Protesting in front of the White House, RHC activists call for the Green Card backlog and the DALCA children’s issue to be included in ongoing border security talks.
Hundreds of Indians on H-1B visas gathered in front of the White House on Sunday, calling for the elimination of a huge backlog in Green Card, affecting Indian nationals, and for the protection of children of H-1B visa holders, who lose their H4 visa status once they turn 21 years old.
The immigration rally, organized by the Republican Hindu Coalition, was held in the backdrop of a contentious immigration negotiation focused on President Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall, in order to avoid another federal government shutdown.
According to RHC, H-1B visa holders from as many as 34 states attended the Sunday afternoon rally.
Addressing the protesters, the organization’s founder Shalabh “Shalli” Kumar said his organization wants to make sure that the current Green Card backlog for Indian nationals is reduced to between one and five years.
The United States annually grants a fixed number of work-based Green Cards to citizens of various nations, regardless of the size of the country. At the moment, roughly 700,000 Indian nationals who are currently in the country on H-1B, along with their spouses and children below 21, await Green Cards. At the present rate, many of these Green Card aspirants have to wait for decades before they can become Permanent Residents.
“The second goal is that,” said Kumar “… children [of H-1B visa holders] who come here legally are included in DACA.”
DACA, or “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,” is an Obama-era immigration policy that allows children of undocumented immigrants that were brought to the United States while they were minors protection from deportation.
Children of H-1B visa holders who came to this country on the dependent H4 visas need to leave the United States once they turn 21, unless they change their visa status.
RHC calls such children “Deferred Legal Childhood Arrivals,” or “DALCA” children. The organization says “DALCA children” include some of the best and brightest minds, including Spelling Bee champions.
“You speak English,” Kumar told the crowd, which responded chanting “Yes.” “You assimilate in Americana easily… You are peaceful people [who commit] almost no violent crimes.”
Among the several hundred who were present braving the cold weather was Priya Mohan, a so-called DALCA child, who drove down to the nation’s capital, along with her mother, Subhashini, from Edison, NJ.
Mohan came to the country on H4 visa, along with her parents, when she was 12. When she turned 21, she could no longer continue to remain in the country on H4 visa, as a dependent of her father. Mohan enrolled for a master’s degree and changed her status to F1 student visa to avoid leaving the United States. Now she works for a financial firm in New York City. Earlier this year, she received an H-1B visa through her employer.
Subhashini Mohan said her daughter got her H-1B visa in the third attempt. “Finally she got the H-1B this year,” the elder Mohan said.
The Mohan family came to the United States in 2006 from Thrissoor, Kerala, India.
Subhashini said she and her husband will finally get their get their Green Card in a month or two. But their daughter, now 24, will not, since she’s over the age of 21.
“I have been living in this country for the past 13 years and have lived more than half my life here,” Priya Mohan, 24, said. “It’s a challenge.”
Also among the protesters were, Krishna Mullakari, who works as a consultant for a federal government contractor. The Aldie, VA, resident has been on H-1B since 2011.
“My employer filed for my Green Card in 2012 and I have been waiting ever since,” he said. “I have a family and I have two kids who were born here. I pay taxes. But at the current rate, I won’t get my Green Card for 20 years. Obviously, I cannot continue on H-1B for 20 years.”
An activist who played a leadership role at the rally was Jyotsna Sharma, a television host and program director for a local television channel based in Piscataway, NJ. She does two shows on the channel, “Voice of Legal Immigrants” and “It’s my story.”
Sharma, who is on H4 visa, said Sunday’s show of strength was aimed at creating awareness about the necessity of having a “permanent fix” for the green card wait.
She told the Bazaar that the Green Card backlog and the DALCA children’s issue be included in any potential deal on the border security.
READ MORE: RHC hosts pro-Trump immigration rally in front of White House (February 5, 2018)
The activist, who described herself as a part of the “Green Card backlog community,” said blamed the national media for not highlighting the issue. “They will speak about everything but legal immigrants,” she said. “So it is the time to make hue and cry. We have to create enough noise so that they will notice it. Today is the day to create a mass awareness.”
Sharma received her Employment Authorization Document in 2015, which means she could legally work in the United States. She said her suffering in the past has made her an activist for the cause.
“The dark years that I have lived on for years has [lit] enough fire in me to fight for the cause,” she said. “The agony that we live in … while waiting for the Green Card is really is bad. The whole family suffers. There is no freedom to change jobs and employers and pursue a career or entrepreneurs. We cannot do anything till the time we are Permanent Residents.”
She continued: “We are not stealing anybody’s jobs. We have already been vetted by USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services). We are waiting for our Green Card. It is really unjust. The money that we pay in taxes should be utilized by our children in future. But their future looms large. That’s where we are.”
This was the second major RHC rally on the two issues in Washington in eight months. In June 2018, the organization had hosted a similar rally in front of the Capitol Hill.
(Update: A previous version of this article had misstated the year Jyotsna Sharma received her Employment Authorization Document. It’s been corrected.)
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