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HindustanTimes Thu,17 Apr 2014

Dispatches from USA

Indian Americans push for 'improved' bill
Arun Kumar, IANS
Washington, June 12, 2007
First Published: 18:21 IST(12/6/2007)
Last Updated: 18:26 IST(12/6/2007)

As President George W Bush vowed to revive his derailed immigration bill, an Indian American advocacy group said it would push for a fairer law that would let the best and brightest to stay permanently.

The US-India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) said Monday it opposed the Bush bill in its current form because it did not provide for more compassionate family-based visas, more and faster H1-B visas and green cards and an easier way for employers to retain high-skilled workers.

Expressing disappointment that the Senate failed to pass a law that he hoped would have included such provisions, USINPAC chairman Sanjay Puri said, "The bill should have done a lot more to ensure that some of the best and brightest could stay in the US permanently."

Instead, the Senate voted down or failed to bring up amendments that would have given them and their families a chance to stay here and ensure that the US is the destination of choice for these talented individuals thus enabling us to stay on top of the competitive marketplace for skills," he said.

Bush, meanwhile, planned a rare visit to the Capitol Hill Tuesday to lobby with his own conservative Republicans who decry the legislation that would offer an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, including some 300,000 Indians, a tortuous path to citizenship as an "amnesty".

Addressing their concerns, it also provides for tighter security on the border with Mexico from where most of the illegals come to do take up jobs that most Americans don't want and a crackdown on employers hiring them.

The president has admitted that his plan hammered out by a bipartisan group of senators headed by Democrat Edward Kennedy was not perfect, but it was the best option available to overhaul the nation's broken down immigration system.

Heading home from an eight-day European swing, Bush vowed to get his stalled immigration legislation passed despite his diminished clout on the Hill telling reporters in Sofia, Bulgaria "I believe we can get it done".

He also lashed out at Democrats for scheduling a vote of no confidence on his attorney general Alberto Gonzales Monday - considered an additional factor in Republicans stalling the bill.

The Democratic move failed later as the senate's 53-38 vote to end debate and allow a vote on the no-confidence motion itself fell seven short of the required 60 votes even as several Republicans sided with them.

Meanwhile, USINPAC said it had strongly supported strong amendments supporting family-based immigration in the derailed bill. An amendment introduced by Democrat Robert Menendez would have granted up to 833,000 more visas by changing the date of the family-based clearing process from May 1, 2005 to Jan 1, 2007.

Former first lady Hillary Clinton too introduced an amendment that would have removed the cap on visas for spouses and children of legal permanent residents. The bill would have only allowed that right for citizens.

Additionally, USINPAC circulated a letter to every Senator to co-sponsor or vote in favour of a bipartisan amendment that would have created an employer-based merit system with 140,000 green cards for higher skilled immigrant workers identified by employers and made it easier for visa holders to get green cards.

With the US Congress expected to take up the legislation again later this year, USINPAC said it will continue to work to ensure that any final law will include provisions that will allow the US to remain competitive in the global marketplace and for family-reunification.

USINPAC will continue to meet with various offices on Capitol Hill to push for these issues so important to the 2.5 strong million Indian Americans currently in the US, it said.


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