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Wednesday, Nov 20, 2019

US congressional panel passes Green Card Bill, Indians cheer but Iranians oppose

The Daily Caller reported on Monday Iranians were posing as anti-immigrant Americans to campaign against the bill

world Updated: Aug 16, 2018 08:00 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington
Indians are worst hit by the cap, accounting for more than 300,000 of those in the waiting line,  or three-fourths of those in the backlog.
Indians are worst hit by the cap, accounting for more than 300,000 of those in the waiting line, or three-fourths of those in the backlog. (AFP File Photo)
         

Shortly after a US congressional panel cleared a bill in July that paves the way for removing the country cap on Green Cards, which will speed up the process for more than 300,000 backlogged Indians, opposition came from an unexpected quarter: Iranians also waiting for permanent residency.

Some of it was overt, such as the argument by the National Iranian American Council, an advocacy body, that removing the country cap will benefit applicants from larger countries – Indians and Chinese, but not by name – at the cost of applicants from smaller countries such as Iranians.

There was also a covert campaign on social media, whereby US officials and lawmakers were lobbied using xenophobic arguments used by immigration hardliners and India-baiters about Indians coming in larger numbers to take away jobs and the country from Americans, and “Indianise” it.

The Daily Caller reported on Monday Iranians were posing as anti-immigrant Americans to campaign against the bill. The website gained entry to online groups on the Telegram app by posing as an Iranian. It gathered Twitter handles shared by members to identify fakes used for the campaign.

“America will be Indianized with HR392 approval. Let skilled people get the jobs not the fake engineers who have connections everywhere in the US thanks to abusing H1B visas already. #RemoveHR392,” someone called “Masha” tweeted. The handle gave no details about the account holder.

On July 25, a committee of the House of Representatives cleared a spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security that contains a section called HR 392, which seeks to remove the annual cap of 9,800 on employment-based Green Cards that can be issued to applicants from any one country.

Indians are worst hit by the cap, accounting for more than 300,000 of those in the waiting line, or three-fourths of those in the backlog. According to some estimates, it could take up to 90 years for them to get permanent residency.

Leon Fresco, a strategist for an advocacy group for Indians in the Green Card line called Immigration Voice, said they had noticed opposition from Iranians almost immediately. The group flagged it on its Facebook page some days ago, calling it the work of an “Iranian supremacist group”.

Iranians and applicants from smaller countries get Green Cards faster, usually in six months, under the current system, according to reports. Their situation could change for the worse if the country cap is removed and replaced by a first-in-line system.

Many other Twitter handles, with little by way of names or details of the account holder, are posting appeals against the bill, using language and idioms popular with immigrations hawks. They target officials and pressure lawmakers who managed the bill’s passage by naming them.

“Fellow #Americans, ask him to #removeHR392 and keep jobs for the US not foreign cheap labors,” tweeted “Hudson”. This person’s name in the Telegram group is “Hossein”, Daily Caller reported.

The report said an administrator of the Telegram group admitted in an online chat that its members are adopting American identities to push rhetoric against Indians, but out of frustration and not bigotry.

“I personally love my Indian friends and I don’t see other Iranians dislike them. Their culture is so close to our culture. We are like each other. There is no reason we dislike them,” the administrator wrote. But Indians forced them to hide behind American names when they began “belittling us” over President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

There was no response from the National Iranian American Council to a request for comment to the report.

But Jamal Abdi, a senior official of the body, said in a statement: “Congress should not rush through any legislation that significantly reduces or eliminates per-country limits for permanent residency without undertaking basic steps to ensure that Iranians and other nationals that have nearly been locked out of the visa system entirely by the Trump administration are not further disadvantaged by changes ostensibly designed to level the playing field.”