In its July meeting, the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders (WHAANHPI), serving as an advisory council to the President's office, achieved unanimous approval for a significant recommendation. The council voted to recapture green cards that were lost since 1992 due to agency inaction. This decision has been met with celebration by the Indian Diaspora, as it represents another positive stride taken by individuals connected to the Biden Administration in tackling the challenges that directly affect the lives of over 500,000 NRIs (Non-Resident Indians) who currently find themselves in immigration limbo in the United States.
Supporters of this recommendation draw attention to a precedent set by the State Department in the 1970s, when they successfully recaptured unused green cards independently. They propose that the State Department has the authority to reissue these "lost green cards" that were not utilized due to agency inaction. In the past, green card recaptures have been accomplished through the intervention of the US Congress, as exemplified in 2005 when green cards were recaptured and allocated to address nursing shortages.
According to a recent study conducted by the CATO Institute, if these unused green cards from 1992 were to be recaptured, the potential number of family-based recaptures could reach as high as 561,454, while employment-based recaptures could reach up to 490,964. This would significantly alleviate the green card backlog for numerous countries, including those outside of the Rest of the World category.
If the State Department is instructed to act on this recommendation, it could potentially become the most significant measure undertaken by any administration to address the issue of family reunions and the backlog of green cards, which has been causing talented individuals to seek opportunities outside of the United States. Presently, Indians face an astonishing wait time of 125 years to obtain a green card. While the specific implementation details will determine how the recommendation is approved, it is generally understood that those who have been waiting in line the longest will receive relief and priority in the process.
In her opening remarks, WHIAANHPI commissioner Sonal Shah clarified that the council operates as an advisory committee to the White House, and its recommendations hold a non-binding nature. This implies that the council's primary role is to provide guidance to the administration on issues that can be addressed through agency actions or executive orders. However, the final decision-making authority lies with the individuals within the White House.
Following the WHIAANHPI's approval, the recommendation will be presented to the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra. Once the HHS approves the recommendation, it will be forwarded to the White House as a set of recommended actions. The White House will then undertake a thorough review of this and other recommendations put forth by the HHS, subsequently determining the prioritization of actions to be taken.
So far, the council has achieved a series of successes with its recommendations on Immigration. In July of last year, the council proposed the establishment of a visa renewal center within the United States, which was subsequently approved and implemented by the government. As a result, a US center dedicated to visa approvals is scheduled to open in the fall of this year. Another recommendation made by the council, regarding freezing dates for children who are at risk of aging out while their green card applications are pending, has been implemented by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Currently, the council is awaiting clarification on the issuance of Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) and Advance Parole (AP) for individuals with approved green card applications (I-140s). The council anticipates reviewing feedback from USCIS and formulating an appropriate recommendation during its September meeting.