Republican Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced two immigration reform bills in the U.S. House this week.
Earlier versions of both bills were considered by Congress in the past. Lawmakers voted on the Asylum Reform and Border Protection Act in 2015 and the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act in 2011.
The first addresses immigrants trying to escape dangerous conditions in their home countries by getting asylum status in the U.S. Chaffetz still believes the system for vetting asylum candidates needs to be reformed.
"There’s no way you can look at the metrics of the people that are claiming asylum. It’s just being abused," Chaffetz says.
The legislation Chaffetz is currently introducing would tighten the requirements for immigrants seeking asylum as a reason for entering the US. It would also make it harder for them to temporarily return to their home country and keep that asylum status.
The Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act deals with those trying to get work visas by changing how visas are given out. Instead of a fixed number for each country, the total number of US visas would be given out on a first-come, first-served basis. It would benefit large countries with lots of applicants.
"So if you’re from India or China or Mexico, we often bump up against this cap literally within the first few days of a calendar year," Chaffetz says.
In theory that bill would reward high-skilled workers in countries where there are long visa backlogs. This bill had wide bipartisan support when it was first introduced.
According to Chaffetz, both bills are intended to reform legal immigration programs in the U.S.
"I think we’re failing the people trying to come here legally and lawfully. Those are the people that suffer," he says.
Now that Republicans effectively control the executive and legislative branches of government, Chaffetz says there’s a renewed optimism that immigration reform bills can become law.