NEW YORK NEW YORK: Green card row on Capitol Hill
It’s a divisive immigration battle that’s making Bajan and other West Indian immigrants mad.
The controversy is over the allocation of American green cards and it is pitting highly skilled immigrants from India and China against West Indians.
At stake are 140 000 green cards awarded every year to foreign residents who hold temporary work visas and have been living stateside for years. They range from Bajan and Jamaican teachers and nurses to Indian engineers and physicists, medical doctors from the Philippines and Chinese analysts.
At the heart of the row is the Fairness For High Skilled Immigrants Bill. If enacted, it would give people from large countries a better chance of getting a green card than people from the islands.
The measure now before the senate is being heavily promoted by rich and highly skilled immigrants from India who think it’s unfair, for instance, to give green cards to Bajan nurses or teachers before computer specialists from India.
A driving force behind the measure is Immigration Voice, a national advocacy group with membership drawn from the Indian immigrant community. The organization is using the financial clout of its members and supporters to gain support on Capitol Hill where the measure was passed quite easily in the House of Representatives but is being blocked in the Senate.
“Our intention was to create a recipe for success, not to pick a fight,” Aman Kapoor, an Indian immigrant who helped establish Immigration Voice, told the Washington Post.
“Why should an engineer from Mozambique or Barbados, with perhaps 250 000 people, have the same green card distribution as an equally qualified engineer from China or India with a billion people? This creates a more equitable system without adding any more green cards.”
Legal residents with temporary visas that allow them to work in the United States must renew permission to stay every two years. The application to remain must be sponsored by an American employer which must demonstrate that it made a good faith but unsuccessful effort to hire an American for a job.
But the regulations impose a seven per cent limit on green cards to any single country. Because Indians and Chinese dominate the application process, they find themselves standing in line for years while Jamaicans, for instance, can get the green card in a much shorter time, say, three years.
Under the bill the country quotas would be eliminated, thus lowering the waiting time for Indians and Chinese but lengthening it for Haitians, Bajans or Bahamians.
But the most effective opposition is coming from Americans who complain that at a time of high joblessness, lawmakers should be paying more attention to their needs than to those of foreigners.