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Expand chart
Re-created from CATO Institute; Chart: Axios Visuals

Immigrants caught in backlogs to receive green cards could become U.S. permanent residents years — even decades — faster if a little-noticed provision in President Biden's $1.75 trillion "human" infrastructure bill becomes law.

Driving the news: The provision would recover more than 400,000 family and employment-based green cards previously authorized by Congress but unused since 1992, according to data confirmed by a Senate aide.

  • The cards allow permanent residency, though not citizenship right away.
  • “It is disappointing that the United States is unable to adequately process green card visas in a timely fashion,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda told Axios.
  • “We support the House provision to recapture green card visas and encourage the administration to process green card visas quicker."

By the numbers: Nearly 224,000 green cards allocated by Congress from 1992 to 2019 were never used, according to data from the CATO Institute, presented above.

  • An additional 200,000 went unused in 2020, largely due to coronavirus-related processing delays, according to data from the American Immigration Council.
  • Roughly 140,000 family-based and 62,000 employment-based visas expired Oct. 1.

Between the lines: Backlogs and caps on the number of green cards handed out to individual countries mean applicants often wait years in backlogs before receiving immigrant visas or green cards.

  • In 2005, Congress recaptured 50,000 green cards that went unused from 2001 to 2004.
  • The idea of additional green card recapture has gained some bipartisan consensus, amid a sea of disagreement on immigration reform, although it's also faced backlash from some Republican members.

Details: Under the current bill, some employment-based green card applicants would be able to pay a $5,000 fee to waive the annual and per-country limitations and become permanent residents.

  • So far, there have been no dissenting voices among Senate Democrats, but the measure in the current bill would still have to survive a "Byrd bath" — a formal test of the provisions' budgetary effects — in the coming weeks.
  • The Senate parliamentarian has already rejected other measures that would have included alternate citizenship pathways for undocumented immigrants.

Go deeper

Biden to add 20,000 guest-worker visas amid labor shortages

Photo: Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

The Biden administration will add 20,000 new slots to a seasonal, guest-worker program for the winter season, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday.

Why it matters: The U.S. labor force has struggled against the backdrop of rising demand, mental and physical health issues, and low wages, as businesses emerge from the economic damage incurred at the height of the pandemic.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."