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Are Indian Americans who support Trump’s immigration policies rooting against their own interests?

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Professors Bidisha Biswas and Ramya M. Vijaya say most Indian immigrants are not highly skilled, but are family members.

Indian Americans who back immigration policies proposed by President Trump might be supporting policies that might actually be hurting the community, two Indian American academics write in a Washington Post op-ed on Thursday.

Trump has called for a new immigration policy that favors skilled immigrants and has said that he wanted to reduce family-based immigration that allows relatives of US citizens to immigrate.

Many Indian Americans, including groups such as the Republican Hindu Coalition, support the president’s proposal. They point out that most Indian immigrants are highly skilled and, therefore, would benefit from Trump’s policy.

But Bidisha Biswas, professor of political science at Western Washington University, and Ramya M. Vijaya, a professor of economics at Stockton University, NJ, argue that the Indian Americans who back the Trump immigration are “wrong” and they “do not fully understand the administration’s real immigration priorities.”

In recent years, most Indian immigrants have come to this country on H1-B visas. In some years, Indians have snatched as much as 70 percent of H1-B visas.

But, the two professors write, “there’s a catch in Trump’s plan for Indian immigrants.” They point out that while “publicly arguing in favor of high-skilled immigrants, the Trump administration has quietly waged a campaign to limit the use of these visas, issuing a series of measures to reevaluate and restrict their use.”

Visit: The American Bazaar’s H-1B archive

A case in point is a memo released by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services on February 22, which proposes more restrictions on H1-B visas.

Biswas and Vijaya say this “apparent contradiction in Trump’s approach” — which emphasizes skilled immigrants “while restricting the visa that brings them in” — “makes more sense” when one “looks at the history of attitudes toward Indian immigrants in the United States.” They cite a number of well-documented incidents when Indian immigrants were at the receiving end of discrimination in this country, such as:

  • The denial of citizenship to Bhagat Singh Thind by the US Supreme Court in 2003, saying that Thind was not white in “accordance with the understanding of the common man;”
  • Targeting of Indian immigrants by “Dotbusters” in New Jersey in the 1980s;
  • Attacks against Sikhs since 9/11; and
  • The murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla by an angry gunman who yelled, “Get out of my country!” last March.

Biswas and Vijaya point out that “even though Indians receive the biggest share of H1-B visas, most Indian immigrants are not highly skilled.” Citing their own research, they write that “between 1970 and 2010, family-sponsored green card recipients from India outnumbered those whose green cards came through employment.”

Arguing that Trump’s “immigration policies are unlikely to benefit immigrants of Indian origin,” they call on Indian Americans build coalitions with other immigrant groups to advocate for a balance between skilled and family immigration.”


Immigrants should be invited based on their skills and contributions, not ‘luck or lotteries’: USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna (December 12, 2017)
Indian beneficiaries filing the maximum number of H-1B petitions since 2007 December 15, 2017)


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