Krishnamoorthi bats for giving green cards to high skilled immigrants to attract the best and the brightest from around the world
Raja Krishnamoorthi, New Delhi, India-born US Congressman from Illinois, is making a major push for comprehensive immigration reform to keep America ahead of the game by ensuring its top competitive advantage over the world.
“We have to be very strategic about making sure that our number one competitive advantage over the world, which is our immigration system continues to remain sharp,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with Aziz Haniffa, streamed on the Indian American streaming platform DesiMax.
The interview, conducted at the lawmaker’s district office in Schaumburg, IL, was shared with The American Bazaar.
Krishnamoorthi, who represents Illinois’ 8th congressional district, is an influential lawmaker serving on two key House panels, intelligence and oversight committees, and chairing a subcommittee. A House Assistant Majority Whip, he was one of the select interrogators of a panel that voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump last year.
The US needs to “attract the best, the brightest, the hardest working people from around the world that is what will keep America ahead of the game,” added Krishnamoorthi, serving Illinois’ 8th congressional district since 2017.
Noting that the thorny immigration issue had become even thornier during the Trump years, Krishnamoorthi said he was a “major sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform, which we desperately need not only for high skilled immigrants, but for all immigrants.”
“I’m also right now spearheading legislation as part of the American COMPETE Act with regard to certain high-skilled immigration categories being able to basically get green cards over time,” he added.
Referring to “this whole lot of paranoia that was being built up, the real xenophobia,” and the “appalling Muslim ban” during the Trump years, Krishnamoorthi recalled, “I was I think the first Congressman from Illinois to arrive at Chicago O’Hare International Airport” after Trump imposed the ban on travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries in January 2017.
Essentially, he went there “to make sure that we could free those couple dozen Muslim green card holders from the detention that they were put under.”
“But that was just the start of so many immigration problems that we had,” Krishnamoorthi said noting, “We had numerous attempts to basically curtail H-1B visa holders from becoming green card holders and the slowdown of the processing of all types of cases anyway.”
Turning to foreign policy, he said like many others including Indian American lawmakers Ro Khanna and Ami Bera, he was disappointed by India’s reticence to condemn Russia for its Ukraine invasion.
“I’m disappointed. I’ve expressed that to the Indian government. You know most recently we tried to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council at the UN and unfortunately there was another abstention.”
“All that being said, we have to remember that the US-India relationship is deep. It’s broad,” Krishnamoorthi said noting that the two nations just had a two plus two meeting among their foreign and defense ministers.
“And we saw that (in virtual talks) President (Joe) Biden and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi kind of recommitted to deepening the relationship because we have to remember that long-term our security relationship, our economic ties and our people-to-people ties will keep expanding.”
“Remember Indian Americans are the glue that hold these countries together and so long as that happens, I think that the relationship continues to be close,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Nevertheless, he hoped that “our Indian friends and partners will continue to wean themselves off of Russian fossil fuel as well as Russian imports of weapons.”
“I hope that they increasingly rely on the United States for some of their needs because I got to tell you, I think that the Russians and the Chinese Communist party teaming up the way they are has to give everyone a pause, including India,” Krishnamoorthi said.
Noting that Russian arms are outdated, he asked, “I mean just look at what’s happening on the battlefield in Ukraine. Do you want to use those Russian arms to defend India?”
“I would say no. I think that you need to go elsewhere,” Krishnamoorthi said, “All that being said, you know India is a sovereign country, it needs to determine its own destiny.”
“And it has rather complicated situations involving Russia and so I hope that we can work through that, but the most recent episode illustrates why I think India needs to increasingly move away from Russia not closer toward it,” he added.
Asked what he had been doing to alleviate hate crimes, discrimination, and bigotry against minority groups and communities, Krishnamoorthi said, “Unfortunately Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, Hindu phobia, you name the ism, they were all on the rise during the Trump years.”
“And unfortunately, they’ve continued. There’s a certain xenophobia that Donald Trump stoked which continues to live on,” he said recalling, “Professor Amy Wax of the University of Pennsylvania just last week called India a ‘shithole’ country.”
“I thought that calling countries by that name was a thing of the past once Donald Trump was no longer president, but it turns out that’s not the case,” he added.
“I put out a very strong statement and I think the University of Pennsylvania should continue to investigate whether or not professor Wax should remain a part of the faculty,” Krishnamoorthi said.
“But that is what we’re dealing with now and so that’s why I came up with the bipartisan Hate Crimes Commission Act, which basically has about 140 co-sponsors in the House.”
“Essentially it would put together a bipartisan commission to finally examine how do we reduce hate. How do we reduce all the phobias and isms which really hold us back. Because we have to remember that what we share in common far outweighs what… divides us.”
“Unfortunately, human rights violations, civil rights violations in the countries of our origin in South Asia has also been going on for decades,” Krishnamoorthi said.
“And regrettably some of the older generation in the diaspora has brought this tired old baggage to the US and these divisive issues are being fomented.”
“Thankfully the Generation X, Gen Z and the Millennials in our South Asian communities are progressive, much more liberal in their thinking and have no time or the inclination for this kind of divisiveness.”
Asked about his thoughts on the human rights and civil rights situation, Krishnamoorthi said, “I think secular democracy is under threat, under challenge, under pressure in India where I have noted the problems that minorities are facing.”
Referring to last year’s Capitol riots, he said, “In America, whereas we know January Six was a direct outgrowth of these conspiracy theories about foreigners and non-White people taking over the country, it doesn’t matter whether … you’re Hindu, Muslim, Jew.”
“Whether you’re Mexican or whether you’re Black or Asian-American, a certain part of this country believes that you are out to replace White people and that helped to inform this political violence which is unfortunately a part of our culture now and which manifested itself on January six.”
Recalling that a bomb was placed 200 feet from his office window, Krishnamoorthi said, “So I’m trying to combat that domestic violent extremism we’re seeing in America.”
“At the same time, I’m trying to speak out wherever I can against the same extremism which might happen in India, which might happen in Pakistan or Bangladesh or even Sri Lanka.”
“In Sri Lanka both Tamils and Hindus are under pressure. Muslims and Hindus are under pressure, and so we have to speak out wherever we see extremism and we have to follow it up with persistent questioning about our own situation,” he said.
“And if we do that we have a chance of getting to a better place. But if we just kind of avoid asking the questions or avoid speaking out in favor of secular democracy then you know we could really go to a darker place.”
Asked how he balanced his concerns for his large Indian American and South Asian American constituency and the Congressional district he serves, Krishnamoorthi said, “I try to talk about the boldest common denominators that we share in common.”
“That is two things. One, everybody wants to get on the up escalator of the economy regardless of whether you’re working poor, whether you are middle class, whether you’re starting and growing a small business. We want all those people to succeed.”
“Secondly, we want everyone to have a chance to get on to that up escalator regardless of where you come from, regardless of how you pray, regardless of whom you love and regardless of the number of letters in your name.”
“There are 29 in mine,” he said. “So I am proof positive for every community regardless of the color of skin or whether they’re Indian American or not that America is alive and well.”
“But only if we fight for it and that is what, I try to do every day and that is what my staff tries to do and that’s how you know, we carry on our business and if we do that everything will be fine.”
“We cannot become cynical about the American experiment. We can’t be discouraged by the setbacks they’ve happened throughout our history as a country we just got to figure out from here where do we go.”
“There’s a saying some people think that we are going nowhere,” Krishnamoorthi said. “But actually, in that word nowhere is the solution to our problems because it recognizes that we are now here, where do we go from here and the only way to go is together.”
On his major legislative achievements, Krishnamoorthi said, “One thing that I’m really proud of is my bill which became a law to basically modernize our nation’s skills base and vocational education system.”
Noting that in America two-thirds of Americans do not have a four-year college degree, the Congressman said his law helps to create a situation where they have an excellent post-secondary education system.
Krishnamoorthi said he was “also proud of the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which finally establishes mental health resources for doctors, nurses and other front line healthcare workers who’ve taken a tremendous burden in fighting the pandemic on behalf of our country.”
He had also “authored a number of bipartisan pieces of legislation that have become law protecting our national security with regard to Russia. I authored the Kremlin act which helps to prepare us for the Russian threat, and we know it’s manifested already as we can see in Ukraine, but also with regard to the Chinese Communist party.”
“I’ve done a lot in terms of making sure that we’re monitoring our edge relative to the Chinese Communist party and their designs in the Indo-Pacific region and more broadly as well.”
With ‘samosa colleague’ Ro Khanna, he has also introduced The Security Of The Economy, Climate, And Other US Interests With Recent And Existing Food Alternatives (SECURE Food) Act.
Asked about what he had done for alleviating healthcare for everyone in the US, Krishnamoorthi noted that during the four Trump years,
Democrats had to fight Republicans’ attempts to repeal Obamacare. “And what we found out is that Obamacare is quite popular when people have it and somebody’s trying to take it away all of a sudden.”
“So now we need to make sure that we continue to modernize Obamacare. So one of the things that I’m co-sponsoring is a legislation to add a public option to keep premiums down,” he said.
He was also working on prescription drug pricing reform so that “nobody should have to decide whether to pay for their prescription drugs or pay rent or for food or other essentials.”
Asked how his campaign for a fourth House term was going, Krishnamoorthi acknowledged “we’re getting ready for a very interesting 2022” with five challengers on the Republican side.”
Also “traditionally in a midterm election the party that is in power in the White House tends to have a slightly more challenging time.”
Asked how the Democrats would navigate a scenario where Republicans capture the House, Krishnamoorthi said, “I think we have to continue doing what we’re doing right now, which is try to find bipartisan partners to pass legislation.”
“One thing that I found is that nothing in Washington is durable unless it’s bipartisan,” he said. “I find that we have to work across the aisle for real change to happen and that’s going to happen regardless of who’s in control of the House or the Senate.”
Calling himself “a radical common-sense Democrat,” Krishnamoorthi said the only way to get a desired agenda was to elect more Democrats in the Senate.
He also advocated “getting rid of the filibuster, which I think has basically made it impossible even for consensus legislation like universal background checks for gun reform or voting rights legislation to become impossible to vote on.”
“And so this is the type of reform that we need in the Senate,” Krishnamoorthi said. “Of course, in the House we have to keep passing good legislation for consideration in the Senate.”