Changes in US Immigration Laws & its impact on India
Anuj Malhotra 28 Nov 2019

Changes in US Immigration Laws & its impact on India

US President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, which has been called “dead-on-arrival” by Democrats, could be “disastrous” for those already in queue for a Green Card, including hundreds of thousands of Indians, as it intends to replace the existing system in favour of one that prioritises merit over family. The new system will also make it impossible to sponsor some categories of relatives.

There are 261,765 Indians waiting for family-sponsored Green cards and 306,601 (these are principal applicants; the number is more than half a million counting dependents) in the employment based queue, according to the US state department and the US citizenship and immigration services data.

In all, there are 3.6 million and 395,025 in the two categories respectively.

“We will replace the existing Green Card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa -- which is what we all want to hear,” the president said announcing his new “merit-based, high-security plan” Thursday. It seeks to overhaul legal immigration and bolster border security, including a wall.

The plan envisages a points-based immigration system that scores merit, age, professional skills, education and proficiency in English language over family ties.

Of the 1.1 million Green Cards issued every year, 66% go to relatives and 21% to asylum seekers and those picked in a visa lottery. Only 12% go to those seeking permanent residency through employment. President Trump intends to reverse that and take that 12% number to 57%, even higher.

If enacted into law, young, qualified, professional, English-speaking Indian applicants will stand a better chance of qualifying for Green Card, going forward, than those banking on familial ties to relatives such as children, spouses, siblings, parents, even grandparents.

But for those already in queue, experts said, it would be disastrous. Doug Rand, a former Obama White House official who worked on immigration and is co-founder of an immigration services company Boundless, said, “Although superficially beneficial for immigrants with more education and skills, this proposal could be disastrous for H-1B workers, most of whom are from India.”

First, he added, it would “pull the rug out from under the half-million or so skilled workers and their families” who are waiting for their Green Cards, because “they apparently they would all have to start over and reapply for the new ‘Build America visas’.” And, second, even if they managed, they will not be able to sponsor parents, adult children and siblings under the family-based category.

Stuart Andersen, an immigration expert who runs a non-partisan think-tank National Foundation for American Policy, said, “Indians with pending family-based Green Card applications would see those applications eliminated. Some Indians waiting for employment-based Green Cards might find a quicker path but since all employment-based Green Card applications would be eliminated anyone who doesn’t gain enough points under the system would eventually have to leave the United States.” And those who are American citizens will not be able to sponsor some relatives.

But the plan appears to have no future, not at least in its current avatar. Democrats, who control the House of Representatives that will have to pass the plan, have already come out against it. “This dead-on-arrival plan is not a remotely serious proposal,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement, and added, “To say that this plan’s application criteria are ‘merit-based’ is the height of condescension.” And, a big problem for them: the plan does not address the issue of “Dreamers”, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, several thousand of them are from India.

President Trump acknowledged the plan’s uncertain future in his announcement remarks from the White House. “If for some reason -- possibly political -- we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the (2020) election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the presidency,” he said.

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