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Fight the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act

[Updated] Recently, we wrote about how HB 1044 and S.386—the  "Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act”—is anything but fair. Unfortunately, so much attention is focused on asylum, public charge, family separation and the U.S./Mexico border that this proposed change has received little attention. As we pointed out, this legislation, if passed, would drastically change employment-based immigration and create decades-long backlogs for legal, employment-based immigrants. It creates one problem while trying to solve another. 

As immigration attorneys who do a lot of work with H-1B and employment-based immigration, we know how important this less-noticed stream of immigrants is to New Orleans and Louisiana. We see immigrants brought to the state to work in schools and hospitals, but the Fairness of High Skilled Immigration Act would cut down on our ability to help bring them in. 

A basic principle of American immigration law is that there are only a set number of work-related visas available, and only a fixed percentage of them can come from each country. A person may be eligible for a visa, but if none are available for applicants from a given country, then he or she has to wait until one is available. That wait can take years, even decades in some cases. 

HB 1044 would be a gift to the the tech industry and paralyze immigration for other industries by raising the caps that limit the number of workers from India and China without raising the number of available visas. These countries currently use the most employment-based visas. India has used on average 28,000 a year over the last 10 years, while China has used on average more than 13,000. At the same time, Iceland has had 9,700 visas allotted to it, and 42 of those were used in 2017, 57 the year before. The remainder went to help relieve backlogs for countries like India and China, but the proposed changes won’t solve the problem of too few visas available to meet the demand. It will take a decade to alleviate the current wait if no one from either of the countries in question applies for another employment-based visa in that decade.

If the number of workers from China and India increases without changing the total number of available employment-based visas, workers in other fields, and it will hurt those with DACA and TPS status who have applied for status adjustments tied to work. If there are no available visas, they would have to leave the United States and wait outside the country for a visa to become available—a process that could take 10 or more years.

We hope you’ll contact the offices of Senators Bill Cassidy (202-224-5824) and John Kennedy (202-224-4623) and point out how passage of this bill will hurt Louisiana and its health care and energy industries since it will limit their ability to bring the best international talent in their fields to Louisiana. If you wish to offer a positive solution, call for a lift in the overall cap for visas. 

For good analyses of this bill and its far-reaching implications for legal immigration, we recommend these by immigration lawyers Ira J. Kurzban and Greg Siskind. 

Updated March 10, 2020 at 10:25 a.m.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act has been revised. We analyzed the new version that has yet to be scheduled for a vote in the Senate and recommend supporting a better alternative.

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