda.

 

Companies want more workers and they use bumper sticker slogans like “if you oppose H-1B/L-1 visa then you are against immigrants”, “H-1B/L-1 immigrants come in and create jobs”, “if you oppose H-1B/L1 visa then you don’t want the next entrepreneur to come and create companies” etc. All of which are mostly non-sense because immigrants on H-1B/L-1 visa cannot change jobs. 99.9% of H-1B/L-1 visa holders are unable to start their own business. Almost all of the business started by immigrants are after they get green cards. But companies distort facts about the businesses started by immigrants to push for their H-1B/L-1 agenda.

 

Companies have deep pockets. They do fundraisers to line the pocket of lawmakers in some way or the other. In some cases, to influence policy making, companies offer jobs to sons/daughters/close relatives of lawmakers. The whole purpose is to ensure that laws/policies cannot be changed to somehow allow skilled immigrants to slip away from their grip. Companies push for regulations to deny their own employees companies of their own paper work file because as per the current system, immigrants require copies of their own paperwork file to change employers.

 

Companies push for laws that will add workers in the system on the pretext that they can’t find more workers here. In essence, companies want to increase immigration, but they don’t want immigrants to get certain basic rights. This is applicable to both, large US tech companies. Companies and Indian outsourcing companies.

 

Inference Immigration Voice is a largest non-profit grassroots organization of skilled immigrants on H-1B and L-1 visa in United States. We are fiercely opposed to the current H-1B visa program and L-1 visa program because it causes exploitation of skilled immigrants and displacement of US workers. Living in the trenches we know all too well how the system is abused by employers and immigration lawyers to exploit immigrants. Usually, immigration lawyers not only give immigration advice to employers, but immigration lawyers give business advice to companies on how to use immigrant employee’s immigration status as long term employee retention insurance policy. The whole system is stacked against immigrant employee and US workers. To make it simple to understand who stands where on the overall immigration, here is table that breaks down different positions.

 

 

National Advisory Board

Neil Patel Neil Patel
Former Domestic & Economic Policy Advisor to VP
Robert Hoffman Robert Hoffman
Senior Vice President of ITI
Ilya Shapiro Ilya Shapiro
Senior Fellow in Constitutional Studies, CATO Institute

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