Every year, The United States sets aside permanent resident cards, known as “green cards,” including 226,000 family preference green cards for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, 140,000 based on employment green cards and 50,000 diversity green cards.
But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, plus the dismantling of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services by the Trump administration, have slowed down the processing of all green cards. And if not processed at the end of a fiscal year, these green cards – typically tens of thousands of them – go unused and disappear.
This act of bureaucratic disappearance only exacerbates the backlog of bloated green card applications from around 5 million and counting. That backlog is compounded by country limits, which create decades-long waits for immigrants from countries like India and China.
Our nation’s immigration “system” – the system is an exaggeration here – does not meet the 21st century opportunities and threats we face today.
But now, the congressional budget reconciliation negotiation presents an opportunity to reclaim unused green cards and begin bringing our immigration system back to the 2000s.
President Joe bidenJoe Biden White House reveals strategy for net zero goal by 2050 Southwest investigation report Pilot said ‘Let’s Brandon’ in flight House Rules Committee will not meet Monday on reconciliation package MOREThe latest reconciliation plan includes a proposal that would recover hundreds of thousands of green cards that have not been used for several decades and make them “available to immigrants who are currently caught in arrears.”
It is a smart approach.
While the Senate MP, a nonpartisan procedural adviser, has not ruled on whether the recovery of the green card can be included in a budget reconciliation measure, there is a precedent: a similar measure was passed by a Republican-controlled Senate in 2005. Although the provisions were not included in the final budget, no procedural challenges were raised.
The New York Times reported that at that time, Sen. John cornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley – Facebook Launches Rebranding Campaign Senate Panel Advances Election of Biden to Lead Justice Department Antitrust Unit Senators urge Biden to waive sanctions against India for purchase of Russian defense system PLUS (R-Texas) supported “recovering unused visas for highly skilled workers in a reconciliation package as a way to ‘keep jobs here in the United States, rather than export them to places like India and China.”
In 2021, this is no longer just a matter of keeping jobs in the US.
in a article published in september, our partners in the National Security and Immigration Council (CNSI) note that China may surpass the US as the world’s largest economy, in part because “China’s technology industry has grown exponentially in recent years,” and that “the pattern of malicious cyber activity of China poses a great threat to the US economic and national security. ”
China lacks the technology to get ahead of Taiwan and South Korea, which are No. 1 and No. 2 in computer chip manufacturing. But if China complied threats to fully control Taiwan Through military action, the mathematics of chip making would change overnight and the United States, if not the world, would become enormously dependent on China.
The point is, from a manufacturing capacity and talent perspective, we have to make up ground.
On the manufacturing side, the Senate passed the US Competition and Innovation Act of 2021 in June. According to the CNSI, the bill would authorize more than $ 100 billion over five years “to discover, build and improve the most vital technologies of tomorrow, from artificial intelligence to computer chips, lithium batteries used in smart devices. and electric vehicles, right here. in the United States. “The invoice sits in the house, waiting for action.
But even if the bill becomes law, the United States will not have enough workers with degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to enforce its provisions. Sure, we have the resources to build new plants. But this is not a “if you build it, the engineers will come” situation.
The number of foreign-born STEM workers increased from 509,000 in 1990 to almost 2 million in 2015. Immigrants today invent 26 percent of the STEM workforce in the United States.
So unless we magically churn out STEM graduates or tackle our green card backlog, we will face an even greater talent shortage as these plants come online.
In the United States, one has difficulty developing and maintaining political attention to such an existential challenge to our competitiveness, much less our security. Not so much in China, where “senior Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials are painfully aware of their highly skilled exodus problem and the labor shortage it creates,” according to the CNSI report. “They have emphasized that ‘the number of great talents lost in China ranks first in the world.’
Immigration is America’s competitive advantage over China and much of the world. Our failure to reform the system is weakening our hand.
Plants take years to get up and running. Modernizing our immigration system to maintain US dominance and overtake China can happen, practically speaking, overnight.
Including a green card backlog remedy in budget reconciliation is an important step in strengthening our economy and our security.
Ali Noorani is president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum, author of the next book “Crossing Borders: Reconciling a Nation of Immigrants, “And host of the podcast”Only in america. “