Zoe Lofgren

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Rep. Lofgren's Green Card Bill Passes House With Bipartisan Support

Keith Menconi
July 12, 2019 - 11:15 am

A bill introduced by a Bay Area congresswoman that would change the way green cards are made available to immigrants has passed the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. 

Under the current system, rules prevent immigrants from any single country from obtaining more than 7% of the green cards distributed. 

The legislation drafted by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) would eliminate that country cap.

"This bill would phase in a change, so ultimately, it would be merit on a first-come, first-served basis," she said. "There's no rational basis for allocating visas that are based on merit by birthplace. After a while, people are giving up."

Related: Report: H-1B Visa Slowdown

Lofgren said it makes no sense that a country like Iceland, with its population of under 350,000 could send as many immigrants to the United States as India, which has 1.3 billion people. 

"One analysis said that the visa wait backlog from India was seventy years," she said. "The waits will be more manageable if it's equitably spread across the world."

The bill has passed the House with bipartisan support, and now goes to the Senate for a vote. 

But what the bill doesn't do is increase the total number of green cards made available each year. 

David North, with the Center For Immigration Studies in Washington DC, pointed out that means the whole process is still a zero-sum game. 

"It's taking away from Peter to pay Paul," North said. "If you're from India or China, this is a good thing. If you're from anywhere else in the world, and you're in the same situation, you've been screwed."

Lofgren has said she would like to see more green cards granted, but right now, the votes for that aren't there.