Debate heats up on green card bill

Jan. 11, 2012 at 10:16 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate delay over a proposed green card law threatens to pit some immigrants on temporary visas against others, observers said.

The measure stalled in the Senate would address a backed-up system that grants permanent residency permits -- green cards -- to immigrants who work in the United States on temporary visas for high-skilled jobs.

The proposal has been bogged down in a debate over charges that it was unfair to Americans who may be seeking high-skilled jobs during the recession and claims it would favor workers from larger countries, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"Our intention was to create a recipe for success, not to pick a fight," said Virginia resident Aman Kapoor, an Indian American who co-founded Immigration Voice, an advocacy organization promoting the bill.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would eliminate individual country limits and grant work-based green cards to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis. Under existing law, the U.S. government can issue 140,000 green cards annually to immigrants with temporary work visas but restricts each country to 7 percent of the green cards.

The bill's supporters say it would level the field for people of all nationalities to attain permanent residency. After it passed the House in November, with bipartisan support, the bill wallowed in the Senate. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, complained the measure didn't do anything "to protect Americans at home who seek high-skilled jobs in this time of record-high unemployment."

Grassley added several amendments that could potentially add months of debate and delay.

Beyond the debate on Capitol Hill, immigrants from smaller countries say the bill is unfair because it might increase their wait time by about two more years.

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