In­di­ans in queue pin hopes on leg­is­la­tion

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - - HTNATION - Yash­want Raj

WASH­ING­TON:OVER three lakh In­di­ans are wait­ing with bated breath as US law­mak­ers pre­pare to de­bate two im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tions next week to thrash out is­sues that have de­fied res­o­lu­tion for years, in­clud­ing in­ter­minably long wait­ing pe­riod for per­ma­nent Amer­i­can res­i­dency, also called Green Card, a cru­cial step away from cit­i­zen­ship.

This is the clos­est In­di­ans will have come in years to see a res­o­lu­tion of their sit­u­a­tion, about which they have lob­bied and en­gaged sev­eral ad­min­is­tra­tions and the White House, many sen­a­tors and House rep­re­sen­ta­tives, both in Capi­tol Hill and at their con­stituency of­fices.

In­di­ans have to wait the long­est for per­ma­nent res­i­dency, be­tween 70 and 100 years, be­cause cur­rent US law pre­vents for­eign na­tion­als from any one coun­try from get­ting more than 7% of the an­nual dis­tri­bu­tion of Green Cards un­der a sys­tem known as ‘per coun­try lim­its’. With many more In­di­ans ap­ply­ing for res­i­dency ev­ery year than other for­eign na­tion­als, their back­log is the long­est.

Last Thursday, Repub­li­can lead­ers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in con­sul­ta­tion with the White House picked two im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tions for de­bate and pas­sage next week. Both leg­is­la­tions in­clude pro­pos­als to re­move the per coun­try lim­its, which, if en­acted, could po­ten­tially cut the wait­ing pe­riod for In­di­ans to six or seven years.

The present flurry of leg­isla­tive ac­tion on im­mi­gra­tion comes against the back­ground of an ap­proach­ing dead­line for il­le­gal im­mi­grants brought to the US as chil­dren, their stay tem­po­rar­ily guar­an­teed by an Obama-era pres­i­den­tial de­cree called De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals (DACA).

Last year, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump an­nounced his de­ci­sion to end the pro­gramme and has since tied its re­vival, as a bar­gain­ing chip, to some of his sig­na­ture anti-im­mi­gra­tion mea­sures such as fund­ing for a wall along the bor­der with Mex­ico to end il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion, gang ac­tiv­ity and cross-bor­der smug­gling of drugs.

But will he back a deal such as this one?

“Elim­i­nate the per-coun­try nu­mer­i­cal limit on 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 visa with no change in the over­all num­ber of visas is­sued,” said a draft of the main Repub­li­can bill pub­lished Wednesday by Mcclatchy DC news bureau.

Im­mi­gra­tion Voice, a non­profit body ad­vo­cat­ing re­moval of per coun­try limit to ad­dress ab­nor­mal wait­ing pe­riod for In­di­ans for Green Card, mainly H-1B visa hold­ers spon­sored by their US em­ploy­ers to stay on, saw in that draft a recog­ni­tion of the prob­lem and their best bet at res­o­lu­tion in years. “We are grate­ful that the House lead­er­ship has heard our sto­ries over the past 12 years and they have agreed on the com­mon sense leg­is­la­tion HR (House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives) 392, the bill to re­move per coun­try lim­its from em­ploy­ment based green cards, as part of Im­mi­gra­tion de­bates com­ing up next week,” said Vikram De­sai of Im­mi­gra­tion Voice re­fer­ring to the bill in­tro­duced by Repub­li­can law­maker Kevin Yoder that gath­ered 325 co-spon­sors in a 435mem­ber House. The US cit­i­zen­ship and im­mi­gra­tion ser­vices (USCIS), the gov­ern­ment agency that over­sees im­mi­gra­tion, said in a state­ment the num­ber of In­di­ans in the queue for Green Cards was 306,601. That is only the num­ber of pri­mary ap­pli­cants, not in­clud­ing spouses and chil­dren.

Im­mi­gra­tion Voice, how­ever, main­tains there are an es­ti­mated 1.5 mil­lion In­di­ans wait­ing for Green Cards and their wait­ing pe­riod, at the cur­rent rate of clear­ance of ap­pli­ca­tions and back­log is be­tween 70 and 100 years; past their life­time and that of their chil­dren, es­pe­cially those not born here.

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