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Slicing the immigration pie: should family members get a smaller piece?

Immigrants wait for their citizenship interviews at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Immigrants wait for their citizenship interviews at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
John Moore/Getty Images

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This week a bipartisan senate committee is crafting a new immigration reform bill. The so-called “Gang of Eight” - four Democrats and four Republicans -- has been fairly closed-mouth about their legislation, but a few of their ideas have come to light.  

One such proposal, put forth by South Carolina GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, would increase the number of H1B temporary visas, those granted to highly skilled workers with advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. These highly-prized “STEM” graduates and entrepreneurs are coveted by technology companies and other business interest who hope to lure them to our shores with a path to citizenship.

The catch?  The number of green cards granted to family members of immigrants would be reduced.  The restriction would not apply to spouses and underage children of immigrants, but to siblings, parents and grown children.  Currently, the number of H1B visas is capped at 140,000 per year; around 112,000 family-sponsored green cards are granted to siblings and adult children of immigrants.  The proposal has drawn criticism from immigrants’ rights groups.  The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) sent a letter to Senator John McCain, one of the Gang of Eight, urging him not to support Graham’s proposal.  

Should economic-based immigration come at the cost of family unification?  Could giving visa preference to highly skilled workers and STEM graduates lead to U.S. economic growth? Should those candidates get a bigger slice of the immigration pie - or should we just make the pie bigger?  If you’re a foreign-born citizen or green card holder, what would this legislation mean to your family?

Aaron Blake, Washington Post reporter

Jeremy Robbins, Director, The Partnership for a New American Economy

Judy Chu, California Democratic Congresswoman representing the 27th district and Chair of The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC)