House Judiciary Committee Advances FAIR-Opposed Per Country Caps Bill
FAIR Take | April 2022
The House Judiciary Committee advanced the “EAGLE Act” (H.R. 3648) last week, a FAIR-opposed bill that would eliminate the per-country caps for employment-based visas and raise the per-country caps for family-sponsored visas. The committee vote was 22-14, with no Democrats opposing the bill and no Republicans supporting it.
The bill tracks closely to the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act,” which FAIR opposed in the previous Congress, while some Republicans supported it. Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced a slightly tweaked, rebranded bill in the 117th Congress as the “Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act.”
Per-country caps are an essential feature of our immigration system. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1965 replaced the national-origins quota system – which favored immigration from Northern and Western European nations – with per-country caps.
On an annual basis, the INA allocates 140,000 visas for five employment-based categories. It also limits each country to an annual cap of 7 percent of all employment-based admissions. In practice, applicants from oversubscribed countries receive more visas than the per-country caps allow because they annually receive employment visas unused by other countries. However, no country is entitled to a given number of green cards.
The rationale behind country caps is clear and reflects the spirit of the INA of 1965. After all, one of its main objectives was to ensure that no country, or a small number of countries, is able to monopolize the immigration flow into the United States. Scrapping employment-based per-country caps therefore would undermine a key pillar of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.
Eliminating employment-based country caps is step in the wrong direction. If it becomes law, the EAGLE Act would further accelerate the displacement of American tech workers and deepen the tech industry’s harmful addiction to cheap foreign labor. It would thus undermine the benefits of a tightening labor market for American workers.
Furthermore, the proposal is deeply unfair to visa applicants outside of India and China, where most of the applicants for tech jobs originate. Currently, the citizens of those two Asian nations – Indians in particular – must contend with a large visa backlog, which is primarily the result of their huge populations (approximately 1.4 billion each). As a result, if Congress eliminates per-country caps, Indian and Chinese nationals will monopolize available employment-based visas for many years to come, thereby discriminating against the citizens of other countries.
The answer to the long waiting lists is not to scrap per-country caps or to dispense with the numerical limits. Both of these changes would only preserve and reward the practice of replacing U.S. workers with “temporary” workers from abroad, as many of these immigrant visa applicants are H-1B guest workers adjusting their status to pursue citizenship. Instead, Congress should scrap the current employment green card system and replace it with a merit-based system that offers a reasonable and finite number of green cards each year to the most highly qualified applicants, and require unsuccessful applicants to re-apply in the next cycle. The EAGLE Act does the opposite.