Durbin Attempts To Pass Legislation To Protect Immigrant Workers & Children In The Green Card Backlog
Republican Senator Mike Lee Objected To Durbin's Unanimous Consent Requests
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, today made two unanimous consent (UC) requests to protect immigrant workers and their children who are stuck in the green card backlog. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to both requests.
First, Durbin asked for unanimous consent to pass the Lee-Durbin bipartisan agreement, which amends Lee’s Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. The Lee-Durbin agreement would make three changes to the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. First, it would immediately protect immigrants and their families who are stuck in the backlog by allowing them to “early file” for green cards. This would allow workers to switch jobs and travel without losing immigration status and prevent the children of immigrant workers from “aging out” of green-card eligibility so they will not face deportation while they are waiting for a green card. Second, the amendment would create a green-card set aside for immigrant workers who are unable to “early file” because they are stuck in the backlog overseas. Finally, the amendment would crack down on abuse of H-1B temporary worker visas by outsourcing companies by prohibiting a company from hiring additional H-1B workers if the company’s workforce is more than 50 employees and more than 50 percent temporary workers. Lee objected.
Durbin then asked unanimous consent on the Protect Children of Immigrant Workers Act, a simple provision to allow children to keep their place in line for a green card and be protected from deportation until they can get their own green card. Lee objected again.
“Green cards are critical in the lives of so many who are here on temporary work visas. The backlog puts families at risk of losing their immigration status as they wait year after weary year to finally make it through this green card backlog,” Durbin said. “Our bipartisan agreement would add critical protections that were not in the original bill for immigrant workers and their immediate family members who are stuck in the backlog. They would be able to switch jobs and travel without losing immigration status. And children of immigrant workers would be protected from aging out so they will not face deportation.”
After Lee objected to Durbin’s two unanimous consent requests, Durbin called on Lee to work with him to pass the Protect Children of Immigrant Workers Act, which would allow children of immigrant workers to keep their place in line for a green card and be protected from deportation until they can get their own green card.
“This is your chance to do something for the children,” Durbin said. “It’s very simple. You know what it is. Let’s do this and then debate the other provisions.”
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.
Last year, Durbin introduced the Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families (RELIEF) Act, which would eliminate the family and employment green card backlog by increasing the number of green cards. The RELIEF Act would also help keep American families together by classifying spouses and children of lawful permanent residents (LPRs) as immediate relatives and exempting derivative beneficiaries of employment-based petitions from annual green card limits, protect “aging out” children who qualify for LPR status based on a parent’s immigration petition, and lift country caps.
Durbin has also introduced bipartisan legislation to quickly address the plight of immigrant doctors and nurses who are stuck in the green-card backlog, which poses a significant risk to our ability to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
Close to four million future Americans are on the State Department’s immigrant visa waiting list, in addition to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the U.S. who are also waiting for green cards. However, under current law only 226,000 family green cards and 140,000 employment green cards are available annually. Children and spouses of LPRs count against these numbers, further restricting the number of available green cards.
In October 2019, Durbin, along with all Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats, called on Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, to hold a hearing on legislation to address green-card backlogs. The letter has gone unanswered.
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