Latest News USA

Indian-American doctors in Green Card backlog protest at US Capitol

Washington, DC: Urging American lawmakers to pass a legislation that ends the archaic per country quota for legal permanent residency in the US, a group of frontline Indian-American healthcare professionals, stuck in the 150-plus-year Green Card backlog, held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Capitol.

In a joint statement on Monday, the Indian-American doctors said that they are in a 150-plus-year Green Card backlog due to archaic country caps that allows no nation to get more than seven per cent of employment-based green cards.

“India is a land of a billion plus people but the number of green cards it gets is the same as a country as small as Iceland. There is no cap on H-1B visa though and Indians make 50 per cent of the H-1B work force. This discrepancy between H-1B and green cards has created an inhuman backlog that is adversely affecting our professional and personal lives,” they said.

Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.

The protesters said that the fairness bill removes country caps and allots green cards as a first come first serve basis. It passed in the House of Representatives by 365 votes in 2019 and its Senate equivalent S386 passed the Senate in 2020. Now the bill is back to the House as a modified version.

They urged Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to bring it to vote as a bipartisan solution to end the suffering of skilled professionals.

“The Green Card backlog is taking a toll on the frontline health care workers and their families. They are living in fear and anxiety,” Dr Namita Dhiman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist said.

“US President Joe Biden should end the Green Card backlog by allowing USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to utilize unused green cards from the past years for the frontline healthcare workers in the backlog,” she said.

Baltimore-based Dr Santanu Samanta, a radiation oncologist, said he feels threatened about the consequences to his family and his job, if there is no change brought in the Green Card system.

“I would desperately want to see changes that would help us become permanent green holders to serve people in this country,” he said.

“Due to being stuck in the Green Card backlog, I couldn’t get fellowship training for four years despite being the most worthy candidate. After training is finished, I couldn’t find an appropriate job. My wife and daughter got so scared during COVID Pandemic that they wanted to go back to India,” said Dr Saurabh Ranjan, an interventional cardiologist.

“If I die while on H-1B visa, I don’t get any benefits and my family will be deported. After serving the last 10 years as a physician, I still am alien and feel so desperate and hopeless how we have been treated in regard to green cards and citizenship,” Dr Ranjan said.

Infectious disease and critical care physician from Wisconsin Dr Raj Karnatak said that they are fighting to save lives on the frontline knowing that if they get sick or die serving on the frontline, their families will get deported.

“We need immediate relief from the miserable Green Card backlog,” he said.

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Latest News USA

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi hails move to eliminate country quota for employment-based Green Card

Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi hailed the legislative move to eliminate the country quota for employment-based Green Card asserting that these reforms will help the US to retain top talent from across the world while growing the economy.

“As an original cosponsor of the Fairness For High-Skilled Immigrants Act, I am proud to announce that this immigration package has incorporated our bill’s fundamental reforms, including the elimination of country-based discrimination for employment-based green cards and the increasing of per-country caps on family-based green cards,” Krishnamoorthi said on Friday.

“These reforms will help our country continue to attract and retain top talent from across the world while growing our economy and creating more good-paying jobs here. Any comprehensive immigration bill must include these necessary fixes to end the green card backlog once and for all, and I will continue to fight for these provisions until they become law,” he said.

Non-profit South Asian Americans Leading Together, in a statement, said the bill is a historic piece of legislation that proposes a pathway to citizenship for 11 million immigrants, including more than 6,50,000 undocumented South Asians.

The bill creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, providing dreamers, TPS holders, and some farmworkers with an expedited three-year path to citizenship, and giving all other undocumented immigrants an eight-year path.

It reforms the family-based immigration system to keep families together by recapturing visas from previous years to clear backlogs, including spouses and children of green card holders as immediate family members, and increasing per-country caps for family-based immigration.

The bill updates the employment-based immigration system, eliminating per-country caps, improving access to green cards for workers in lower-wage industries, giving dependents of H-1B holders work authorization, and preventing children of H-1B holders from aging out of the system.

It also creates a pilot program to stimulate regional economic development, and incentivizes higher wages for non-immigrant, high-skilled visas to prevent unfair competition with American workers.

The bill also supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by eliminating the one-year deadline for filing asylum claims, reducing asylum application backlogs, increasing protections for U visa, T visa, and VAWA applicants, including by raising the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.

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Latest News USA

USISP Forum urges Biden to ease H-1B visa restrictions

A top India-centric American business advocacy group has urged the incoming Biden administration to ease the restrictions on H-1B visas and provide green cards to higher education students with science and mathematics degrees to meet the increasing demand for IT professionals in the country.

On December 31, outgoing President Donald Trump extended a freeze on the most sought-after H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas by three months to March 31, affecting a large number of Indian IT professionals who were issued visas by the US government for the fiscal year 2021.

President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has promised to lift the suspension on H-1B visas, saying Trump’s immigration policies are cruel.

“It is more of a legislative issue. We have basically recommended to the Biden administration, one, is ease up the H-1B (visa), but at the same time, every STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) PhD graduating, should be given a Green Card, so that they stay and contribute from day one as a taxpayer and also to the growth of the economy,” Mukesh Aghi, president of US-India Strategic and Partnership Forum told PTI in an interview.

“That’s the position, we still are very supportive of. And I think the sentiment seems to be the same with the Biden administration,” said Aghi, based on the interactions he has had with members of the Biden Transition Team.

Responding to a question, Aghi said the number of H-1B visas issued every year should be driven by the market demands.

At this point of time, the current figure of 65,000 H-1B visas in addition to another 20,000 to those foreign nationals with graduation from a US university is quite inadequate to meet the huge demand of IT professionals in the US, he noted.

Currently there is a shortage of 1 million IT professionals in the US. At the same time, he asserted, there is a need to ensure that the local job environment continues.

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Latest News New York

Trump’s new order on H-1B visa blow to Indian professionals

Washington, DC: In a huge blow to Indian IT professionals eyeing the US job market, President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order preventing federal agencies from contracting or subcontracting foreign workers — mainly those on H-1B visa — from hiring.

The move came over a month after the Trump administration on June 23 suspended the H-1B visas along with other types of foreign work visas until the end of 2020 to protect American workers in a crucial election year. The new restrictions took effect from June 24.

“Today I am signing an executive order to ensure that the federal government lives by a very simple rule, higher American,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office of the White House before signing the order against hiring H1B visa holders for federal contracts.

Trump told reporters that his administration will not tolerate firing of hardworking Americans in the pursuit of cheap foreign labor.

“As we speak, we’re finalizing the H-1B regulation so that no American workers will be replaced ever again. H-1B should be used for top highly paid talent to create American jobs, not as inexpensive labor programs and destroy American jobs,” said the president who was surrounded across the Cabinet Room table with individuals campaigning against job outsourcing.

Prominent among them were Sara Blackwell, founder and president of Florida-based Protect US Workers organization; Jonathan Hicks, a software engineer in the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Kevin Lynn, founder of Pennsylvania-based US Tech Workers.

The executive order requires all federal agencies to complete an internal audit and assess whether they are in compliance with the requirement that only US citizens and nationals are appointed to the competitive service. As a result, the Department of Labour will also finalise guidelines to prevent H-1B employers from moving H-1B workers to other employers’ job sites to displace American workers.

Outsourcing hundreds of workers is especially detrimental in the middle of a pandemic, which has already cost millions of Americans their jobs, the White House said in a statement.

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H-1B visa policy for staffing companies struck down, again

Washington, DC: A second federal court has ruled that a policy for employers that place H-1B high-skilled guestworkers at third-party worksites can’t be enforced.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia found invalid a February policy memo from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requiring information technology staffing companies that place their H-1B workers at third-party sites to list each site where a visa holder will work for the visa’s entire three-year term, and requiring petitioners to prove they would remain an “employer” for the visa’s duration.

There is “no basis” in federal immigration law or the agency’s regulations for “requiring a petitioner to submit evidence of specific, qualifying work requirements and micro-location information for every single day of the visa period,” Judge Amy Totenberg ruled.

“Accordingly, the Agency’s 2018 interpretation of the statute and regulations, as applied in the instant case, is owed no deference,” she said. “Once again, if the Agency finds that there is a policy justification for requesting all of this information, it possesses the authority to promulgate new regulations by notice and comment.”

This is the second win for employers of H-1B workers who have turned to litigation to battle visa petition denials. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dealt the first blow to the agency’s third-party placement memo in March. In the wake of that ruling, the agency has reopened and approved over 50 H-1B denials.

“The takeaway is that no court in the country is likely to come to a different resolution at this point in time on these issues,” said Jonathan Wasden, an attorney for the plaintiffs. “I think the writing is on the wall for the government and they’re going to have to abandon this position.”

The lawsuit was filed by Serenity Info Tech Inc., Whiz Global LLC, Keshav Consulting Solutions Inc., Smartworks LLC, Tetrasoft Inc., PVK Corp., and TekLeaders Inc.

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coronavirus New York

Bipartisan bill to reform H-1B, L-1 visas amid COVID-19 uncertainty

New York:  A bill has been introduced in Congress for wide-ranging reforms to the H-1B and L-1 visa programs amid the COVID-19 uncertainty over job prospects and immigration in order to stop replacement of US workers, give preference to US-educated applicants, tighten wage requirements and increase enforcement.

“We want to make sure that talent is coming to the US, but we also want to make sure that it’s being done with proper compensation” and all workers are protected from exploitation, Democratic Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said.

The bill introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives by a group of seven legislators from both parties as an amendment to the Immigration and Naturalization Act comes as about 39 million people are jobless with the unemployment rate at one of the historic highs, estimated at 23 percent.

The bill has a slim chance of being passed in the current session of the Congress, which is burdened by coronavirus pandemic-related legislation and limitations on sittings.

The most significant element of the bill is an explicit prohibition of the replacement of American workers by H-1B or L-1 visa holders and ensuring that their working conditions are not adversely affected.

H-1B visas are for professionals and L-1 visas are given to employees of foreign companies transferred to work in the US temporarily.

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries getting around 75 percent of the H-1B visas.

Democrat Representative Frank Pallone said the amendment would require “a good faith effort to recruit and hire American workers (which) is critical to helping people get back to work during this difficult time and will help prevent the exploitation of foreign workers.”

Another key element of the bill to give priority to US-educated applicants for H1-B visas is already in force through a regulation introduced last year by the administration of US President Trump.

The bill would prevent companies having more than half their workforce made up of H1-B visa holders from hiring any more of them.

Companies would also be barred from having H-1B or L-1 employees temporarily in the US to get trained and sent back home to do the same work.

Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, a prime mover of the bill, said, “We need programs dedicated to putting American workers first. When skilled foreign workers are needed to meet the demands of our labor market, we must also ensure that visa applicants who honed their skills at American colleges and universities are a priority over the importation of more foreign workers.”

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