One idea that President Obama is considering as he looks at 'executive actions' on the issue of immigration is to free up more 'green cards,' for workers who are waiting in line for permanent residency, Newsradio 1200 WOAI's Michael Board has learned.
The proposal, officials tell Newsradio 1200 WOAI, would free up some 800,000 green cards, actually called United States Permanent Resident Cards,' and provide them to individuals who are already waiting in line for U.S. residency, or individuals who are graduating from a U.S. college or who have a job offer from a U.S. firm.
Local immigration attorney Lance Curtright calls the idea a 'no brainer.'
"We train the talent here and then we export them back to their home country," he said. "That means the U.S. loses out on their creativity and on the money they generate."
Possession of a 'Green Card' also grants the bearer the right to apply for U.S. citizenship, which is expected to anger conservative groups who claim any loosening in immigration laws amounts to 'amnesty.'
But research indicates that the vast majority of Green Car holders do not want to become U.S. citizens.
Business groups are pushing for the change because they claim that they can't find enough workers with the skills they need here in the U.S.
And Curtright says the lines today are too long to accommodate people with skills, most of them trained in the U.S.
"It could take twenty years, and it would be extremely difficult and extremely frustrating," he said. "There are a lot of laws you also have to overcome in that time period."
The President could take one or more of several avenues available to make more Green Cards available. One would be to use employment cards from previous years. Another would be to remove the requirement that some spouses of U.S. citizens return to their native country for at least three years before they can apply for U.S. residency.
There is also talk of simply extending existing work permits to the spouses of existing H-4 visa holders.
But opponents point out that while the tech industry is the one crying most loudly about the lack of skilled workers, Microsoft just laid off 18,000 people, and statistics show that tech hiring in general is slowing as the industry matures.
Republicans also point out that there remains high unemployment in many places across the U.S. and these individuals should be given the chance to train for available jobs before more immigrants are allowed legal status.