Early this year, a bill that aimed to put an end to per country caps on green cards — HR 1044, was introduced in the US House of Representatives and eventually passed with wide bipartisan support (365 - 65).

It is currently in discussion in the senate as S386 . This bill has provided a semblance of hope for many immigrants, most notably Indian and Chinese-born applicants, who face untenable wait times, before Permanent Residency becomes available to them. The major factor for these backlogs are the per country caps on Green Card allocations, which do not reconcile with the reality of today's immigration patterns, where the vast majority of applicants for Employment based Green Cards, are Indian and Chinese born.

The bill seemed to have had a slightly shaky beginning in the senate despite eventually having bipartisan support.

Senator Rand Paul had raised some concerns in the past regarding healthcare workers, which were addressed by introducing a quota which would be available to them for the next 9 years.

There were further holdouts and more changes, but rare bipartisan agreement seemed to be on the horizon.

By mid October, the bill finally seemed like it would be brought to a vote again and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) tried to introduce it for unanimous consent voting, a procedure which allows for expedited legislation if a bill passes with unanimous agreement in the Senate.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) now remains the lone holdup to the bill's passage in the Senate.

Senator Durbin believed that without increasing the total number of green cards, this bill would not be effective, which is an impossiblity with the current occupant of the White House. Interestingly, he had his own bill — S2603, which tried to address some of the same problems which was, in turn, blocked by Senator Mike Lee.

This deadlock has brought the attention of the immigrant community towards Senator Durbin, and a fair share of angst at a democrat blocking a bill that would address the lives of thousands of legal immigrants.

This finally brings us to Dec 18th.

After much deliberation, it seems that senators Lee and Durbin have come to an agreement, and have announced an amendment deal.

Broadly speaking, the bill would still end the per country quotas, provide relief to dependents who are at risk of ageing out of dependent status at the age of 21, on their parents' application, providing temporary employment authorization to these dependents, introduce temporary quotas for the next 9 years that would prevent the backlogged applications from completely taking over the system, and introducing a measure to ensure that H1B visas are not misused by preventing companies who have more than 50 employees from filing for H1B visas if 50% of their workforce consists of H1B visa workers.

It was not brought up for a unanimous vote, and as per Senator Durbin, the vote is likely pushed to 2020. Immigrants will have to wait a bit longer, and hope that other senators don't have any reason to block the the new ammended version of the bill.

This is definitely a bill to watch, with cautious optimism.


Further reading

S386 Bill
S386 Ammendment deal
History of the bill in the Senate
Senate action on bill (12/18)
S2603 Bill Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families
Washington Post story about the situation