Although last week we witnessed the historic bipartisan passage of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744, I’m concerned about recent developments in the House of Representatives.
Just hours after S. 744 passed the Senate by an overwhelming margin, the House Judiciary Committee voted to advance H. 2131, also known as the Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act or “SKILLS” Visa Act.
The bill’s main co-sponsors, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) described the bill as “modernizing” our immigration laws and “eliminating immigration programs that do not meet the needs of our nation,” but these characterizations ignore the tremendous harm this bill would cause to migrant and refugee families.
H. 2131 would increase the number of visas for foreign graduates of U.S. universities in science and technology fields while gutting immigration channels for families. Specifically, this bill would eliminate 65,000 visas that are now available annually for the siblings of U.S. citizens. Erasing this category of family immigration would keep hundreds of thousands of families apart. In addition to prohibiting U.S. citizens from petitioning for their siblings to join them in the United States in the future, the SKILLS Act would prevent many brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who are now waiting in line from ever receiving the visas they have been patiently waiting for.
The SKILLS Act also eliminates another existing immigration channel, the diversity visa program, which grants 56,000 visas each year to immigrants from countries that traditionally send few immigrants to the United States. LIRS has expressed concerns about these provisions to the House Judiciary Committee, organizing a letter from 26 national, state, and local faith-based organizations and leaders opposing them.
We need reasonable immigration reform legislation that meets our economic needs without compromising family unity, an American value and an LIRS priority for immigration reform. The House of Representatives can and must produce better immigration reform ideas than those in the SKILLS Act. Thank you for standing for welcome throughout this long fight, and join us in asking the House of Representatives to deliver fair and compassionate immigration reform now!