WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 30, 2013) — The House Judiciary committee this week marked up the “Supplying Knowledge-based Immigrants and Lifting Levels of STEM Visas Act” (SKILLS Visas Act), which passed on a nearly party line vote of 20-14. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) broke with his Republican committee members in opposition of changing the current system.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice (“Advancing Justice”) submitted a letter to the committee expressing its concern with some of the troublesome provisions of the SKILLS Visas Act, which eliminates the opportunity for families to reunite with their siblings, and denies some visas for siblings already in line with approved petitions.
“This extreme change would conflict with our fundamental principle of fairness. We urge the committee to reject this zero sum approach that pits businesses against families. […] Our nation is stronger when both the employer- and family-based immigration systems work together for our nation,” the letter states.
The House Judiciary Committee has proceeded with its strategy for a piecemeal process to achieve immigration reform, bypassing a bipartisan group of representatives who have been working on a comprehensive bill. With a piecemeal approach, the House is overlooking how complex and interconnected our immigration system is and how it affects various parts of our communities.
“House Republicans will never achieve immigration reform by ignoring the needs of immigrant communities. For the Asian and Pacific Islander community, there is no priority more pressing than keeping families together. That means ensuring that American citizens have the right to bring their brothers and sisters here. We must do more to bring families together, not split them farther apart. I will continue to fight for families as immigration reform moves forward,” said Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA).
Rep. Chu offered two amendments to improve the bill, but both were rejected by the committee. Chu’s first amendment was to restore the sibling category in full. That amendment failed on a vote of 15-20. The latter amendment was to lessen the blow to families currently waiting in line for visas with approved petitions. Unfortunately, that amendment also failed on a 11-22 vote.
Advancing Justice worked to mitigate the harmful impact of the SKILLS Visa Act on families through Chairman Goodlatte’s manager’s amendment. However, the provision to allow some siblings waiting in line to immigrate to the U.S. for the next ten years was limited by an annual cap of 65,000, and simply does not achieve meaningful family reunification for the immigrant families. The amendment, nevertheless, passed on a voice vote.