AILA Applauds a Glimmer of Common Legislative Sense

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
George Tzamaras

WASHINGTON D.C. - The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) applauds Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) for introducing bipartisan bill H.R. 5882, to "recapture" employment-based and family-based green cards that Congress authorized in the past, but went unused before the end of the fiscal year, because of government processing delays.

"Chairwoman Lofgren and Congressman Sensenbrenner are exhibiting common sense and sensible legislative leadership during difficult times by recognizing the enormous strain that green card backlogs have placed on U.S. families, businesses and the economy," said AILA President Kathleen Campbell Walker. "Recapturing unused, already authorized green card numbers wasted due to bureaucratic processing delays is a very simple temporary measure that Congress should be able to enact this year."

As background, Congress set a 140,000 annual quota on employment-based green cards back in 1990. This number includes not only the sponsored worker, but also any immediate family members who accompany that person to the U.S. This allocation method means that U.S. employers are restricted to sponsoring only about 50,000-60,000 green cards for actual workers per year. In past years, only 226,000 family-based visas have been available ? far too few to ensure that family members can reunite with their relatives in a timely way. On top of these unrealistic quotas for family-based and employment-based visas, government processing delays have resulted in green cards going unused in a given year, as the law currently does not provide for any "carry forward" system to preserve the unused green card numbers. This legislation, if passed, would restore unused employment-based green card numbers for use by U.S. employers to retain highly educated workers and restore unused family visas to allow families to reunite with their relatives more quickly.

Backlogs in our current green card system are well documented, with some foreign-born professionals now facing a wait of five to 10 years to receive a permanent resident visa, while some family members are forced to wait decades to reunite with their relatives. "The visa recapture proposal introduced by Lofgren and Sensenbrenner is a critical stop-gap measure that will provide real, albeit limited, relief," said Walker. "But our immigration system remains in a terminal condition and needs more than just a cosmetic repair job. Our immigration laws should be allowed to be responsive to the demands of our economy and our national interest in promoting family unity," said Walker. "Without deeper reforms, our immigration laws will continue to impede U.S. employers competing globally for the world's best talent, as more and more extremely valuable professionals from around the world take their education and abilities to competitors abroad, as well as creating unconscionable delays to legal family-based immigration."


The American Immigration Lawyers Association is the national association of immigration lawyers established to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members. For more information call George Tzamaras at 202-507-7649 or Annie Wilson at 202-507-7653

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 08050160.