What Is the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, and What Does It Mean for US?

By Jessica Vaughan | July 9, 2019 | 3:00pm EDT
U.S. Capitol building (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

What is HR 1044?  This bill would dramatically change our employment green card distribution system by eliminating a safeguard that prevents green card numbers from being monopolized by citizens of one or two countries.  Known as the “per country cap,” this provision ensures that the employment-based visas are available to a truly global pool of talent in a wide variety of occupational sectors.  It should not be scrapped; eliminating it would benefit one industry (Big Tech) and two groups of applicants (Indian tech workers and Chinese investors) and squeeze out all others.  

House Democrats reportedly are trying to pass the bill on the Consensus Calendar, which allows the bill to pass on a fast track without a hearing or rule for amendments.  

  • This bill would reward the employers who literally replaced American workers with hundreds of thousands of low cost and less skilled contract workers who entered on temporary visas (mainly H-1Bs), often working in the tech sector.  These employers are mainly Big Tech and foreign outsourcing companies.  
  • The foreign contract workers accepted the arrangement because they were promised green cards after a few years.  Because more green cards were promised than can be delivered under our legal system, the waiting list has grown over time.  No contract workers are being forced to return home, but because so many workers from India were recruited, they have to wait in a longer line for a green card under our rules.  
  • Under current rules, citizens of India are getting about 25% of all the professional employment green cards each year.   If this bill becomes law citizens of India will get more than 90% of the professional employment green cards, according to USCIS – for at least the next 10 years.  Green cards would be unavailable to applicants from all other parts of the world (and many other occupations) for at least a decade.  

  • The IT contract workers overwhelmingly tend to be ordinary workers hired in large batches every year.  In contrast, the green card applicants from the rest of the world often are individually sponsored by a wider variety of employers, not as part of a business model designed to exploit the temporary visa system.
  • A bill with such sweeping implications for US workers should not be passed without a hearing and without opportunity for members to offer amendments.  
  • Adopting a different green card selection system that chooses the most highly educated and skilled workers would eliminate the need for a per country cap system, and would not reward the exploitative employers who thrive on the existing system.
  • HR 1044 reportedly also includes a provision to eliminate the per country cap on the EB-5 category, which enables foreign investors to receive green cards.  If passed, the result would be that primarily Chinese investors would receive these green cards, with citizens of other countries largely squeezed out.  

Jessica M. Vaughan is Director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, a research institute in Washington DC.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Center for Immigration Studies.

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