Senate Claims Positive Strides on Immigration Reform

Senator John McCain predicted that efforts to craft a wide-ranging, bipartisan immigration reform bill would come together promptly in the Senate, eliminating the need for President Obama to propose his own measure. The effort to create a sweeping reform has been backed by Obama, as he has toured the nation discussing the benefits of a reform and the accolades of a bipartisan effort and agreement.

The bill seeks to make it easier to give green cards to PhD and Master students in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics who have found jobs within the US. It also seeks to pave a path towards citizenship for the already 11 million illegal immigrants.

The bill will also increase the visa cap. The H-1B (non-immigrant temporary working) will be increased from 65,000 each year to 115,000, dependent upon labor market conditions. The bill will eliminate the quota for graduates with advanced degrees from US universities, allow spouses of H-1B holders to work and make it possible for visa holders to renew without returning to their home countries. Dropping the requirement to return to their country of origin takes much of the time and financial burden off the immigrant, thus enhancing chances of a legal visa reinstatement.

Many US politicians, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who last month called the current immigration policy a “national suicide,” have urged for better visa policies for skilled foreign workers who are in high demand fields as a way of improving the country’s competitiveness in the global economy.

The changes are great for the increasing number in Chinese students studying at US universities. Raymond Wong, president of Wong, Wong & Associates, a Manhattan-based law firm, explained, “For the skilled and educated, that means there are more visas for them to work.”

Wincy Yun, a doctoral student in computer science at City University of New York, told the press, “This is great news for people like me. I believe lots of people have been waiting for the moment. I hope it will be written into law as soon as possible.”

The 2012 Pew Center survey, The Rise of Asian Americans, showed that Asian Americans are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the US, and have comprised the largest share of recent immigrants. And according to the Open Door report by the Institute of International Education, there were approximately 194,000 Chinese students studying at American universities and colleges during the 2011/2012 school year, totaling more than any other country.

Currently, the US issues 140,000 green cards each year for employment-based immigrants. No more than 7 percent of those visas can be given to applicants from a single country. As there are many Chinese and Indian applicants each year, they continually face lengthy waits.

While much of the reform talk has focused on Latinos, who comprise the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants, the bill will most definitely impact Asian and Chinese immigrants. According to the Department of Homeland Security report, there were approximately 280,000 unauthorized Chinese in the US in 2011. This number marks a 90,000 increase over a decade. Many have either overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally.

Under the new immigration reform, illegal aliens would pay a fine for their status, but still be able to work, pay taxes and hold onto hopes of receiving a green card.