More green cards, but none for siblings, adult children

Chicago, April 19 (IANS) The proposed changes to the US immigration law submitted on Wednesday by the “gang of eight”, the bi-partisan group in the US Senate, would increase the number of employment based green cards, directly benefitting applicants from India and China.

The largest beneficiaries of the work visas currently hail from these two countries. Many Indians and Chinese immigrants now have to wait indefinitely for permanent residence, because of a per country cap of seven percent of the 140,000 employer sponsored green cards every year. The new legislation would get rid of this cap, freeing up more visas for immigrants.

However, it appears the increased work visas come at a cost, according to a report in Hi India, the Chicago-based South Asian newspaper.

Immigrant advocates have pointed out that the increase in employment visas are at the expense of family visas, according to the newspaper. Quoting officials from immigrant advocacy organizations, the paper noted that two family groups would be immediately affected. The proposed law eliminates the “F4” visa category so that US citizens will no longer be able to sponsor their brothers and sisters. It also places an age cap on the ‘F3’ visa category so that US citizens can only sponsor their adult children if they are not more than thirty years old.

The proposed legislation is considered the most radical change to American immigration law in quarter of a century. Lawmakers have said that the focus on skill based visas is to ensure that the United States regains its status as a magnet for talent from around the world.

While several Asian American immigrant advocacy groups have welcomed the efforts in bringing immigration reform to the forefront, they have noted that the family immigration overhaul proposes changes that will dramatically restrict families from reuniting with certain loved ones. Family reunification is an issue considered especially important to Asian Americans.

According to data collected by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, in 2012, 86 percent of visas issued for Asian countries were family-based. Asian American citizens sponsor nearly one-third of all family-based visas annually and in 2012, 48 percent of Asian immigrants granted legal permanent status did so through family visas.

“We applaud the bi-partisan Senate leadership for putting forth a proposal that is a substantial step in the right direction toward fixing our broken immigration system and a solid starting point for addressing the current backlogs,” said Mee Moua, president and executive director of Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). “Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned about the elimination of visa categories pertaining to siblings and married adult children over the age of 30.”

Hi India quoted another activist as saying, “Eliminating the ability of U.S. citizens to sponsor their loved ones-brothers, sisters and adult married children 31 years of age and older-runs counter to the family values that are a cornerstone of our nation. It is also counterproductive since it limits the ability of immigrant families to contribute to the entrepreneurship and innovation that have been vital drivers of economic growth throughout our nation’s history.”

The activists also noted the positive changes in the proposed legislation. It redefines “immediate relatives” definition to include spouses and minor children of green card holders, allowing an expedited process not subject to numerical caps on green cards. It allows parents of U.S. citizens who immigrate to the U.S. to bring their minor children with them. It eliminates the family backlog over a period of ten years and permits family members awaiting green cards to live and work in the US. It also allows other family members to visit the US for up to 60 days per year.

Meanwhile a new report by an organization, Business Forward, said that decreasing immigration would hit social security. If the number of immigrants in the U.S. were to decrease, the nation’s labor force would begin to shrink in 2015, putting even more pressure on an already taxed Social Security system, the report said. That is because fewer workers would be contributing to the Social Security Trust Fund at the same time that the number of retirees relying on the fund is growing. More than 80 percent of projected population growth over the next 40 years comes from immigrants and their children, according to the report.

(Ashok Easwaran can be contacted at [email protected])

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