Senate Immigration Plan Could Reduce Family Visas

Friday, 15 Mar 2013 12:12 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Senators are weighing immigration reform proposals that would significantly lower the number of relatives of U.S. citizens allowed to immigrate to this country, while admitting a larger number of high-skilled foreign workers.

The plans are part of ongoing talks among a bipartisan group of eight senators aimed at reaching an immigration deal between Congress and the White House, according to The Washington Post.

About 65 percent of legal immigrants are now admitted for family reasons and 14 percent for employment, while the rest are humanitarian cases, the Post reported, citing data from the Migration Policy Institute.

Top priority now goes to spouses and minor children, followed by unmarried children older than 21 and then married adult children and siblings. The Senate proposal would eliminate married adult children and siblings, which add up to about 90,000 visas a year, the Post reported.

People in those categories could still apply for visas, but the Post reported that Republicans involved in the bipartisan negotiations would prefer tighter limits on family visas unless the applicants have certain special skills or qualifications that may be in short supply in the U.S. workforce.

"What I want to do is reserve green cards based on the economic needs of the country," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a key Republican behind reform efforts, told the Post.

"We’ll do something for families," he added. "But the goal for me is to replace a chained migration immigration system with an economic-based immigration system.”

Immigration advocates, however, have spoken out against such a move. “We oppose any efforts to further limit the definition of family,” wrote members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in a letter to the eight senators last week.

Eliminating adult children and siblings, they argue, “would produce only a small reduction in visas while creating greater hardship for thousands of U.S. citizens and their loved ones.”

The so-called “group of eight” senators has said it plans to unveil a comprehensive reform package early next month.





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