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Mike Lee Teams Up With Kamala Harris to Scrap Green Card Caps

Currently, no more than 7 percent of green cards handed out in a single year can go to immigrants from the same country.

Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/NewscomErik McGregor/Sipa USA/NewscomDuring his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump ad-libbed a line about wanting legal immigrants to enter the country in "the largest numbers ever."

The first two years of his presidency might make you question the sincerity of that statement. But if Trump's telling the truth, Sens. Mike Lee (R–Utah) and Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) have a bill for him. The two lawmakers announced a plan today that would remove the annual per-country caps for employment-based green cards; it would also raise the cap on family-based green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent. While the Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Act would not lift the overall caps on how many visas the United States grants in a single year, it would remove at least one major impediment for immigrants coming from places where many people waiting in line.

"Immigrants should not be penalized due to their country of origin," Lee said in a statement.

The existing caps apply to both family-sponsored and employment-based visas. No more than 7 percent of either type of visa may be issued to natives of any one independent country in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS). Given the current overall caps on both types of green cards, that 7 percent per-country limit effectively means that no more than 25,620 immigrants from a single country can come to the United States in a single year.

"We must do more to eliminate discriminatory backlogs and facilitate family unity so that high-skilled immigrants are not vulnerable to exploitation and can stay in the U.S. and continue to contribute to the economy," said Harris in a statement.

More than 300,000 would-be immigrants from India and more than 67,000 Chinese are currently on the waiting list for green cards, according to a 2018 CIS report.

David Bier, an immigration policy analyst at the libertarian Cato Institute, points out that it's not uncommon for immigrants from India to wait up to a decade for a green card, while Chinese immigrants frequently wait for three years or more. But if you're lucky enough to be born in a different country, the caps mean you can move more quickly to the front of the line.

The per-country limits were imposed in 1924, and were a direct descendants of earlier laws like the Chinese Exclusion Act that are now regarded as outright racist. They were "explicitly efforts at racial engineering," writes Bier. Even though the arguments have changed, "the end result is the same, and this type of government intervention is as inappropriate now as it was then."

There's not a lot of low-hanging fruit in immigration policy these days, but removing the per-country green card caps might be one of them. Last year, a House bill to remove the caps for employment visas garnered a whopping 329 cosponsors but did not receive a vote. This year's Lee/Harris bill already has more than a dozen cosponsors in the Senate.

The only meaningful opposition the idea seems to come from immigration restrictionists like the Center for Immigration Studies, which says lifting the caps will allow greater levels of Indian immigration and create more competition with U.S. workers for tech jobs. But as long as the overall visa limits remain in place, then those concerns will be muted. (Of course, I think those should be lifted as well.)

More high-profile immigration debates will surely continue to roil Congress—which is currently under pressure to approve funding for Trump's border wall or face the threat of another government shutdown—but hopefully that won't preclude the possibility of passing a relatively simple fix to help more people come to the United States legally.

"Immigration is often a contentious issue," says Lee, "but we should not delay progress in areas where there is bipartisan consensus just because we have differences in a other areas."

Photo Credit: Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/Newscom

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  • Joe M||

    Sounds like a great idea. Harris might not be entirely awful.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    And good for Lee, too. Bad for white supremacists Trumpistas like Stephen Miller, Tom Cotton or David Perdue and the people at FAIR, but who cares about them?

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    In fact, Harris is absolutely fantastic. Her performance in the Kavanaugh hearings was excellent, and she's said and done all the right things since then.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    Why are, an unreconstructed left-winger, even here?

  • ElvisIsReal||

    OBL brings a much-needed left/libertarian viewpoint to our message board, which is all-to-often cluttered with economic mumbo-jumbo designed to distract us from the real liberal/libertarian alliance point of agreement -- open borders.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    She needs a legislative accomplishment to run on. Her AG accomplishments have not been exactly woke.

  • Old Mexican - Mostly Harmless||

    The only meaningful opposition the idea seems to come from immigration restrictionists like the Center for Immigration Studies, which says lifting the caps will allow greater levels of Indian immigration and create more competition with U.S. workers for tech jobs.


    Yeah, like THAT'S their concern. Never mind their penchant for playing fast and loose with statistics to defame and slander immigrants. You see, it's not a race thing with us at the CIS, it's a concern about competition over jobs for coders.

    Right.

  • KevinP||

    Yeah, like THAT's your concern. Never mind your penchant for smearing any opponent of open borders and unrestricted immigration at racist. You see, it's not a slander thing with Old Mexican, it's a concern about civil rights for foreigners.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Then quit making arguments grounded in bigotry.

  • Ecoli||

    I prefer ground coriander.

  • Tu­lpa||

    Waut, you think OLD MEX only calls people racists when their arguments are grounded in bigotry?

    Are you new? Oh you're not, you're just an idiot.

  • Nardz||

    Jeff's position is that not fully embracing the white man's burden, with no limits or exceptions, is bigotry

  • MiloMinderbinder||

    Why would CIS favor citizens from a multi-cultural USA, over almost all-Asian India or China? Must be racism!

  • Ken Shultz||

    Surely, you'll concede that getting rid of the 7% rule per country would mean more highly educated STEM Indians at the expense of relatively uneducated immigrants from other countries.

    It is what it is, right?

  • Nardz||

    More Indian immigrants is a great trade off.
    They tend to be middle or upper class, educated, and capitalist.
    They learn the language and assimilate readily, so positive contributors who dont segregate into ethnic enclaves

  • Fats of Fury||

    Their politicians, particularly the women belies that notion. Particularly in regards to capitalism.

  • Nardz||

    Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley aren't bad, domestically at least.
    Anyway, I was speaking from my experience and observation.
    For the most part, Indians make good Americans

  • KevinP||

    *as racist

  • Ken Shultz||

    Congress is precisely the correct forum within which to have these debates.

    I maintain that high levels of legal immigration will only be supported by enough of the American people (and thus their representatives in Congress) if and when the American people believe that the border is secure. Yes, that means that those who oppose securing the border are effectively opposing the necessary precondition for high levels of legal immigration. Snap out of it!

    Those who oppose high levels of legal immigration so long as it requires a secure border are like libertarians who oppose legalizing marijuana if it means marijuana retailers are subjected to the same licensing requirements and zoning ordinances as liquor stores. If we want recreational marijuana legalized, we take what we can get and keep fighting for more. Insisting that you get everything you want and compromise on nothing isn't just childish in a pluralistic democracy. It's also counterproductive to progress on your cause.

    If one side won't open up legal immigration until the border is secured, and the other side won't secure the border under any circumstances, then we're not about to get high levels of legal immigration anytime soon. When the Democrats are ready to trade a secure border for high levels of legal immigration--even if it means Trump can claim a victory--we'll see big things happen. Don't expect anything until after 2020.

  • Ken Shultz||

  • Ken Shultz||

    "When the Democrats are ready to trade a secure border for high levels of legal immigration--even if it means Trump can claim a victory--we'll see big things happen."

    Here's my citation:

    When Trump offered to give the Dreamers three years for free (until he may not longer be in office), Nancy Pelosi turned the offer down on its face.

    it isn't because the Democrats are principled on the issue of spending $3.5 billion more than Trump asked for the wall. It's because they care more about the spectacle of preventing Trump from notching a win than they do about the Dreamers.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    This seems to be precisely the sticking point. Neither side will budge because neither side believes the other will live up to their promises (nor should they, frankly). Purely from a political standpoint, Democrats would be dumb to fund Trump's wall on the mere promise that he'll open up immigration in the future; Republicans would be dumb to open up immigration or offer any form of amnesty if they can't get a wall.

    Without a comprehensive package that does it all, nobody is willing to cave. That's been tried too and continuously fails.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    I've been saying for months Harris is the best Presidential choice for us Koch / Reason libertarians. Whether she's #Resisting Drumpf's white nationalism or standing up to the gun fetishists she's exactly the person to heal this country from the past few years of Russia-inflicted damage.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    You're losing your parody identity. I thought Koch/Reason libertarians were anti gun control?

  • ||

    Those who oppose high levels of legal immigration so long as it requires a secure border are like libertarians who oppose legalizing marijuana if it means marijuana retailers are subjected to the same licensing requirements and zoning ordinances as liquor stores. If we want recreational marijuana legalized, we take what we can get and keep fighting for more. Insisting that you get everything you want and compromise on nothing isn't just childish in a pluralistic democracy. It's also counterproductive to progress on your cause.

    OTOH, the world's largest government, founded and reigning supreme in the land of the free, spies on and jails more people than any other government in the world. Continually taking just what you can get pretty much guarantees that whomever you're taking it from will always be able to take it away from you. I'm not opposed to more immigration from China or India, but if they're all Dalmia-esque bigotted crypto-socialists, India can keep them.

    If you'll throw the entirety of the 1A (speech, religion, association) under a bus to support immigration, you aren't advancing liberty.

  • ||

    Shit, threading fail. That was meant in reply to Ken.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    You're conflating immigration with nationalization. Separate the two and it doesn't matter whether they're socialists because they have no ability to vote.

  • ||

    You're conflating immigration with nationalization.

    I admit to perpetuating the conflation. Other than that, yeah.

  • Tu­lpa||

    " it doesn't matter whether they're socialists because they have no ability to vote"

    Legally.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Maybe we shouldn't focus so much on border security if voting booth security is what you're really after?

  • Eddy||

    Is a green card cap related to a red MAGA hat?

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