Democrats’ Relief Act Would Eliminate Green Card Backlogs

By Reuben Seguritan

Democrat Senators Dick Durbin and Patrick Leahy introduced the “Relief Act” recently. This bill is their answer to the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” that was passed in the House of Representatives last July 10.

Last October 30, Durbin along with all Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, called on Senator John Cornyn, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, top hold a hearing on legislation to address green-card backlogs.

The “Relief Act” and “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” both eliminate the employer-based per-country limits that prevent any country from using more than 7% of the green cards in any given year. The bills also double the family-based per-country limit from 7 to 15%.

The “Relief Act” is different from the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019” because it also increases the total number of green cards available. This is good because it would help ease the existing backlog and also address the problems of not having enough green cards for applicants and their families.

The “Relief Act” will gradually phase out over the course of 5 years the per-country limits for employment-based green cards and also increase the per-country limits for family-based immigrants from 7 to 15%. The bill will also make new green cards available to almost the entire existing backlog of employment and family-based green card applicants.

The existing caps will be removed for family-based second preference F2A category for new spouses and minor children of existing lawful permanent residents (LPRs) in the United States. This is because the bill will re-classify the spouses and children of LPRs as immediate relatives and hence, not included in the visa caps. Right now there is a cap of about 88,000 and there is a backlog of about 150,000. For family-based green cards in the first preference category, the available green cards will be increased from 23,400 to 111,334.

A revolutionary rule from the bill is the removal of “aging out” for workers and their children. “Aging out” is when a child is removed as a derivative beneficiary of the applicant worker because he/ she has turned 21 years old. The bill proposes to maintain the eligibility of a minor child of an applicant until the application was processed. The eligibility of the child would also be maintained for nonimmigrant status as the child of a temporary worker. This is the answer to the problem of some children who turned 21 and who have been forced to leave the US before their parents received their green cards.

The bill also has the “hold harmless” clause which exempts immigrant visa petitions approved prior to enactment of the bill from the changes imposed to petitions approved for five years after enactment.

Family-sponsored immigrants would increase by at least 375,000 while employment-based categories would double from 140,000 to 235,000. The diversity lottery program would also be doubled. For EB-5 investors, the available visas would be almost triple. These increases in the number of visas are all because of the removal of the children and spouses from the cap of green cards available in these categories.

The increase in the number of available green cards would also lessen the wait times for the different categories. It is estimated that with the “Relief Act”, the wait time for employment- based green cards will be less than a year.

There are still problems with the “Relief Act”. It does not provide green cards to children of H-1B workers who have already aged out.

The “Relief Act” should be supported because it provides an overall solution for legal immigrants and their families as compared to the “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019”.