But the proposal we will be considering this week, just like the earlier version that failed in September, comes with a deal breaker that would pit immigrant constituencies against one another. It seeks to offset green cards for STEM graduates by eliminating the long-standing Diversity Visa program that provides green cards to nationals from countries that have low levels of immigration to the United States. This will mean a drastic decrease in immigration from African countries. Immigrants from those countries normally comprise half of the Diversity Visa program’s annual beneficiaries.
Rather than reaching out to minority and immigrant communities, House Republicans are pushing a bill that cuts visas for minorities and signals their continued support for a Grover Norquist-style “no new green cards” pledge that says you can’t create a green card for one person without taking one away from someone else.
What’s worse, the Republican bill is shamefully designed to reduce the overall level of legal immigration. Under current law, unused visas in one immigration category rollover to immigrants in other categories who are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs. But the Republican bill does not do this, thereby ensuring that unused visas are wasted and legal immigrants must continue to suffer in long backlogs. This is a naked attempt to satisfy anti-immigrant groups that have long lobbied for reduced levels of legal immigration.
Democrats are not fooled by the Majority’s assertion that this new version of the bill actually helps families. In reality, a new provision in the Republican proposal is a step backward from the Life Act enacted under a Republican Congress in 2000. Under the Republican proposal, certain spouses and children who have already waited abroad for over a year would be given temporary V visas but no work authorization. Undocumented family members would be excluded altogether from participating in this program. While the majority bill provides permanent green cards to businesses, nuclear families get nothing more than temporary visas without work authorization.
In short, this is a decidedly bad omen for achieving comprehensive immigration reform. A zero-sum rule means our immigration system can never be fixed. We would not be able to craft solutions for the DREAMers who were brought here as children; for the agricultural workers growing the food on our tables; or for the American families whose loved ones are stuck in decades-long green card backlogs.
If this is a new strategy on immigration, it looks a lot like the old one.
Conyers is ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee.