White House Won’t Fully Commit to Green Card Recapture

Jan 25, 2022
5:43 PM

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Steven Portnoy of CBS News asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki two questions about immigrant relief on behalf of Latino Rebels, which was unable to attend the press briefing in person due to COVID restrictions.

Here is a transcript of the exchange:

PORTNOY: I’ll start with a question on behalf of a reporter who can’t be in the room today. His name is Pablo Manríquez. The outlet is called Futuro Media. And he asks: What unilateral authority is the President willing to exercise for immigrant relief that has not been tried yet?

PSAKI: For immigration reform or relief or…? Well, I would say we’re going to have to keep trying some of the measures we have been working on to date. The President put forward a comprehensive immigration bill on his first day in office. We’ve obviously tried to work with leaders in the Senate to try to push that forward, including working to try work to have components included in the President’s Build Back Better agenda. We’re going to continue to work to not only instill and implement safer security measures, but also more humane measures with how people are treated, how children are treated. And we’re also going to continue to work and redouble our efforts to address root causes. So we’re going to continue to approach this from many fronts.

PORTNOY: Pablo also asks: Is the President willing to reallocate unused green cards and apply them to immigrants waiting in decades-long green card backlogs?

PSAKI: Well we have reformed the green card system. Reform to the green card system is certainly something we’ve talked about as part of immigration reform. I can check and see if there’s anything we can do unilaterally on that front.

The White House did not immediately reply to requests for comment on the President’s options for unilaterally reallocating unused green cards from past years, known as recapture.

“Every year, the U.S. sets aside a specific number of available green cards for individuals from all around the world,” explains Arturo Castellanos-Canales, a policy and advocacy associate at the National Immigration Forum. “However, over the years, various administrative complications have left hundreds of thousands of green cards unissued. In addition, existing numerical limitations and per-country caps on green cards have only accentuated a backlog of over 5 million. To tackle the backlog … policy analysts and immigration advocates have suggested recapturing the unused green cards accumulated over the past three decades, going back to 1992.”

In December of 2020, Cato Institute scholar David J. Bier compiled a list of 30 unilateral actions that President Biden can take to deregulate the immigration system, some of which address relief for green card backlogs.


Pablo Manríquez is the Washington correspondent for Latino Rebels. Twitter: @PabloReports