Sudarshana Sengupta, a biomedical researcher who has worked and published at Harvard and University of Chicago, was about to launch a start-up on developing cancer immunotherapy strategies. But now, she has to fight for her right to work in the United States.
She is one of the “interveners” in a motion filed in a Washington DC court on Monday, calling for the protection of a rule which allows spouses of certain H-1B visa-holders to work, something the Donald Trump administration is expected to not defend in court.
Sengupta holds a H-4 Employment Authorisation Document (H-4 EAD), granted to spouses of H-1B visa holders waiting for their Green Card. The Obama administration introduced it in 2015, saying it would help attract and retain best talents from around the world to the US.
Save Jobs USA, a group of IT workers who say they were displaced by H-1B visa-holders, had challenged the rule in court, which threw out its lawsuit, saying it had no standing and that it could not prove harm caused to them by H-4 holders.
But Save Jobs USA challenged that ruling in the Washington DC court of appeals, a high court. It filed its first brief in January 2017, as the new administration, known for its antipathy towards H-1B visas, took charge.
The justice department, soon to be headed by Jeff Session, an outspoken critic of the H-1B visa programme, filed a response on February 1, seeking 60 days’ time to “allow incoming leadership personnel adequate time to consider the issues”.
That’s when Immigration Voice, an advocacy group for Indians waiting for Green Card, decided it had to intervene. It filed the motion with Sengupta as one of the interveners.
“Immigration Voice could not simply wait until it was too late to see if the Department of Justice would defend the reasoned decision of the district court dismissing Save Jobs’ complaint,” said Aman Kapoor, a co-founder of the group, in a statement.
“The recent statements from the government present an unacceptable risk for Immigration Voice members that DOJ might decide after 60 days to adopt the position of Save Jobs USA,” he said.
The Trump administration last week suspended premium processing of H-1B petitions, a fast lane for speedy clearance for a fee, and is widely speculated to be considering moves to restrict the temporary visa programme.
Trump and several members of his team, including Sessions, argue H-1Bs are being used by American companies to replace American workers with foreigners on lower wages, and have vowed to stop it.
And now H-4 too appears to be in danger.