Immigrant groups clash over senate bill to increase immigration access for some

By Camilla Forte, Photojournalist

Updated 10/14/19 at 8:05 p.m. with updated numbers of protestors.

Shouts of “first come, first served” clashed with chants of “green cards for all” in Daley Plaza Thursday as immigrant advocacy groups came head-to-head over the passage of a Senate bill which would lift immigration limitations for certain classifications. 

S.386, or the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, would eliminate the 7% cap for employment-based immigrant visas and “remove an offset that reduced the number of visas for individuals from China.” It would also increase the per-country yearly cap on family-based immigrant visas from 7% to 15%. 

Additionally, the bill “establishes transition rules for employment-based visas from FY2020-FY2022, by reserving a percentage of EB-2 (workers with advanced degrees or exceptional ability) and EB-3 (skilled and other workers) visas for individuals not from the two countries with the largest number of recipients of such visas.” 

An estimated 300 demonstrators from various Indian organizations in the Midwest came out in support of the bill, participating in a “Walk for Equality,” according to Raul Reymundo, CEO of the Resurrection Project and leader of the counter-protest. 

In an Oct. 14 email to the Chronicle, organizers with the Illinois Immigration Forum said it was closer to a few thousand.

The walk spanned from Chicago City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St., to Daley Plaza, 50 W. Washington St.

Venkatramreddy Ravi, lead organizer from the Illinois Immigration Forum and participant in the walk, said that passing this bill would help many who have been waiting to get a green card for nearly a decade.

“All we are doing is requesting Sen. Durbin to support Green Card equality and stop the nation origin discrimination,” Ravi said. 

Counter-protesters from The Resurrection Project, an advocacy group focused on creating a supportive immigrant community, attended, arguing against the passing of S.386. 

“They say they want justice, but I don’t think this is justice for all,” said Hasti Sharisi, a student attending the counter-protest. “This whole thing is to increase diversity, but if you look at these two groups, you see which group has more diversity in it.”

Reymundo said that the bill would do more harm than good if passed. 

“This bill is only going to increase the cap for a specific group of immigrants,” Reymundo said. “What Sen. Durbin is saying [is] let’s work to increase the overall cap for green cards for everyone and all immigrant communities.”