Visa Crunch

US: Democrats Plan B To Issue Green Cards Via The Registry System Struck Down By Senate

Democrats are finding it more difficult to pass much-needed immigration reforms through a reconciliation (budget-spending) package. Last night, the US Senate, in a guidance note, shot down Plan B, which would have ushered in reforms that would have provided a faster road to permanent residency (green cards) for several hundred people now residing in the US.

Within 10 days, the Democrats had presented the Parliamentarian with a new proposal (Plan B), which involved invoking the registry and amending the date.

According to immigration professionals, doing so would have allowed practically everybody who was in the US prior to the amended date to adjust to permanent residency (get a green card) and have a road to citizenship (barring those with moral turpitude). The cut-off date is currently January 1, 1972, making it outdated.

Earlier, Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonoug had shot down the House Bill’s broad sweeping provisions, which would have allowed a wide range of individuals satisfying the stated qualifications to convert their status (to that of a green card) in exchange for a supplemental charge.

The registry route, according to immigration advocates, would have aided both unauthorized individuals and those stuck in the green card backlog. Indians make up a sizable portion of individuals stuck in the decades-long labour-based green card backlog.

As of April 2020, David J Bier, an immigration policy expert at Cato Institute, predicted that 7.41 lakh skilled Indians were stuck in the backlog, with an expected wait time of 84 years.

MacDonough seems to have shifted her position based on the fact that the registry mode would provide lawful permanent status to hundreds of unauthorized immigrants. However, if the undocumented are not afforded such protection, it is unlikely that the route will be made available simply to individuals facing a green card backlog.

“I disagree with today’s ruling from the Parliamentarian, as I did with the basis of her earlier decision,” Democrat Senator Bob Menendez tweeted. Because we must give meaningful results for as many undocumented immigrants as possible, Democrats will present her with a Plan C.”

“This registry plan also includes those individuals who are not presently entitled to amend status under the law (a major proportion of the targeted population), which is a significant policy change…”, according to the guidance note.

She said it couldn’t be included in the reconciliation package because “the change in status to (lawful permanent resident) remains a life-long shift in circumstances whose value considerably transcends the budgetary consequence.” Democrats are pressing for immigration reform through a reconciliation measure because it just takes a simple majority and is not subject to the filibuster, which requires Republican support.

The sole bright spot for the Indian diaspora seems to be ongoing debates about how to best alleviate the green card backlog, including recapturing unused quota numbers. It’s still unclear what Plan C might entail. Several immigration activist groups are demanding the Parliamentarian’s replacement because she is not an elected official. The US Vice President, Kamla Harris, has the power to overturn the Parliamentarian.

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