House Passes Bill Eliminating Per-Country Caps
By Preston Huennekens | July 2019
On Wednesday, by a vote of 365-65, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044 – the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act. As reported earlier this week, this FAIR-opposed bill would fundamentally alter how the United States distributes employment-based green cards - and not for the better.
Currently, no country’s nationals can comprise more than 7 percent of any visa category. The existing caps are designed to increase diversity in employment-based immigration, which reflects the long standing American priority of welcoming talented immigrants from across the globe. H.R. 1044 seeks to remove these caps entirely for employment-based immigrant visas, while also raising the cap on family-preference visas from 7 percent to 15 percent.
Under H.R. 1044, Indian and Chinese nationals applying for employment visas would not face caps. Before, nationals from other countries could receive employment visas because no country could fill more than 7 percent of any employment visa category. H.R. 1044 erases that boundary, thereby allowing the hundreds of thousands of applicants from India and China to dominate the employment categories and limiting applicants from other nations.
If signed into law, this bill would profoundly change legal immigration to the United States for generations to come; and few, if any, individuals from countries other than India or China would be able to immigrate to the United States on an employment-based visa. Our immigration system is not designed to benefit only one or two countries.
Due to the 1990 dual-intent rule, all H-1B temporary workers can choose to apply for a limited number of green cards. This created the 20-plus year waiting list for Indian green card applications. H.R. 1044 rewards tech and foreign outsourcing companies that replaced American workers with hundreds of thousands of these low cost, less skilled H-1B guest workers. That is a slap in the face to victims of flawed guest worker programs like the H-1B — American mothers, fathers, and breadwinners who lost their livelihoods to cheaper foreign replacements and outsourcing.
Despite receiving no hearing or markup, the bill passed with support from both parties. A full 224 Democrats and 140 Republicans voted to remove the caps and reward tech companies and lobbyists. Only 65 representatives voted against this bill in support of American workers, notably Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), who requested a recorded vote and highlighted the danger this bill posed to American job-seekers, as well as two members of Republican leadership – Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) Interestingly, two firebrand progressives joined in opposition to this bill – Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). Additionally, Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) also voted against the legislation.
Efforts to eliminate per-country caps passed the House in prior sessions, only to die in the Senate. In 2011, the House passed a nearly identical bill by a vote of 389-15. The Senate never took up the bill. As for H.R. 1044, it appears dead-on-arrival in the Senate because Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) placed a hold on it. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged that it opposes this legislation. The White House has not indicated whether President Trump would sign the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act if the bill passes the Senate.