White House

A legal immigration debate that could change who gets green cards first


On a special edition of Majority Minority, we host a debate between two top Washington insiders five days before critical midterms about a proposal that could help reshape parts of the American immigration system.

Immigration lawyer and political strategist Leon Fresco took to Twitter a few weeks ago calling out critics of a proposal he’s pushing on Capitol Hill that would eliminate country caps for green cards. There is no reason, he says, for one specific group of highly skilled immigrants from certain countries to have to wait decades longer to receive green cards, leaving them vulnerable to employment abuse and exploitation.

“It’s a very straightforward concept,” Fresco said. “The only thing the bill does is it says that when we give out green cards in the employment base context, meaning that an employer is hiring a foreign national to do work that an American cannot do, the way those green cards would be allocated after the bill is passed is the same thing that happens when you go to a deli or you go to the DMV or anywhere else, which is a first-come, first-serve line. So they’re not a different lines based on qualities they can’t control.”

Jessica Vaughn, the director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, quickly accepted Fresco’s challenge. She argued that there is little in the proposal for the American worker, which is just one reason it has yet to be approved by Congress.

“I was actually concerned that not enough people were focused on this bill because it really makes some sweeping changes to our immigration laws,” she said. “And I think it surprised people that it was on a spending bill because most of us are saying what in the world does this have to do with appropriations or spending for DHS. It just seems like a vehicle to get something through that has been attempted before and that failed for what I think for pretty good reasons.”

The proposal has significant political implications for the Republican Party trying to hold on to control of the House of Representatives and particularly Republican Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, who sponsored the bill, who is fighting to remain in Congress.

Fresco and Vaughn accepted our offer to move Twitter debate to our studio where they hashed out the politics and merits of the proposal and it’s significant in the larger immigration debate.

Franco Ordoñez: 202-383-6155, @francoordonez