Washington, DC – US President Donald Trump recently announced his plan to overhaul our nation’s immigration system from the Rose Garden in the White House. His plan would favor giving immigrant visas (or green cards) to primarily employment-based applicants ahead of family-based and asylum-based ones.
I think the President’s plan makes total sense. Right now, using 2017 statistics, almost two-thirds of the green cards that are issued every year by the US government are for family-based petitions. Another 18 percent are allocated to asylum seekers and diversity visa recipients. That leaves a paltry 12 percent for employment-based applicants, who are the primary petitioners for these immigrant visas.
The current system makes no sense, and hence is readily exploited by applicants who sponsor their entire families (sometimes including second-degree relatives) at the expense of other employment -based applicants. This results in huge backlogs of decades for employment-based immigrant visas, mostly for those from highly oversubscribed countries like India and China.
Most family members who come to the US through this unfair practice of favoring family members over skilled employment-based immigrants immediately qualify for safety net services such as Social Security disability, Medicare, etc. This puts an enormous burden on our overall infrastructure and needlessly penalizes American citizens.
I am a practicing clinical psychologist who has been working in nursing homes for almost the last decade. In my daily interactions with patients and other healthcare providers, I meet many doctors who are from India and other foreign nations.
In fact, recent figures show that almost half the licensed doctors in this country are foreign-born. Many doctors from India have told me that they are still waiting to get their green cards through their employers for several years. One doctor who came to the US in the late 90s told me that she had been waiting to receive her green card for fifteen years since she applied. If President Trump’s plan was to go into effect, it would clear a lot of these artificially-created backlogs for high skilled immigrants like doctors.
I know there is no political will among Democrats and even some Republicans for implementing a merit-based and high-skill employment-based immigration plan, but it would make America more globally competitive and a viable option for physicians and other high-skilled immigrants.
Countries like the UK, Canada and Australia have had a similar merit-based immigration plan for high-skilled workers for years. Only the US is still following an antediluvian system where skilled immigrants come last in the order of preference for awarding immigrant visas. It is my hope that the Congress will take another look at the President’s plan, and not reject it outright due to petty political reasons.