One of the controversial immigration proposals released last week by the Trump Administration is the reduction of the family based immigration and the proposal for a merit based system of immigration instead of the current employment based immigration preferences. Most of the proposals contained in the legal framework are contained in the RAISE Act and SECURE Act which are bills introduced by Republican lawmakers. But there is also a new bill, Immigration Innovation Act, that requires the support of majority of our legislators and that if passed into law will benefit the U.S. economy without having to reduce family immigration.
RAISE Act: Merit Based System
Trump proposes a broader shift away from current immigration system focusing mainly on issuance of immigrant visas only to foreign nationals on the basis of merits. If passed into law, the existing employment based categories based on U.S. employer needs will be changed to a rigid point system prioritizing foreign nationals in a series of categories including professionals, researchers, those holding advance degrees and those with extraordinary ability in a particular field.
The proposal for a merit based system does not only fail to take into account the needs of U.S. businesses. It also comes with a proposal that fails to recognize the importance of family unity by limiting family petitions to spouses and minor children eliminating parents, adult children and sibling categories. If passed into law, there will be a reduction of 500,000 or 44% of total immigrants each year.
I-Squared: Immigration Innovation Act
Interestingly, at about the same time the White House released its immigration proposals, a new bill was introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on January 25, 2018. This is the Immigration Innovation Act or the “I-Squared” which also addresses the gaps on the H1B visa program at the same time amends the employment based system of immigration in a manner that directly improves on the current system.
On the H1B provisions, the I-Squared raises the current cap from 65,000 to 85,000. There is a method used to determine adjustment of the cap on a market escalator of up to 195,000 and de-escalator based on prior fiscal year. It also addresses the way of choosing H1B visa petitions when the cap is reached within 5 years of the filing period. There will be a priority to (1) Individuals who have earned a U.S. master’s or higher, who are subject to the numerical limitations; (2) Individuals who have earned a doctoral degree outside the U.S.; (3) Individuals who have earned a U.S. bachelors or higher in a STEM field; (4) Other petitions
On the employment based petitions, I-Squared has provisions that will (1) Eliminate per country limits for employment-based visas and increases per country limit for family-based visas to 15%; (2) Require recapture of unused visas from FY 1993 to FY 2013; (3) Exempt from numerical limitations: dependents of EB immigrants, individuals with a U.S. STEM master’s or higher degree, individuals with an approved EB-1 petition for extraordinary ability or outstanding professor/researcher.
Other than proposing to eliminate the per country limits, it also creates a new employment-based conditional immigrant visa (35,000 per year) for individuals who (1) have a university degree; (2) have received an offer of employment from a qualifying U.S. employer; and (3) will satisfy the requirements of 3 employment based preferences (EB1, EB2 & EB3).
Between the RAISE Act/Merit Based System and the I-Squared Act, the latter is a better bill that deals with a real reform of our immigration system without having to cut family legal immigration. Let us contact our representatives in Congress and urge them to support this Immigration Innovation (I-Squared) Act or S. 2344.