Today Apple CEO Tim Cook called on the U.S. Senate to pass legislation that would phase out per-country limits on green cards.
Immigrants make this country stronger and our economy more dynamic. As a first step toward needed comprehensive reform, I urge the Senate to move quickly to pass the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. The contributions of these workers are critical to America’s future.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) October 17, 2019
The support for the stalled legislation is both a sign of Cook’s personal interest in immigration policy as well as Apple’s interest in making immigration easier for many of its employees who live in California but often face challenges obtaining a green card.
The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants act passed the House in September by a vote of 365-65 and now needs to be passed in the Senate and approved by the president before it goes into effect. It’s been referred to the Senate Judiciary committee but no vote is scheduled.
The legislation, if passed, would substantially change the current immigration system by eliminating a per-country cap that advocates say effectively makes it harder to immigrate from a bigger country versus a smaller country. Many migrants with visas face long backlogs to get permission to permanently immigrate, called a green card.
MacDailyNews Take: The bill’s sponsor, U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), said in a statement in September:
…Section 1152 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that the total number of employment-based visas “made available to natives of any single foreign state… in any fiscal year may not exceed 7 percent… of the total number of such visas made available.”
That rather antiseptic language, technical and clinical on its face, is, on closer inspection, deeply out of step with this country’s commitment to nondiscrimination and equal treatment before the law.
In practice, section 1152’s seven percent cap on immigrants from any one country means that, if two immigrants apply for an employment-based visa at precisely the same moment, and have the exact same skills and education, one of them may wait 12 months for a green card while his counterpart languishes in the green card backlog for decades. The only factor that accounts for this gross and unfair disparity of treatment is the fact that the second immigrant happened to have been born in a different country than the first.
This is because, under the per-country cap system, immigrants from larger countries are only eligible to receive the same number of green cards annually as immigrants from smaller countries. As a result, the wait times for immigrants from larger countries have grown and grown, decade after decade, with no end in sight.
This amounts to de facto country-of-origin discrimination – plain and simple – and no amount of legalese or wonkish policy arguments can cover up that fact.
Fortunately, the solution to these problems is not only straightforward, but agreed upon by a broad, bipartisan coalition of senators. We must simply eliminate the per-country caps in order to ensure a fair and reasonable allocation of employment-based green cards. That is exactly what the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act would accomplish.
Without the per-country caps, our skills-based green card system would operate on a first-come, first-serve basis, ensuring that immigrants are admitted into the United States purely based on their merit, rather than their country-of-origin. This reform would also ensure that the hardships caused by decades-long wait times are eliminated.
The bill also contains key reforms to the current H-1B system to prevent the fraud and abuse that is currently undermining wages for American workers.
First, the bill strengthens law enforcement powers to police the H-1B system by empowering the Department of Labor to conduct annual compliance audits of all H-1B employers.
Second, the bill requires H-1B employers to advertise the jobs it wants to fill to American workers first.
Third, the bill closes the B-1 loophole H-1B employers often use to bring foreign workers here on a temporary basis before transferring them to the H-1B program.