Indian techies, who migrated to the US chasing the American Dream, are apparently willing to stonewall other dreamers, quite literally.
According to a report in Hindustan Times, Indian H-1B workers waiting for green cards – permanent residency in the US – are pushing for bill that seeks to cut their waiting period, “backing it with an offer of at least $4 billion to fund border security, including a wall along the Mexican border”.
The report quotes Aman Kapoor, the co-founder and president of advocacy group Immigration Voice, as saying: “Indian high-skilled workers will gladly, enthusiastically and happily pay for the border security or the wall if given an opportunity to do so in order to get fair treatment on green card waiting times.”
The money will come by charging an extra $2,500 from those applying for a green card. With an estimated 1.5 million applicants from India, the sum comes up to a significant total.
US govt headed for another shutdown?
Immigration laws in the US are under unprecedented scrutiny and hectic attempts and debates on reframing them are in progress. On February 8, the US government will run out of money to function unless the Congress passes a short-term spending bill. Last month, the government briefly shut down when Senate Democrats voted against a spending bill because it didn’t include legal protections for immigrants who entered the US as children illegally.
While Congressional leaders are trying to work out a deal to avoid the shutdown, President Donald Trump, on February 6 announced as only he can: “I’d love to see a shutdown if we can’t get this stuff taken care of. If we have to shut it down because the Democrats don’t want safety … let’s shut it down.”
The Obama administration had come up with a relief measure for undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme. It gave two-year work and residency permits to such people under the age of 31, without criminal records, brought to America before they were 16, if they were in had graduated from high school or university, or were honourably discharged from the armed forces.
Trump announced in September that he was ending the programme and gave Congress until March 5 to come up with a legislative solution. The shape and structure of this bill has become a thorny issue, and is again threatening to shut down the government.
The Bill that the Indian techies are rooting for is called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, and they want it included in the legislation on the DACA package. The Bill aims to “amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the per-country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants, to increase the per-country numerical limitation for family-sponsored immigrants”, and for other purposes.
The per-country limitation affects Indians severely. At present, there is a country-wise cap of 7% on green cards – nationals of no single country can get more. According to the HT report: “While people of other nationalities also have to wait for their green card, Indians wait the longest — around 70 years at current rate of disposal. Their line is the longest and gets even longer as more join the queue every year.”
The family-sponsored immigrants clause is also significant: according to a report in The Hindu, nearly half of the one million green cards issued every year goes to close relatives of American citizens regardless of their skills.
The Trump administration has advocated prioritising the entry of skilled immigrants by doing away with programmes such as giving Diversity Immigrant Visa, which selects applicants from countries with low numbers of immigrants in the previous five years, and chain migration, the process by which people in the United States can sponsor family members to join them.
However, many have pointed out that under the guise of promoting the entry of “skilled workers”, the administration is essentially limiting the number of immigrants to the US, often the at the cost of humane considerations such as uniting family members.
Building walls is generally a bad idea
The stand that Indian techies associated with Immigration Voice are taking is myopic at best, and promoting discrimination and exclusion at worst.
Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an engineer, was killed after an American navy veteran opened fire in bar at a bar in Olathe city in a hate crime. Photo: AP
Trump’s "wall along Mexico" plan epitomises a lot of what has made him popular and dangerous. It harps on the White Americans’ paranoia of the “outsider” by promoting erroneous stereotypes – illegal immigrants steal American jobs, indulge in drugs and other crimes, and of course, turn terrorists.
Trump had said: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best... They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people."
His visa regulations are based on similar wrong assertions that a single immigrant can bring in “virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives”, who then proceed to make life difficult for those who “actually belong” to America.
This is the stand that Immigration Voice is willing to support, just so that their waiting period for the green card is reduced. Secure in the knowledge that they are “skilled workers”, the group is willing to hurt not just Mexican immigrants, but those Indians too who move to the US without high education degrees. How are the non-affluent applicants supposed to pay the extra green card fee they have proposed?
The group seems to have forgotten that such immigration rules are part of the larger racist, anti-immigrant character of the Trump administration, and will come back to bite them. Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed after an American navy veteran opened fire in bar at a bar in Olathe city in a hate crime, was an aviation engineer.
Almost one year ago, Amitava Kumar, a US-based writer and journalist, had said in The New Yorker: “I’ve often asked myself lately whether I’ve been right to suspect that people were looking at me differently on the street, at airports, or in elevators. Whenever a stranger has been kind to me, I have almost wanted to weep in gratitude.”
Indian techie immigrants are a sizeable and influential group in the US. They should ideally be at the forefront of the fight against discriminatory, exclusionary and inhumane immigration norms.
A wall limiting people’s chances at a better life is too steep a price to pay for a shorter waiting period for green cards.