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November 25, 2023

Eagle Act Memo

On November 14, 2023, Senators Cramer (R-ND) and Hickenlooper (D-CO) introduced the Equal Access to Green Cards for Legal Employment (EAGLE) Act. A version of this bill, which ends country caps limiting how many employment-based green cards can be dispersed to nationals of any single country, has been introduced in subsequent Congresses. Despite at-times fierce lobbying for it, it has become increasingly controversial and never passed into law. As National Iranian American Council Action and numerous other groups representing immigrant communities have warned, it risks reducing the diversity of the green card process, pitting groups of immigrants against each other and would ultimately fail to fix the green card backlog.

National Iranian American Council Action continues to believe that any viable legislative fix for the backlog is one that makes more green cards available to clear it. This was the approach advanced by the Biden administration’s comprehensive immigration reform proposal, which passed the House of Representatives in the Build Back Better Act in 2021 (H.R. 5376) before being dropped amid the Senate’s negotiations over the scope of the Inflation Reduction Act. Separate legislation in the 118th Congress includes visa recapture to clear green card backlogs, including the U.S. Citizenship Act (H.R. 3194) and the Eliminating Backlogs Act of 2023 (H.R. 1535).

As the Congressional Research Service noted on an earlier version of the EAGLE Act (H.R. 1044/S. 386), ending the country caps alone “would not alter the growth of future backlogs compared to current law.” While Indian and Chinese nationals would face shorter wait times, the burden of the backlog would instead shift on to a diverse group of communities as the backlog continues to grow. The solution to the backlog is thus not merely shuffling the line, but raising the number of green cards available for the first time since 1990. Instead, Congress should continue to pursue efforts to clear the backlog for everyone by recapturing unused visas, exempting certain groups from the caps and raising the number of employment-based green cards that are issued each year. 

A number of organizations representing diverse immigrant communities have come together in the 116th Congress to warn against legislation that merely ends country caps without adding new green cards, and instead supported proposals that recapture unused visas to clear the backlog. As 24 organizations warned previously, Congress should not “settle for a bill that would create new problems without solving the underlying challenge at hand of too few green cards available.”

NIAC Action continues to believe that it would be a major mistake to end country caps while ensuring that the backlog continues to grow, and urges legislators to abstain from supporting the EAGLE Act and instead work to find a sustainable, long-term solution based on the Biden administration’s comprehensive reform.

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