Will Biden Deliver Green Cards To Indian American Physicians? NRI Doctors Organize Protest Rally In DC

Every 7th patient in the United States is being treated by physicians of Indian origin alone. They are sought after and admired for their skills, dedication and compassion. Yet, when it comes to obtaining Residencies, work permits and Green Card, they are not treated fairly.

A growing shortage of doctors and nurses in the United States over the past decade has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. Fortunately, there are thousands of trained health professionals who want to practice in the United States. One-sixth of our health care workforce in the United States is foreign-born. Immigrant nurses and doctors play a vital role in our healthcare system, and their contributions are now more crucial than ever.

Every 7th patient in the United States is being treated by physicians of Indian origin alone. They are sought after and admired for their skills, dedication and compassion. Yet, when it comes to obtaining Residencies, work permits and Green Card, they are not treated fairly.
There and many other concerns were brought to light as a group of Indian American Doctors staged a protest rally in the nation’s capital on March 17th, 2021.

Physicians and healthcare professionals from India get a raw deal thanks to the green card backlog and per-country cap even though they are virtually the backbone of the healthcare system in the United States, pointed out the group of doctors of Indian origin who held a protest in Washington, DC.

One of the issues that concerns Indian nationals on work visas in the United States is the employment-based green cards. The Biden administration’s proposed legislation could boost the number of employment-based green cards. Currently, the maximum employment-based green cards that can be issued each year is 140,000. Biden’s proposed legislation would not only eliminate the per country cap but would also allow the use of unused visa slots from previous years. It will also allow spouses and children of employment-based visa holders to receive green cards while not counting them under the annual cap limit.

“Overall, we could have retained these high skilled immigrants and their families if the backlog situation were resolved by previous administrations,” said Pooja B Vijayakumar, a consultant and researcher on immigration. “The current immigration system is broken, and I hope that this issue is taken up seriously. In the future, the Biden administration has plans to hire more foreign workers, which is great, but this should be only done once the current green card backlog issue is addressed.”

As per current regulations, citizens of no single country can claim more than 7 percent of available green cards. That policy has resulted in creating a massive green card back log for countries such as India and China. According to some estimates, Indian Americans, who qualify for skilled worker visas, including Green Cards could wait for over a hundred years to get approved for Green Cards due to this country-based cap.

Four years of the Trump administration have been tumultuous as far as immigration is concerned. According to a recent report by Pew Research Center, the number of people who received green card declined from about 236,000 in the second quarter of the 2020 fiscal year (January to March) to under 78,000 in the third quarter (April to June). By comparison, in the third quarter of fiscal 2019, nearly 266,000 people received green card.

Immigrant doctors and nurses have been fighting to save American lives, living in the US for decades, paying taxes, contributing to the economy but they have no right to participate in any kind of democratic process, the protesters said through a media note.
President Joe Biden should take executive action and offer green cards to frontline healthcare workers, they demanded. “Yes, this is about the green card backlog,” Dr Raj Karnatak, an infectious disease and critical care physician from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, told indica News when contacted.

“More than green card, this is about how frontline healthcare workers are being disrespected. How Indians are being discriminated against,” he added. “Among high-skilled immigrants in the green card backlog, there are around 20,000 frontline healthcare workers serving on the frontline during the pandemic,” he said. The pandemic, he pointed out, has been brutal to frontline healthcare workers and their families.
“Many lost their lives, and on top of the Covid-19 crisis frontline healthcare workers have to face an inhumane green card backlog due to the archaic caps that allow no country to get more than 7 percent of employment-based green cards,” he said.

Another protester Dr Pranav Singh, a pulmonary and critical care physician, was quoted as saying in the media note: “We are frontline Covid warriors, and we are here to tell how we have been shortchanged into a life of perpetual indentured servitude. Each of us has a story. We are here from all over the country asking for justice. Justice that has precluded us for decades now.”

Dr Karnatak lamented that the immigrant healthcare workers from other countries get green cards within months to a year but high-skilled immigrants from India wait decades, and the current estimated wait time is 195 years.“We are being cut in line by every other country,” he said. “An unborn child in the womb in any other country who will grow up, go to school and college, and eventually will come to the US will get his/her green card before an Indian doctor already living in the US, serving the community, fighting pandemic on the frontline, contributing to the economy, paying taxes and being a good, law-abiding citizen.

“Is this the equal opportunity that America prides itself for?” he asked. He said that due to decades of backlog, many high-skilled immigrants are not able to change jobs because they fear losing their spot in the green card line, and are virtually indentured to one employer. They can only work in the specialty occupation the visa is allotted for decades, Karnatak explained.Many healthcare workers could not serve in Covid-19 hot spots as the visas are tied to the job and employer, he pointed out. Frontline healthcare workers in the backlog have children who despite living in the US for all their lives risk aging out and have to self-deport when they turn 21, he underlined.
“Frontline healthcare workers have aging parents in India and cannot sponsor them to come to the US. High-skilled workers must think thousands of times before deciding to visit family back home due to fear of visa rejections and getting stranded, and spouses who are on the dependent visa are being discriminated against and denied EADs (work authorizations) on time,” Karnatak said.

According to the Pew report, “In fiscal 2019, more than 188,000 high-skilled foreign workers received H-1B visas. H-1Bs accounted for 22 percent of all temporary visas for employment issued in 2019. In all, nearly 2 million H-1B visas were issued from fiscal years 2007 to 2019.”
There have been several Bills introduced in both the Chambers of Congress in rec3ent years, seeking to address the backlog issues. A bipartisan group of senators had in 2020 introduced new legislation Thursday to grant 40,000 unused green card slots to foreign health care workers needed to help U.S. medical professionals fight the coronavirus pandemic. Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., a longtime stalwart of immigration-related legislation, unveiled the bill with his colleagues, Sens. David Perdue, R-Ga., Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Coons, D-Del.
The bill would authorize up to 25,000 immigrant visas to go to foreign nurses and up to 15,000 for doctors who are eligible to come to the United States or who are already here on temporary work visas. These immigrant visas would lead to employment-based green cards. The legislation would also allow U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to give out slots from a pool of previously unclaimed green cards for the families of these medical workers.

Now with a new president in town, all eyes are on him and his proposed immigration reforms. President Joe Biden has already announced his immigration agenda and is working toward boosting refugee admissions. However, when it comes to work-based immigration, there are a lot of questions on how the Biden administration proposes to work on them, especially on employment-based green cards and H-1B visas.
The Biden administration has for now decided not to implement a rule proposed by Trump that aimed at linking H-1B visas to wages.

The administration withdrew a notice —  issued just five days before Trump’s exit — regarding compliance with a law requiring US employers to pay H-1B visa foreign workers the same or more than Americans in similar jobs by both staffing agencies and their clients. There is also a proposal to provide permanent work permits to the spouses of H-1B visa holders.The Physicians of Indian Origin believe, now is the time and that President Biden can fix the long delayed immigration issues facing hundreds of thousands of well deserving qualified Indian Americans.

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