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Employment-Based Green Card Backlog Tops 800,000

December 18, 2019 (1 min read)

Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, Dec. 17, 2019

"An estimated 800,000 immigrants who are working legally in the United States are waiting for a green card, an unprecedented backlog in employment-based immigration that has fueled a bitter policy debate but has been largely overshadowed by President Trump’s border wall fight and the administration’s focus on migrant crossings from Mexico.

Most of those waiting for employment-based green cards that would allow them to stay in the United States permanently are Indian nationals. And the backlog among this group is so acute that an Indian national who applies for a green card now can expect to wait up to 50 years to get one.

The wait is largely the result of an annual quota unchanged since 1990 and per-country limits enacted decades before the tech boom made India the top source of employment-based green card seekers. 

The backlog has led to competing bills in Congress and has pitted immigrants against immigrants, setting off accusations of racism and greed and exposing a deep cynicism about the prospects for any kind of immigration reform in a polarized nation. The debate centers on the potential benefits of a quick fix to alleviate the wait times for those already in the backlog versus a broader immigration overhaul that could allow more workers to seek permanent residency, address country quotas and expand the number of available green cards."