Senator Rick Scott Blocks Durbin, Lee Compromise To Protect Immigrant Workers & Children In The Green Card Backlog

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 attempted to pass legislation to protect immigrant workers and children who are stuck in the green card backlog.  Durbin accepted a compromise proposal from Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), which would make several key reforms that were not in Lee’s original Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, including:

  • Early filing to protect immigrant workers and their families who are stuck in the backlog;
  • An annual green-card set aside for immigrant workers who are ineligible for early filing because they are overseas;
  • A one-year delay in implementing Section 2 of the bill to protect immigrant workers with pending green-card applications; and
  • The 50-50 rule, to protect American jobs and prevent the exploitation of immigrant workers

Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) objected to this Durbin-Lee compromise.

“There are so many lives at stake, so many families following this debate because it literally will decide the fate of each of these individuals applying for their green cards and members of their family,” Durbin said.  “It is heartbreaking to meet these families who have been waiting for years for a green card and to realize that the limitations of our system today make it so difficult.”

Durbin concluded, “I’m disappointed.  After all of these months of negotiation, emotion, intensity, and feelings that we share for the people who are caught in this backlog, it is a real disappointment that at the last moment, the Senator from Florida exercised his right as a Senator to object to our unanimous consent request.”

For the past few weeks, Durbin has gone to the Senate floor several times to attempt to pass legislation to protect immigrant workers and children who are stuck in the green card backlog.  Senator Lee objected to each request.

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.