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House lawmakers advanced a proposal Friday that would salvage unused green cards from the past three decades and make them available to immigrants stuck in long backlogs.
Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) introduced the measure as an amendment to fiscal 2023 appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security. The Appropriations Committee voted 32-25 to adopt it.
The amendment, which faces a long path to the finish line in the appropriations process, would allow DHS to recapture family and employment-based visas that went unused due to bureaucratic snags, processing delays, and other disruptions since 1992.
The amendment would also make visas available to immigrants who weren’t allowed into the country because of Trump administration travel bans.
Democrats tried to secure similar relief for backlogged immigrants in a partisan tax and social spending package that collapsed last year. Lawmakers from both parties have also tried to advance narrower recapture amendments in previous appropriations bills and standalone measures.
There are 140,000 employment-based green cards and 226,000 green cards available each year for non-immediate family members. More than 200,000 immigrant visas between the two categories went to waste last year as US Citizenship and Immigration Services dealt with pandemic-induced strains, bureaucratic changes imposed by the Trump administration, and a larger humanitarian workload.
Restoring the expired visa numbers would offer new hope to immigrants who have been stuck in decades-long backlogs thanks to annual caps on green cards that can go to individuals from a specific country. The vast majority of backlogged employment-based green card applications are for immigrants from India and China, many of them already living and working in the US but without permanent status.
With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick