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President Obama Considers Making Big Changes

This morning, the Washington Post's David Nakamura reported that the White House is contemplating plans backed by business and immigrant groups to increase legal immigration to the United States by providing "hundreds of thousands of new green cards for high-tech workers and the relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents". In the past few months, President Obama has indicated that he will take executive action to make changes to immigration law since the Republican controlled House has refused to vote on Comprehensive Immigration Reform. It was assumed that Obama would act to either stop deportations or change deportation priorities by expanding the deferred action (DACA) program he implemented two years ago to include parents of US citizens or DACA recipients.

This new revelation shows that the administration is also consulting with the business community, which has long been a vocal and active supporter of immigration reform, to address their needs too. According to Nakamura,

"Compete America, a coalition of large high-tech firms, also is pushing for changes that would allow the administration to “recapture” unused worker visas from previous years. That change alone could allow for an estimated 200,000 additional visas for foreign high-tech workers, experts said".

The White House is also looking into proposals that would streamline the immigration process and double the number of foreigners allowed to enter the country on family and employment based green cards. This would be achieved by changing the way the federal government counts the number of foreigners in the country on green cards. Nakamura explains,

"The proposal being pushed by outside groups centers on changing the way the government counts the number of foreigners who are granted green cards, which allow foreigners to live and work in the United States. Under the law, 226,000 green cards are reserved for family reunification and 140,000 for employment in specialized fields, caps that were established by Congress in 1990.

The government has traditionally counted each family member against the cap when granting visas to the families of foreign siblings of U.S. citizens. The spouses and children of permanent U.S. residents and foreign workers have counted against the caps as well. Advocates are calling on Obama to count only the principal green card holder in each case, while allowing the rest of the family members in without counting them against the caps, which would reduce huge backlogs in both categories."

Nakamura points out that there are currently 4.4 million foreigners waiting for green cards. Most are Mexican, but a significant number hail from the Phillipines, India, Vietnam, and China. The green card backlog is so overwhelmed that some people can wait for decades to become a legal permanent resident.

As of now, it's still unclear whether the White House will implement these actions. While they are no substitute for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, they are welcomed and meaningful changes. Also, no one here is going to complain if the green card backlog eases up.

Source: "White House considers proposals to sharply increase legal immigration" by David Nakamura.