[Editor's note: HR 1044 was passed by the House by a margin of 365 to 65 on July 10, shortly after this piece was written. It now heads for an uncertain fate in the Senate.]
All but seven members of the House Hispanic Caucus have sponsored, perhaps unwittingly, a proposed piece of immigration legislation (HR 1044) that gives first class priority to Chinese and Indian would-be migrants, and only secondary priority to would-be immigrants from Mexico and the Philippines. All members of the Hispanic Caucus, currently, are Democrats.
To be fair, the immigration law as it stands, and the proposed changes in HR 1044, are both fiendishly complex, and one needs to be deeply conversant with both to see that the proposed changes are much more favorable to the Chinese and Indians (and a handful of Vietnamese) than they are to people from Mexico and the Philippines. Would-be migrants from those five countries, in turn, are placed ahead of people from the rest of the world.
For earlier reports on this bill, including one by my colleague Jessica Vaughan, see here and here.
HR 1044 seeks to shorten the wait time for some aliens to secure green cards or permanent resident alien status. This relates to our immigration system that busily issues green card permits when none are currently available; when that happens, backlogs are built up. The individual applicant is found eligible, then told to wait months to more than twenty years for the actual delivery of the green card, depending on that person’s class of application, and that person’s country of birth.
This combination of rules has left groups of privileged, and less privileged, would-be immigrants with long waiting times. The first consists of employment-based migrants (Chinese, the Indians, and a few Vietnamese); and the second, a less prosperous group of would-be aliens, family-based applicants from Mexico and the Philippines. Some of the latter are facing waiting times of as much as twenty-four years.
Although the would-be immigrants from the five nations face identical problems, the bill treats the three Asian populations much more favorably than would-be green carders from Mexico and the Philippines.
This is because of the way the proposed law deals with the question of national origin ceilings. The current law, seeking diversity among the arriving immigrants, has said for decades that no more than 7 percent of numerically limited immigrants may be from a given nation; it further says that no more than 7 percent in a specific immigrant category may be from a single nation.
When would-be immigrants from a given nation concentrate their applications in a given class of migrants, then long backlogs are caused. This has been the case with both Indians and Chinese (mostly now in the United States as H-1B workers) as they seek EB-2 and EB-3 green card visas, with EB standing for employment based. It has been equally true of rich Chinese who have oversubscribed the EB-5 immigrant investor program.
Meanwhile, for similar reasons, there are heavy backlogs among would-be family-based migrants from Mexico and the Philippines.
But the proposed legislation, heavily supported by Asian interests, treats the two situations in very different ways. The 7 percent ceiling is eliminated completely in the bill for employment-based migrants (the Indians and the Chinese) but is simply changed to 15 percent for the family-based migrants (the Mexicans and the Filipinos) giving them considerably fewer benefits than those from the Asian Mainland.
There are seven members of the Hispanic Caucus that vote on the House Floor that did not sponsor the bill; they are, in alphabetical order:
- Rep. Henry Cuellar, TX
- Rep. Raul Grijalva, AZ
- Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, NM
- Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, CA
- Rep. Raul Ruiz, CA
- Rep. Xochitl Torres Small, CA
- Rep. Juan Vargas, CA
The Hispanic Caucus consists of 34 House members with full voting rights, two delegates from the islands who cannot vote on the floor (they are from Guam and the Marianas) and two U.S. senators. The lineup, among the 34, was seven non-signers to 27 signers.
The Center for Immigration Studies opposes the bill on the triple grounds it favors the Haves over the Non-Haves, and is supportive of both the EB-5 program and the H-1B program.