WASHINGTON – Senators writing a comprehensive immigration bill may dramatically limit green cards for extended families of U.S. citizens, reserving them for immediate family members instead, a key lawmaker said Thursday.
It would be a significant change to U.S. immigration policy thats long favored family ties over economic or job criteria. And its already sparking opposition from groups trying to protect family-based immigration.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is part of a bipartisan Senate group negotiating the bill, said the aim is to remake the immigration system so it has a much clearer economic focus.
Green cards should be reserved for the nuclear family. Green cards are economic engines for the country, Graham said. This is not a family court were dealing with here. Were dealing about an economic need.
Unlike most other industrialized nations, the U.S. awards a much larger proportion of green cards – permanent resident visas that allow holders to eventually become citizens – to family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents than to foreigners with job prospects.
About two-thirds of permanent legal immigration to the U.S. is family-based, compared with about 15 percent that is employment-based, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Current law gives preference to spouses and minor and unmarried children of U.S. citizens. Permanent residents can petition for immediate family, and citizens can petition to bring in their married children and siblings, but theyre on a lower priority.
Graham would prefer eliminating the married children and sibling categories altogether.