Family Reunification and Work Visas Main Issues for Indian-Americans
A News India Times article by Ela Dutt looks at immigration from an Indian-American perspective. Out of the approximately 3 million people in the United States with Indian roots, those affected by immigration hope for an overhaul particularly when it comes to family reunification and quotas for employment-based visas.
Attorney Prakash Khatri, a former ombudsman at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, noted that while the number of undocumented Indian immigrants is relatively small, it is nonetheless increasing. Ron Hira, a public policy professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology, points to a possible reason. Hira brought up “overstayers,” immigrants who enter the U.S. legally with a visa and stay after it expires, consequently becoming undocumented.
It is an area that does not get enough attention, he said, adding, “The Asian overstayers are the fastest-growing segment according to some figures.”
An article in Little India on data from the Department of Homeland Security released last March has the numbers to back it up. The DHS report compared the numbers of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. in 2000 and 2011. The number of unauthorized Indian immigrants increased 94 percent to 240,000 between those years, a jump second only to Hondurans at 132 percent.
Back to the News India Times, Khatri established that the two major issues for Indian immigrants involve reuniting families and green cards based on employment. The U.S. currently limits the number of employment-based visas per country to 7 percent, regardless of the country. Khatri urges Indian-Americans to work to end this quota, which he says is unfair for large countries like India when juxtaposed with smaller countries like Sweden.
“India, with its diversity and huge population is like a Europe of many countries, and why should Sweden have the same quota as India?” he questioned. “Immigration laws should conform to our country’s laws banning discrimination on the basis of national origin.”
He urged Indian-Americans to focus their lobbying on ending national origin quotas. “A vast majority of Indians here are highly educated and should not be subject to the kinds of quotas. The same standards that we use for employing people here under our civil rights and equal employment opportunity laws should continue into our immigration laws. That would benefit our nation,” Khatri said.
Despite progress like the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum, proposals by President Barack Obama, and signs of a by-partisan immigration reform plan surfacing in Congress, Indian-Americans remain cautious.
Hira told News India Times that while he believes reform may not happen all at once, the atmosphere appears more open to reform than in 2007 when Sens. John McCain and Edward Kennedy brought forth their proposal.
“I think something will happen, but it will be in smaller pieces which they will wrap up and call ‘comprehensive.’”
But he does see a glimmer of hope positive in how the immigration reform debate is unfolding today compared to 2007 when the McCain-Kennedy blueprint crashed and burned in the face of opposition from unions on the left and the right wing. This time, the labor unions are working with the politicians and factors like the Republican Party losing the Latino and Asian-American vote are synthesizing to produce an environment in which change is more possible.
Vivek Wadhwa, an “entrepreneur-cum-researcher on skilled immigration,” hopes “extremists” will not “hijack” the debate on immigration.
He has been calling for keeping back highly educated immigrants and offering them incentives to stay, plus clearing immigration hurdles expeditiously in order to gain from their contributions to the American economy and society. He sees several of his proposals in those put forward both by the president and the senators.
“It is all going in the right direction so far,” he said, “But our leaders have a habit of taking victory and turning it into defeat.”