DACA kids, H4 spouses, H-1B techies wish for a happier year.
From DACA holders to green card aspirants, Indians wishing to make America their new home ushered in the New Year with renewed hope that it would not be as frustrating as the last one.
The year gone by had started on a good enough note with President Donald Trump tweeting an assurance to high skilled techies with H-1B visas about changes coming soon “which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship.”
“We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US,” wrote Trump who had earlier signed a “Buy American, Hire American,” executive order making it harder to get the visa most coveted by Indians.
The tweet went viral warming the cockles of some 300,000 Indians’ hearts stuck in an ever growing green card line with Uncle Sam issuing only 85,000 H-1-B visas ever year with a seven percent cap for each country, big or small.
But then all was lost again in the partisan political divide as was Trump’s 2018 proposal to find a legislative solution to allow youth protected by the Obama era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, to stay.
With the president not getting his long-promised border wall in return, his September 2017 order to end DACA protecting qualified youth who were brought to the country as children from deportation remained stuck in courts.
With the fate of about 700,000 such young immigrants, including more than 4,500 South Asians at stake, Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), a key Trump supporter, held a demonstration in front of the White House in February seeking DACA protection for those who came legally too.
Such children on H4 dependent visas, whom RHC calls “Deferred Legal Childhood Arrivals,” or “DALCA” with some of the best and brightest minds, including Spelling Bee champions, must return home once they turn 21.
Come May, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia in a 2-1 decision ruled that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was unlawful, “arbitrary and capricious,” sending the issue to the Supreme Court.
But it came as a bit of a blow to hundreds of DACA supporters rallying outside the apex court on a cold November morning that a conservative majority of the nine judge bench seemed to be leaning towards the administration’s stand during oral arguments.
However, all was not lost as the program continues until the top court’s verdict comes next summer and who knows it may still go in favor of DACA kids.
Meanwhile, in some encouraging news for techies, the House of Representatives passed by a huge 365-65 bipartisan majority what was dubbed as the “Green Card Equality Act” in July.
Officially titled the Fairness for High Skilled Immigration Act, it removes per country cap for employment based visas and increases the limit on family based visas from seven to 15 percent.
Indian American Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthy, an original co-sponsor of the bill, hailed its passage saying “the legislation will keep families together while helping American companies to retain top talent” by leveling the playing field for high skilled workers of all countries.
But its companion bill S.386 sponsored by Republican Mike Lee and Indian American Democrat Kamala Harris in the Senate ran into unexpected trouble with Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin blocking it.
Instead he introduced his own RELIEF Act or “Resolving Extended Limbo for Immigrant Employees and Families Act” to end the immigrant visa backlog and increase the number of green cards.
But despite pleas, protests, and letters from constituents Durbin has refused to budge from his opposition to S.386.
Even a December meeting with Indian Ambassador to the US, Harshvardhan Shringla, who told him how high skilled Indian professionals bring value to the US economy, failed to change his mind.
Spouses of H-1B techies had their own tales of woe to tell with another Obama era rule that lets qualified H4 dependent visa holders work under threat from the Trump administration.
As Indian Americans rang in the New Year they wondered if the Supreme Court will rule in favor of DACA kids this summer?
Or would Trump sign the bill to end the green card country cap? And if he would change his mind about not letting techie spouses to work? Only morrow would tell if their wishes would come true!
Trump talks about changes in H-1B Visa, including a possible citizenship (January 11, 2019)
Trump’s tweet on H-1B and path to citizenship evokes lukewarm response (January 12, 2019)