The word I like to use for our immigration laws is "atrophied." 1990 was the last time Congress proactively explored ways to improve upon our immigration systems and quotas through the lens of economic development and consideration of the potential for the advancement of the lives of immigrants living in America. 1990 was more than 30 years ago.
The time has come to bring our immigration laws into the modern realities of a global economy and an interconnected world.
The immigration provisions in Biden’s Build Back Better bill are a step in the right direction. Although for now the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that immigration cannot be part of reconciliation I support the measures that are part of the bill as written.
These provisions benefit not only the legal and undocumented immigrants in the United States, but also their spouses, their children, their employers, and their community.
We can Build Back Better, but it’ll take the harnessing of all the talent, vision and ambition between our borders. This bill will make that possible.
First, let’s talk math. For the past hundred years, we’ve approached immigration law as a numbers game. Beginning in 1965, we transitioned to a values-based math formula, prioritizing close family relations and the types of workers that we thought should immigrate fastest.
This system was visionary at its inception and played a huge and transformative role in ensuring that the United States continued its rise as an economic powerhouse and beacon to the world of what a truly multiethnic democracy could look like. But over time, these numbers became insufficient to keep up with the modern world.
Over time, the math became a nonsensical zero-sum algorithm of prejudice that created inhumane and illogical delays for legal immigration based on country of origin and the random vicissitudes of government bureaucratic competence.
Our current so-called immigration ‘system’ is punitive and serves no policy goal.
The result is that it can take a decade longer for an Indian-born physician to receive a green card than a colleague born in Nepal. And the consequence is that a child born in India and raised almost entirely in the United States may "age out" of their family and be forced to scavenge for visa options or fall out of legal status, desperate to stay in the only country they’ve ever known rather than return to a country with which they have almost no cultural or linguistic connection.
Our current so-called "system" is punitive and serves no policy goal.
It exists in its current form because Congress hasn’t been able to agree on updates and for no other reason.
No member of Congress from either party would call our current system a good one.
The Build Back Better bill will fix our math by allowing the immigration agencies to issue wasted green card numbers – hundreds of thousands of numbers lost due to administrative delays and for no other rational, policy-based, purposeful reason.
This is a problem that became really apparent during the pandemic.
Again, I think we could get universal bipartisan agreement in Congress that when they write the laws, the agencies should execute those laws as written and not unilaterally create new quotas and math that supersedes Congress’s power to craft immigration laws.
Build Back Better gives Congress that authority back to ensure that these individuals – who have already demonstrated Green Card eligibility – can be granted permanent residence and liberated from the never-ending delays caused by quotas and bureaucratic inefficiencies.
Through the new provisions, which create numerical exemptions and erase pointless per country limits, our immigration structures will have a momentary reprieve and a release valve will give our system breathing room to function while Congress considers truly reforming the status quo.
Importantly, these immigration provisions aren’t truly "immigration provisions." They’re provisions that impact us all.
They will free legal immigrants whose entrepreneurial dreams have been hindered by the Green Card process. They will free employers to allow these employees the flexibility in their roles to evolve and use their growing skills and experience to maximum impact. And they will free families, trapped in the immigration maze due to the fact that there is no "line" to get into.
These provisions are about modernizing the vision of 1965, when Congress believed, and we all saw, how immigration can be a powerful engine to boost the economy and the nation.