For faster green cards, Indian techies ready to pay for Mexican wall: Advocacy group
Indian H-1B workers in line for the green card are launching a major push for a bill that proposes to cut the waiting period for permanent US residency, backing it with an offer of at least $4 billion to fund border security, including a wall along the Mexican border.
They propose to raise the money through green card processing fee, collected from every one of the estimated 1.5 million visa-holders from India, including primary and dependent recipients, and an additional fee for biometric services, according to their advocacy group Immigration Voice.
The exact sum to be offered in the bill, called the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, is still being worked, as is the individual fee. But those involved with the process said the “combined total could add up to more than $4 billion”.
“Indian high-skilled workers will gladly, enthusiastically and happily pay for the border security or the wall if given an opportunity to do so in order to get fair treatment on green card waiting times,” said Aman Kapoor, the co-founder and president of the advocacy body.
“This is a win-win (situation) for everybody, it allows President (Donald) Trump to fulfil his campaign promises to build a wall not paid for by American citizens … (and) it would help to grow our economy by allowing highly skilled immigrants to start their own companies and hire American workers.”
There is a new urgency in the effort as congress and the White House will attempt to reach a deal before February 8 on Trump’s four-pillar immigration proposal — citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought as children, a border wall (estimated to cost $25 billion) and boost border security, ending visa lottery and chain migration.
An amendment is expected to be moved this week to the immigrants act that seeks to remove country-wise cap of 7% on green cards — nationals of no single country can get more — that will help clear the backlog.
While people of other nationalities also have to wait for their green card, Indians wait the longest — around 70 years at current rate of disposal. Their line is the longest and gets even longer as more join the queue every year.
There is widespread sympathy for their plight. The 2017 legislation, for instance, has more than 300 co-sponsors, which should have it breeze through the 435-member House of Representatives. A version of the bill passed the House 389-15 in 2011 but it never came up in the senate.
“My bill HR 392 is a commonsense, long-term fix to prevent situations like these and should be part of upcoming immigration reform discussions,” Republican congressman Kevin Yoder, the lead sponsor of the bill, said in 2017.
There are several paths to green card, an employment visa such as H-1B, is one of them. While they wait, most of the people keep the same jobs and often the same rank — a change would re-start the process.
In a major relief, the Obama administration in 2015 allowed the spouses of H-1B visa holders to work but the Trump administration plans to rescind it, in line with its “Buy America, Hire America” policy.
There was also a move to stop H-1B visa extensions beyond the maximum six years but the administration late dropped it. Tightening of rules and procedures has added to the worries and uncertainty.
Raja Krishnamurthy, the Democratic Indian-American member of the House of Representatives who is one of the co-sponsors of the bill, has called holders’ situation an “H-1B jail”.
And it is a jail that most of the beneficiaries will happily pay to escape, said those pushing the bill. “The monetary burden of H-1B visa renewal/extension, travelling to India for it, and other expenses involved is considerable” and the proposed green-card fee would be welcomed, they said.