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Indian Visa-holders while Waiting for Green Cards See Hope in Donald Trump Review

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US President Donald Trump, VOA
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When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate program in electrical engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his undergraduate degree.

He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H1-B visa, which permits him to live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

“It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I’m kind of regretting taking that scholarship,” said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a nonprofit group called Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Many from India

Immigration Voice estimates there are 1.5 million H1-B visa holders in the country waiting for green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump’s executive order this week to the federal departments overseeing the program to review it, a move that may lead to H1-B visas being awarded to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H1-Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

“I think less random is great,” said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-commerce startup.

Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com and eBay, spent 10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization, and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H1-B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialized knowledge, such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award 65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

The H1-B and the green-card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them as intimately connected.

Cap on green cards

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the total, without regard to how large or small the country’s population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-born people in the line, given the size of India’s population — 1.3 billion — and the number of its natives in the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H1-B visas while they wait, which they say makes them almost like “indentured servants,” said Gaurav Mehta, an H1-B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses his job and cannot find another quickly.

“He’s never been to my country,” Mehta said of his son. “But we’ll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear.”

The H1-B visa is tied to a specific employer, who must apply for the visa and sponsor the employee for a specific job laid out in the visa application. To switch employers, the visa holder must secure paperwork from his current employer and find another employer willing to take over the visa.

Some H1-B holders suspect that employers purposely seek out Indian immigrants because they know they will end up waiting for green cards and will be afraid to leave their employers.

But changing the green-card system away from country caps to a merit-based system would require an act of Congress. Some executives also worry that allocating H1-Bs and green cards based on salary — while it would be done to counter the argument that immigrants undercut American workers — would hurt startups that cannot afford high wages.

Practical steps

In the meantime, H1-B holders like Nitin Pachisia, founding partner of a venture capital firm called Unshackled Ventures, are taking more practical measures. His firm specializes in taking care of the legal paperwork so that H1-B holders can start their own companies, a process that is possible but tricky.

Pachisia is hopeful that changes to the H1-B visa program could revive interest in making the entire system, from H1-B visas to green cards and eventual citizenship, more merit-based and focused on immigrants who are likely to start companies and create jobs.

“If the purpose of our high-skilled immigration program is to bring in the most talented people, let’s use that as a lens. From that perspective, it’s a good thing we can focus on the most talented, and I’d say most entrepreneurial, people,” he said. (VOA)

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Donald Trump Not Worried About Impeachment, Defends Hush Payments

Trump acknowledged repaying Cohen for $130,000 paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

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U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was not concerned that he could be impeached and that hush payments made ahead of the 2016 election by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to two women did not violate campaign finance laws.

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview.

“I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Federal prosecutors in New York said last week that Trump directed Cohen to make six-figure payments to two women so they would not discuss their alleged affairs with the candidate ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

They said the payments violated laws that stipulate that campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed, and limited to $2,700 per person.

Donald Trump, Prince
U.S. President Donald Trump sits for an exclusive interview with Reuters journalists in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington. VOA

Democrats said such a campaign law violation would be an impeachable offense, although senior party leaders in Congress have questioned whether it is a serious enough crime to warrant politically charged impeachment proceedings.

Impeachment requires a simple majority to pass the House of Representatives, where Democrats will take control in January. But removal of the president from office further requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold sway.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday in New York for his role in the payments to the two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump has denied having affairs with them.

Earlier this year, Trump acknowledged repaying Cohen for $130,000 paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

U.S.A., Trump
In these 2018 photos, Paul Manafort leaves federal court in Washington, left and attorney Michael Cohen leaves federal court in New York. VOA

He previously disputed knowing anything about the payments.

Trump has slammed Cohen for cooperating with prosecutors, alleging that the lawyer is telling lies about him in a bid to get a lighter prison term. He has called for Cohen to get a long sentence and said on Tuesday his ex-lawyer should have known the campaign finance laws.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was not concerned that he could be impeached and that hush payments made ahead of the 2016 election by his former personal attorney Michael Cohen to two women did not violate campaign finance laws.

“It’s hard to impeach somebody who hasn’t done anything wrong and who’s created the greatest economy in the history of our country,” Trump told Reuters in an Oval Office interview.

“I’m not concerned, no. I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Federal prosecutors in New York said last week that Trump directed Cohen to make six-figure payments to two women so they would not discuss their alleged affairs with the candidate ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

Michael Cohen, Trump
Michael Cohen walks out of federal court, Nov. 29, 2018, in New York, after pleading guilty to lying to Congress about work he did on an aborted project to build a Trump Tower in Russia. VOA

They said the payments violated laws that stipulate that campaign contributions, defined as things of value given to a campaign to influence an election, must be disclosed, and limited to $2,700 per person.

Democrats said such a campaign law violation would be an impeachable offense, although senior party leaders in Congress have questioned whether it is a serious enough crime to warrant politically charged impeachment proceedings.

Impeachment requires a simple majority to pass the House of Representatives, where Democrats will take control in January. But removal of the president from office further requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate, where Trump’s fellow Republicans hold sway.

Cohen is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday in New York for his role in the payments to the two women — adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Trump has denied having affairs with them.

Also Read: U.N. Donald Trump’s Impeachment may be Possible: Key Lawmaker

Earlier this year, Trump acknowledged repaying Cohen for $130,000 paid to Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

He previously disputed knowing anything about the payments.

Trump has slammed Cohen for cooperating with prosecutors, alleging that the lawyer is telling lies about him in a bid to get a lighter prison term. He has called for Cohen to get a long sentence and said on Tuesday his ex-lawyer should have known the campaign finance laws. (VOA)