On Oct. 17 a fiery debate occurred on the U.S. Senate floor. Two great supporters of immigrants and immigration reform, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL, Minority Floor Leader) and Mike Lee (R-UT, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust) battled to a draw on an issue they both support – eliminating the per-country caps on employment-based immigration. This is not the first conflict these senators have had on the subject. Senator Lee and 34 cosponsors of S.386 – Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, have vowed to come to the Senate floor as often as necessary to get the elimination of caps done. Senator Durbin agrees philosophically, but wants to go further to provide additional relief for immigrants seeking work in the United States. Senators Durbin and Leahy introduced an alternative plan, the RELIEF Act, instead.
Per-country caps on immigrant visas have been part of immigration law for some time. They were imposed to cap the number of employment-related visas that can be issued annually and to “cap” each participating country to no more than 7% of the total in any given year. This system has worked for years but is increasingly viewed as “unworkable” by developing large countries, such as India, who feel their citizens are being unduly harmed by country size.
Hundreds of Indian supporters sat in the Senate Gallery watching the proceeding last week. Each senator asked for Unanimous Consent (UC) to move their respective bills, and each objected to the other – cancelling each other out legislatively. Without UC, the senators were deadlocked. The Senate awaits another day and another attempt by these or other senators to address the issue.
Will the Congress yield and pass immigration reform this session? This is yet to be known as we all wait for the next floor debate upon hearing, “I rise today to request Unanimous Consent… Reserving the right to object…”