The Senate’s budget package includes provisions that would make available hundreds of thousands of green cards for new permanent legal immigrants, in what is shaping up as the next congressional fight over immigration.
The bill’s measures would “recapture” 90,000 unused employment-based immigration visas and would exempt family members from counting toward the cap, which is set at 140,000 per year.
Based on past trends, exempting family members would mean an additional 150,000 permanent legal immigrants annually. About 1 million people become legal immigrants each year.
The change is part of the deficit-reducing budget reconciliation bill, which is on the Senate floor today and includes billions of dollars in cuts in Medicaid and other social spending and allows for oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
“We should never be doing immigration policy inside this kind of bill,” said Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, adding that he will vote against the bill if it makes it to the House.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, which was faced with a deficit-reduction target, chose to meet it in part by selling to employers the 90,000 unused immigration visas and by raising the fee on employment-based visas by $500 each.
The panel also voted to allow 30,000 more workers per year under the H-1B temporary-visa program.
The measure is supported by universities, hospitals, technology companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which say there is a shortage of qualified workers.