Sunday February 17, 2019
Home Indian Diaspora Indian-Americ...

Indian-American groups to campaign on immigration issues

0
//

New York: Indian-American groups have called for a campaign on immigration issues affecting the Indian diaspora including use of H-1B visa by technology companies from India and growing backlog of family visas.

The call was made at an immigration seminar organised by Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO-New York), South Asian Council for Social Services (SACSS) and the Kerala Centre in Elmont, New York recently.

Grass-root actions were also required to support President Barack Obama’s executive actions that were announced in November 2014, participants said.

While immigration reform holistically seems to be stalled, Obama’s executive actions are designed in a piecemeal manner aimed at improving the overall immigration law system.

The participants also hoped that extreme backlogs for Indian nationals in many visa classifications may be reduced in some fair manner.

These backlogs have resulted in families being separated for long periods of time despite one of the major tenets underlying US immigration law being family unity.

H-1B non-immigrant professional and specialty occupation work visas continue to be scrutinized heavily by such agencies as the US Homeland Security, State, and Labour departments, the seminar noted.

Additionally, many of the largest users of the H-1B visa are very significant technology companies from India, the seminar noted.

Grassroots efforts should be made to help the government understand that India is not the only user of these technology visas, it suggested.

Attempts to avert a form of reverse discrimination should be undertaken soonest, the participants suggested.

Among other issues raised was India’s exclusion from Treaty Investment and Treaty Trader category for the immigration visa purpose.

It is not clear why Bangladesh and Pakistan and Sri Lanka all have E visas but India does not, the participants noted.

It was resolved that GOPIO and other community groups must campaign on these issues.

“It is important for the Indian American community to take up such issues with Obama administration and elected officials and make them aware of importance of such issues for the country as a whole,” said GOPIO’s Founder President Thomas Abraham.

The panelists were attorneys Michael Phulwani and David Nachman of NPZ Law Group and Anand Ahuja. Abraham moderated the discussion.

 

Next Story

Reform of US Skilled-Worker Visa Program Receives Appreciation

U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master's or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery.

0
U.S.
The Department of Homeland Security logo is seen at one of its annex facilities in Fairfax, Virginia, July 22, 2015. VOA

The Trump administration’s new rules for a U.S. visa program widely used for technology workers are getting cautious praise from Silicon Valley amid surging demand for high-skill employees.

The H-1B visa program, which admits 85,000 foreign nationals each year, will give higher priority to people with postgraduate degrees from U.S. universities, under a final rule the Department of Homeland Security published in January.

“U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery” under the new rule, said Francis Cissna, director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, in announcing the change Jan. 30.

The changes come with the tech industry’s plea for more immigrants to fill key skilled positions, and respond in part to concerns that the program has been exploited by some tech giants and outsourcing firms to depress wages and displace U.S. employees.

U.S.
U.S. employers seeking to employ foreign workers with a U.S. master’s or higher degree will have a greater chance of selection in the H-1B lottery. Pixabay

“The changes are, on the whole, a positive step,” said Todd Schulte of the immigration reform group FWD.us backed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and others in the industry.

Flaws in administration

Ed Black of the Computer & Communications Industry Association, which represents several major tech firms, said the program has not always been administered as well as it could have been.

“We are hopeful something in the newly announced revisions will improve efficiency, but it’s too soon to say what the impact will be,” Black said.

The H-1B program, in place since 1990, has been used for a variety of skilled occupations including nurses and pastry chefs, but in recent years two-thirds have been for computer-related jobs and three-fourths of the employees have come from India. Because visa holders can stay up to six years, the number currently living in the United States is estimated at more than half a million.

Ron Hira, a Howard University political scientist who has followed the visa program for two decades, said it has been exploited by some large tech companies and outsourcing firms to keep wages down and in some cases displace American employees.

Hira said the visas have not been allocated to the “most pressing needs” of the labor market and that “the typical H-1B employee is working in a back office through an outsourcer.”

He said that the reform “inches us a little closer to a better-quality pool, but it’s still not selecting the ‘best and brightest’ — you could reform it much better.”

Hira said the system has been disappointing up to now because of large outsourcing firms that flood the system with thousands of applications, and some Silicon valley firms that use it to keep wages down.

A U.S. Labor Department complaint alleged that Oracle discriminated against some Americans by bringing in large numbers of H-1B visa holders, who were paid less than U.S. nationals.

The new DHS rule reverses the order of two lotteries for H-1B visas, by selecting the first 65,000 from the pool of all applications, and subsequently choosing 20,000 with advanced degrees.

Officials expect this will mean an increase of 5,000, or 16 percent, for holders of advanced degrees.

Hira said this potentially changes the mix of visa holders to positions with higher pay and skill levels.

Detail of an H-1B visa
Details of the H-1B visa. VOA

‘Modest’ but positive shift seen

William Kerr, a Harvard University professor who heads the university’s Future of Work initiative, agreed the changes could slightly shift the mix of those receiving H-1B visas to bring in more people with advanced skills.

“It’s a modest change in a system in a need of substantial reworking, but I support the change,” he said.

Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a think tank focused on the sector, said the changes should be viewed in the context of Trump administration rhetoric about shutting out foreigners and hiring more Americans.

Also Read: Google Slammed for Tricking Users to View Infected PNG Images

“People were talking about shutting down this program and making it hard for companies to use [visa holders] at all, so it could have been a lot worse,” Atkinson said.

The reform is a “reasonable compromise,” Atkinson said.

The change, he said, “sends a nice message to foreigners who have been dropping their enrollment in U.S. universities and who were feeling uncertainty about what Trump was going to do.” (VOA)