Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 13, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, I thank Congresswoman Lofgren for her tremendous leadership, not only on this bill, but also on the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee as our chairwoman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of the EAGLE Act.

I believe I may be the only one, or one of very few, Members of Congress who has actually been on an H-1B visa back when processing times to transition to a green card weren't nearly as bad as they are today. It still took me 17 years and a multitude of visas to become a U.S. citizen.

Today, an estimated 1.6 million people in the family backlog and 200,000 in the employment backlog will die, in some cases, before they receive green cards because of an arcane system that puts a 7 percent per-country limit on employment and family-sponsored green cards.

Many of the people who are stuck in this backlog are Asian immigrants, people who were denied the right to become U.S. citizens for most of U.S. history, from 1790 to 1952, through the Chinese Exclusion Act and the Supreme Court's 1923 decision barring Indians from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. Anti-Asian policies have informed these future anti-immigrant efforts.

As the first South Asian American woman elected to the House, I am very aware that Congress did not repeal that Supreme Court decision until 1946.

The employment and family immigration process established in 1965 provided the first meaningful ways for Asian immigrants to come to the United States, and it remains the main method of entry for Asian immigrants because many Asian immigrants cannot access other pathways, such as asylum or refugee status or diversity visas.

However, because of the per-country caps, there are lengthy backlogs to secure permanent status. Those backlogs can last for decades or even lifetimes.

Someone from India or Mexico currently experiences a 200-year wait to secure a green card, while nationals of other countries wait as little as 2 years or less.

The EAGLE Act would simply ensure fairness by moving to a first come, first served system that would no longer discriminate by country of birth. Moreover, thanks to the bill's 9-year transition period beginning in October 2024, it would not harm anyone that is currently in the backlog.

The truth, Mr. Speaker, is that our immigration system is deeply broken, and it needs reform on every level. This is something that I dedicated two decades of my life to before coming to Congress. Whether you are from Africa, Latin America, Asia, or the Caribbean, we do not have a functioning immigration system that allows people to come to America and do the work that we need, or escape from war-torn or economically devastated countries, or join family members.

Congress has punted on comprehensive, humane immigration reform for too long, so we are forced to pursue piecemeal efforts for principled compromise to address the many broken parts of the immigration system while ensuring that no community suffers harm as another benefits. That is the nature of principled compromise.

This is one of those bills that certainly does not accomplish fixing the broken immigration system. It does not do that, but it does do something very important, which is to fix one piece of an immigration system that has been put together by these individual pieces that affect different parts of the population.

It does so, Mr. Speaker, without harming any other community.

To those of you who have waited too long for a green card as you have put down roots here and raised families and helped communities thrive across the country, I am here to say: We see you.

A previous iteration of this bill passed the Chamber with 365 bipartisan votes. I urge my colleagues to vote ``yes'' on the EAGLE Act.