The EAGLE Act: Will Congress Vote Against the American Worker and for Cheap Foreign Labor for Big Tech and Corporations?

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 6, 2022

In a January 7, 2021 blog, I wrote that “Yet another effort to discard the per-country cap for employment green cards fizzled in the waning days of the 116th Congress. But it's sure to come back in the new 117th Congress.” Every year since 2011, some members of Congress have attempted to discard the per-country cap for employment green cards, which was designed to provide temporary relief to employers when no American worker could be found to fill a position. The original bill designed to provide a never-ending flow of foreign workers to employers was titled the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act; this year, the House has re-introduced, without an open hearing or meaningful debate during the lame duck session, the 2021 bill, called the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act of 2022, H.R.3648.

The EAGLE Act was drafted to benefit and reward the tech companies that have relied on lower-paid (and usually lower-skilled) visa workers to replace U.S. workers over the last 10-15 years.

The bill contains two main provisions. The first would scrap the so-called “per-country cap”. In order to preserve some semblance of diversity in our immigration, current law imposes a flexible cap on green cards, so that no country can get more than 7 percent of them, until all the current applications are approved, and then the leftovers go to people who have been waiting the longest. If the per-country cap were to be eliminated, then for at least the next 10 years, nearly all employment-based green cards would go to citizens of India, because they have obtained most of the temporary work visas (usually H-1b) for a very long time (and were sponsored by their employers for permanent status). A few would go to China, but anyone applying from a different country would have to wait until the 400,000-500,000 Indians and Chinese on the waiting list received their green cards. It’s a terrible idea. Already about 25 percent of the employment green cards go to citizens of India, it would not be ideal if nearly all of them did, because then employers wanting to bring in skilled workers from other countries would not be able to. The Indians and Chinese who are on the long waiting list still get to stay here and work, but under current rules they won’t get a green card until their turn is reached.

The second provision of the EAGLE Act that the tech companies have lobbied for allows all those who get a temporary visa and are sponsored for a green card by their employer to get a permanent work permit within two years after they apply, regardless of the annual caps on green cards. This is a terrible idea because the temporary work visa programs are so flawed and dysfunctional. We should not just be converting all of them to permanent work permits after two years. This is a gimmick to negate the annual caps that Congress has put on employment green cards to protect jobs for U.S. workers.



Excerpts from past blog posts on legislation scrapping the per-country cap:

  • ”Big Tech Green Card Giveaway Cleared Senate, but Expired with the 116th Congress: But it will be back”, January 7, 2021

    [T]his change would give a fast track to permanent residency mainly to tech workers from India who came on temporary visas, at the expense of applicants from other countries who currently are farther up on the waiting list, which operates to ensure country of origin diversity in employment green card issuances.

    The answer to the long waiting lists is not to scrap the per-country caps or to dispense with the numerical limits. Both of these changes would only preserve and reward the practice of replacing U.S. workers with "temporary" workers from abroad. Instead, Congress should scrap the current employment green card system and replace it with a merit-based system that offers a reasonable and finite number of green cards each year to the most highly qualified applicants, and require unsuccessful applicants to re-apply in the next cycle.

  • ”Scrapping Per-Country Cap Helps the Companies that Shun U.S. Tech Workers”, December 9, 2018

    Passing this bill would perpetuate a greatly flawed system for issuing employment-based visas, without adopting safeguards for the American workers displaced and disadvantaged by it. The clients of the companies pushing this bill are the same ones that dismissed thousands of U.S. employees, and in many cases forced them to train the guestworkers taking their jobs — who are now complaining that they have to wait too long in line for green cards.

    Instead, Congress should enact a merit-based scheme more like the point system proposed in the RAISE Act, which would award immigrant visas to the most qualified and talented applicants from all over the world.

  • “Why Scrap the Per-Country Cap?”, December 19, 2012

    [A]ccording to my analysis of data recently released by the State Department, if the per-country caps were to be eliminated, then the effect would be that nearly all of the employment green cards would be issued to workers from India for at least three years. In each of the first two years after the cap is eliminated, Indians could possibly use as many as 89 percent of the EB-2 visas and 100 percent of the EB-3 visas.

    This seems a little unfair to me, and also somehow a violation of the spirit of American immigration ideals, which include welcoming qualified applicants from any country. But it bothers me less that the beneficiaries of this proposed change come from one particular country than the fact that they were originally admitted under the auspices of a temporary visa program that has caused significant harm to certain Americans — those employed in the technology sector.