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Trump-backed RAISE Act may favor Indian green card applicants

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India is one of the largest countries sending its citizens to the US

US President Donald Trump (Courtesy of the White House)

When President Donald Trump announced his backing for a bill aimed at cutting the number of legal immigrates entering the United States, unlike the popular belief that it could harm immigrants, many Indian Green Card applicants felt a sigh of relief.

The bill introduced by Republican Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and David Perdue of Georgia earlier this year proposes to cut legal immigration to 500,000, which is currently set at 1 million annually, by 2027.

“Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment, or RAISE Act,” was introduced in the Senate in February stating that there is a need for “rational changes” to legal immigration.

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The bill recommends lowering overall immigration to 637,960 in its first year and to 539,958 by its tenth year – a 50 percent reduction from the 1,051,031 immigrants who arrived in 2015.

While introducing the bill Perdue had said, “We are taking action to fix some of the shortcomings in our legal immigration system. Returning to our historically normal levels of legal immigration will help improve the quality of American jobs and wages.”

Another important clause mentioned in the bill is restricting the types of relatives that immigrants can bring into the U.S. along with them.

Trump’s support for the RAISE Act comes after his executive order on overhauling the H1B visa program that allows foreign skilled workers to legally work in the country.

According to Pew Research, India is one of the largest countries sending citizens to the US and this has a significant impact with regard to announcement Trump made regarding his approval for the RAISE Act.

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The RAISE Act proposes a merit-based immigration system based on the certain criteria such as educational qualification, professional experience, income level, age and proficiency in English.

Currently, immigrants come to this country using a number of visas: visas are distributed via a lottery system and the other method to get the visa is through relatives living in the US, who are either citizens or green card holders.

The RAISE Act becomes a boon for Indian’s when you consider the fact that Indian American community is the best educated among all other diaspora groups. According to data, India-born immigrants with a college degree are three times more than the general population.

According to Columbia Business School, Indian American households have the single highest income level of any group in the country — more than twice as high as the general US population.

Vinson Palathingal, executive director of the Vienna, VA, -based Indo-American Center and a prominent backer of the president, called for such a system in an April 2014 column.

“A new ‘points based,’ meritocratic system for granting green cards directly to two categories of people: the best and the brightest international students in STEM disciplines; and the best and brightest and exceptionally experienced STEM foreign workers,” he wrote.

“The ‘points-based’ system should be designed essentially as combination of Standardized Test Scores (SAT, ACT, GRE/GMAT), GPA, university ranking, and teacher recommendations and testimonials. The admissions experts from major US universities should be drafted to help the government in designing and developing this system,” Palathingal added.

Kevin Yoder, Representative from Kansas, last month had appealed to the US House of Representatives for the removal of the country-specific quota for permanent residency in the United States.

Yonder during his address said 700,000 highly skilled Indians are stuck on H-1B visa due to the arbitrary cap on Green Cards.

“More than 700,000 high-skilled immigrant workers from India are in the US today on temporary work visas. These people are working hard every day helping grow our economy, raising their children as Americans right here in our communities,” Yoder said.

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“But under our immigration system they are stuck on a cycle of temporary work visas, unable to change jobs or even start their own small business to create more American jobs. They’re stuck because of the arbitrary seven per nation cap on employment-based green cards,” the Republican lawmaker said.

“Right now, there’s a mother in Greenland whose unborn child will be able to obtain permanent residence in America before someone from India who is already here and have been working here for years. That’s absurd and it’s wrong,” he said.

Yoder asked the house to consider him as the first sponsor of The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, a bill originally introduced by Representative Chaffetz, that proposes to “eliminate the per country numerical limitation for employment-based immigrants” and “increase the per country numerical limitation for family based immigrants from 7% to 15% of the total number of family-sponsored visas.”