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The Executive Action Obama Should Take on Immigration

August 29, 2014 in Economics

By Alex Nowrasteh

Alex Nowrasteh

President Obama is currently planning numerous executive actions on immigration. White House spokesman Shawn Turner said, “[t]he president has not made a decision regarding next steps, but he believes it’s important to understand and consider the full range of perspectives on potential solutions.” Most observers are interested in how the president’s executive actions could affect unlawful immigrants, but his actions could also improve the legal immigration system.

One possible reform through executive action could increase the number of employment-based green cards available to highly skilled workers without changing the law. How is that possible?

Under current immigration law, about 140,000 green cards are set aside for highly skilled workers with job offers from American companies. But only about 45 percent of those green cards went to workers in 2013, with the rest going to their families. The government currently counts family members against the numerical green-card quota for workers.

Immigration attorneys have acknowledged that the statutes are unclear and that there is no legal basis for counting family members against the worker cap. “Neither the law nor the regulations authorize or require family members to count against the employment-based green card cap,” immigration attorney Matthew Kolken of Buffalo, N.Y., told me.

Immigration attorneys Gary Endelman and Cyrus Mehta concur. They wrote that “[t]here is nothing here [in the law] that explicitly authorizes or mandates the counting of family members” against the employment-based green card cap. Families of workers are counted against the worker cap, apparently, because of bureaucratic inertia.

By not counting family members against the cap, the number of employment-based green cards issued every year would more than double.”

Because counting family members against the worker cap is a bureaucratic creation, President Obama could likely reverse it through an executive order or through asking the bureaucracy to reevaluate its interpretation of the statute. Ideally, the bureaucracy would reinterpret the statute and propose a regulation that would only count workers against the cap, soliciting public comments along the way. Since such a reinterpretation is reasonable based on the unclear statute, such a regulatory move would be normal — government agencies do it every day.

By not counting family members against the cap, the number of employment-based green cards issued every year would more than double. Such a change in counting green cards would not prevent the families of green card workers from coming; it would merely stop counting them against the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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