Several hundred Indian-Americans participated in a march outside of the White House on Saturday, February 3, in support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to implement a “merit-based” immigration
system in the country along with demanding the discontinuation of India’s country quota for Green Card approvals, according to a PTI report.
According to the PTI report, Indian-Americans marched with signs saying “Trump Loves Hindus,” “Trump Loves India,” “Trump bringing Ram Rajya” and “Indians Love Trump,” under the banner of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), an organization led by Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Kumar who happens to be close to Trump.
These marchers were predominantly by professionals and workers who had come from all over the U.S. including California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois and New York. Krishna Bansal, the National Policy and Political Director of RHC, told PTI that “Trump’s proposal to end family unification immigration would open up more space for Indian skilled workers.”
According to the PTI report, nearly half of the one million Green Cards which are issued every year go to close relatives of American citizens regardless of their skills and the Trump administration wants to restrict this practice.
“Thirty per cent of the country’s skilled immigrants come from India, but they have to wait several decades before being eligible for Green Cards. These are people who are already here, contributing to the economy, paying their taxes and raising their families,” he told PTI.
Bansal added that the group also supported several other proposals including; building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the diversity lottery program for Green Card allotment and the ending of ‘chain migration.’
According to PTI, Indian applicants are often at disadvantage when it comes to acquiring a Green Card as the current country approval rate for India in 7 percent allowing 9,800 people to receive them every year while more than 50,000 people join that queue each year.
The Trump administration has not indicated its views on this issue, but marchers in front of the White House told PTI that the president’s declared preference for “merit-based” immigration would tilt the balance in their favor, according to the PTI report.
Krishna Mullakuri, whose Green Card application has been pending for five years, agreed with the view and told PTI that the emphasis on merit as the primary criteria for allowing new entrants into the country would work to India’s advantage.
According to PTI, Saturday’s march was not only kept to endorse Trump’s immigration proposal but also to highlight the issues concerning the legal residents who are already in the country. “While the current discussion is primarily focusing on those who illegally entered the country, we are working with the lawmakers to get some attention on this group that reached this country legally but face uncertainty now,” Bansal told PTI.
Another immigration issue which was brought up on Saturday was about the protection of ‘dreamers,’ or undocumented residents who were brought into this country illegally as children. According to PTI, protection is provided for them under an Obama era executive action which will end in March if new legislative action is not taken as the Trump administration has offered a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented residents if Democrats agree to tougher restrictions on legal immigration and enforcement.
The Indian American marchers on Saturday supported this policy saying “Dreamers Pay for the Wall” and “Make American Strong Again” as Bansal told PTI that since the President’s proposals were generous, those being offered a path to citizenship would be happy to pay any fees that would help fund the building of the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
But it was the future of their children which many marchers were concerned about as upon turning 21, their children would lose their dependency status and will have to be deported back to India.
“These are legal dreamers. Colleges are reluctant to admit them as their visa status has to be changed midway through the course. And once they are graduates, they go back to the end of the queue, again starting with an H-1B application,” Ramesh Ramanath told PTI. “While they address the issue of dreamers, this question also should get priority,” he added.
In a novel move, the organization and its supporters tied the fate of H-4 kids to those of Dreamers – 800,000 undocumented youth who receive relief from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. RHC supports a program that would give DACA kids a purple card – as opposed to a green card – with no pathway to citizenship and a mandate to pay $2,500 per year to build President Donald Trump’s much-vaunted border wall.
An estimated 7,300 Indian American youth currently receive relief from deportation and work permits from the DACA program. Overall, Asian Americans constitute 20 percent of DACA recipients. Trump rescinded the program Sept. 5, 2017, giving Congress a March 5 deadline to come up with a permanent fix.
People attending the RHC rally shouted slogans saying DACA should be renamed DAICA – Deferred Action for Illegal Childhood Arrivals. The group has coined the term DALCA for H-4 children who are aging out of the system: Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals.
H-4 children, the dependent minors of H-1B visa holders, face the daunting prospect of being forced to return to the home country once they turn 21 and are no longer considered dependent (see earlier India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2ru9w5A). Long delays of up to 70 years and backlogs in allocating employment-based green cards have left 200,000 H-4 children facing an uncertain future.
But the Social Security Administration noted in 2013 that the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants add about $13 billion to the nation’s coffers each year via payroll taxes. Responding to the RHC proviso that DACA kids should pay for a border wall, Shekar Narasimhan, chairman and founder of the AAPI Victory Fund, told India-West: “This is divide and conquer. It’s very short-sighted and absolutely wrong.”
“The issue of aging H-4 children is a valid one and should be addressed, but you cannot pit one group of kids against another,” he said. “There is scope to address both issues at the same time. We should be working together for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Narasimhan, advocating for a system that is both merit-based, but pays heed to family reunification.
The RHC has taken Trump’s position on immigration, calling for an end to family reunification and a solely merit-based system. Taking a page from the president’s playbook, the RHC said in a press release that more than 1,000 people had attended the rally. Narasimhan estimated the crowd at about 200. “In DC, a gathering of 200 people is basically a group of pedestrians,” he joked. At the rally, The RHC also proposed to do away with the seven percent per-country annual cap on employment-based green card allocation, which has created a logjam for Indians.