On Oct. 17 a fiery debate occurred on the U.S. Senate floor. Two great supporters of immigrants and immigration reform, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL, Minority Floor Leader) and Mike Lee (R-UT, Chairman, Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust) battled to a draw on an issue they both support – eliminating the per-country caps on employment-based immigration. This is not the first conflict these senators have had on the subject. Senator Lee and 34 cosponsors of S.386 – Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, have vowed to come to the Senate floor as often as necessary to get the elimination of caps done. Senator Durbin agrees philosophically, but wants to go further to provide additional relief for immigrants seeking work in the United States. Senators Durbin and Leahy introduced an alternative plan, the RELIEF Act, instead.

Per-country caps on immigrant visas have been part of immigration law for some time. They were imposed to cap the number of employment-related visas that can be issued annually and to “cap” each participating country to no more than 7% of the total in any given year. This system has worked for years but is increasingly viewed as “unworkable” by developing large countries, such as India, who feel their citizens are being unduly harmed by country size.

Hundreds of Indian supporters sat in the Senate Gallery watching the proceeding last week. Each senator asked for Unanimous Consent (UC) to move their respective bills, and each objected to the other – cancelling each other out legislatively. Without UC, the senators were deadlocked. The Senate awaits another day and another attempt by these or other senators to address the issue.

Will the Congress yield and pass immigration reform this session? This is yet to be known as we all wait for the next floor debate upon hearing, “I rise today to request Unanimous Consent… Reserving the right to object…”

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Photo of Robert Y. Maples˘ Robert Y. Maples˘

Robert Y. Maples is experienced in the Washington, D.C. federal, state and public affairs arenas. He has also been an advocate for building pragmatic alliances to resolve major social issues and has pioneered strategies for addressing complex public affairs crises in collaborative versus…

Robert Y. Maples is experienced in the Washington, D.C. federal, state and public affairs arenas. He has also been an advocate for building pragmatic alliances to resolve major social issues and has pioneered strategies for addressing complex public affairs crises in collaborative versus confrontational contexts. He continues his advocacy of pragmatic alliances in furtherance of client/government collaborations among the Congress and federal agencies, and serves as state counsel on complex client public policy matters. He is experienced in complex problem solving in regulatory and legislative environments and his client interests have led to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) activities and cybersecurity representation.

˘ Not admitted to practice law.

Photo of Laura Foote Reiff Laura Foote Reiff

Laura Foote Reiff is the chair of GT’s Business Immigration Group. She focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies, as well as related employment compliance and legislative issues. Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related…

Laura Foote Reiff is the chair of GT’s Business Immigration Group. She focuses her practice on business immigration laws and regulations affecting U.S. and foreign companies, as well as related employment compliance and legislative issues. Laura advises corporations on a variety of compliance-related issues, including Form I-9 alien employment verification matters, immigration compliance strategies, and H-1B and H-2B compliance inspections and due diligence.

Photo of Kristen W. Ng Kristen W. Ng

Kristen W. Ng focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance matters, including legislative issues. She advises individuals and companies on a wide range of immigration matters, including nonimmigrant and immigrant employment-based cases, citizenship issues,) and investor cases (E-2 and EB-5). She provides…

Kristen W. Ng focuses her practice on business immigration and compliance matters, including legislative issues. She advises individuals and companies on a wide range of immigration matters, including nonimmigrant and immigrant employment-based cases, citizenship issues,) and investor cases (E-2 and EB-5). She provides immigration counsel to clients, including HR managers, high-level executives, and employees to ensure comprehension of each respective immigration process and procedure and to collaboratively produce the best immigration strategy and approach for each individual matter. In addition, she works on immigration reform policies and advocates for smart policies for clients.