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Senate group mulling drastic cut in family visas?

Washington, March 15 (IANS) Key US senators are reported to be developing plans that would make it harder for the relatives of American citizens to immigrate to the US, while easing the path for more high-skilled foreign workers.
The plans are part of ongoing talks between a bipartisan group of eight senators, whose bill is expected to serve as the template for a comprehensive immigration deal between Congress and the White House, the Washington Post reported.
Citing lawmakers and others negotiating an immigration deal, it said the senators agree that a limited number of people should be allowed into the country each year, but are grappling with the question as to who those people should be.
Currently, about 65 percent of legal immigrants are admitted for family reasons and 14 percent for employment, according to the Migration Policy Institute. The rest are humanitarian cases.
While Republicans would prefer to admit greater numbers of high-skilled workers, Democrats generally favour giving priority to family members of citizens and legal residents already in the country, the Post said.
Currently spouses and minor children of citizens are given top priority, followed by unmarried children older than 21 and, lastly, married adult children and siblings.
The emerging Senate proposal would eliminate the latter two categories, which add up to about 90,000 visas per year, the Post said.
The current waiting list for family visas includes an estimated 1.9 million people from Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh.
Immigration advocates have started a grass-roots lobbying effort aimed at blocking any reductions in family visas. More than 100 immigrants arrived in Washington Wednesday after a bus tour to highlight family reunification and spent the day lobbying Congress.
Deepa Iyer, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, a coalition of 41 South Asian groups, told the Post that defining immediate families as simply parents and their minor children ignores the “people you need to build a support network.”
“We’re talking about a US citizen where the sister has a small business and wants to sponsor her brother who has the technical skills to help run that business. The fallacy is that folks think of immediate relatives not contributing to the economy. That’s not true,” she was quoted as saying.

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