On July 10, 2019, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1044, the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 by a 365 to 65 bipartisan vote. While the bill attempts to solve one problem, it does so at too high a cost.
Current immigration law imposes not only numerical limits on most categories of employment-based immigrant visas issued annually, but also per-country limits. These have resulted in wait lists for green cards for high-skilled immigrants from certain countries, particularly India or China, that are decades long, harming U.S. businesses in the global competition for talent. H.R. 1044 would phase in changes leading to elimination of the per country limits by FY 2023.
However, because the bill does not address the overall numerical limits of employment-based immigrant visas, this shift would create untenable wait lists for aspiring immigrants from all the other countries of the world. Not only they, but also the businesses that seek to employ them, would be disadvantaged by the effects of HR 1044.
The current waiting list for Indian and Chinese professionals need to be eliminated, but this must be accomplished through a thoughtful overhaul of the numerical limits on immigration, not by shifting the waits from those two countries to immigrants from other countries. HR 1044 addresses only part, not the whole, of the problem.
Maine’s Representatives Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden both joined the majority to vote in favor of HR 1044. A companion bill of the same name in the Senate, S. 386, currently has 36 cosponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Maine’s Senator Susan Collins.
Maine’s business community should encourage our Congressional delegation to work for a comprehensive overhaul of our immigration system, not piecemeal solutions that simply shift who bears the cost of the flawed structure.