The people who play identity politics and the polarized extremists should reconcile or if they continue to play the divisive politics, people would vote them out of the office and ultimately will be marginalized as ‘Paper Tigers’.
While there are pockets of violence going in India by few groups that are anti-Citizenship Amendment Act groups, it’s high time to check how fairness is applied in Immigration to Indians in other parts of the world to have a comprehensive look at the approach to fairness in immigration removing political noise and considering only the socio-economic-cultural impact to the country’s national foundation and construct.
Indian immigrants have always been given unfair treatment with a very long backlog of work-based (also known as Highly Skilled Immigration) Green Card processing, recently the waiting time exceeding 15 years since someone enters the USA.
Let’s take USA example, since it is the epitome and melting pot of immigrants with 98.4% of the population immigrated from Europe, Asia, and Africa in the last 500 years. Between 1913 and 1923, about 100 Indians were naturalized. Naturalization of Indian immigrants ended in 1923 when the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind that Indians were ineligible for citizenship, which led to about 3,000 Indians leaving the United States. Many other Indians had no means of returning to India. One such immigrant, Vaisho Das Bagai, committed suicide in despair.
In 1960, just 12,000 Indian immigrants lived in the United States, representing less than 0.5 percent of the 9.7 million overall immigrant population. As of 2017, the (Asian) Indian population in the United States grew from almost 1.6 Million in 2000 (0.6% of U.S. population) 4.4 Million (1.3% of the U.S. population). Indian Americans continuously outpace every other ethnic group socioeconomically per U.S. Census statistics.
According to Pew Research in 2015, of Indian Americans aged 25 and older, 72% had obtained a bachelor’s degree and 40% had obtained a postgraduate degree, whereas of all Americans, 19% had obtained a bachelor’s degree and 11% had obtained a postgraduate degree.
A joint Duke University – UC Berkeley study revealed that Indian immigrants have founded more engineering and technology companies from 1995 to 2005 than immigrants from the UK, China, Taiwan, and Japan combined. The percentage of Silicon Valley startups founded by Indian immigrants has increased from 7% in 1999 to 15.5% in 2006.
The median household income for Indian immigrants in 2015 was much higher at a median income of $101,591, compared to $51,000 and $56,000 for overall immigrant and native-born households, respectively. By far they are the richest and most successful ethnic group in the USA due to a very high proportion of highly skilled Indians who have immigrated with high paying jobs in medicine, health care, computer science, engineering, and financial services. Most notable statistics being 43% of Indian immigrants arrived in the United States through Employment-based Visas while only 14% of all other immigrant groups enter through Work visas.
It is evident from the above data that Indian Americans contribute to the economy via Hundreds of Billions in Tax and Social Security contribution, generation of hundreds of thousands in employment and also to the commerce and business as consumers in the USA.
But unfortunately, Indian immigrants have always been given unfair treatment with a very long backlog of work-based (also known as Highly Skilled Immigration) Green Card processing, recently the waiting time exceeding 15 years since someone enters the USA. This was due to the per-country cap at 7% that was introduced in 1965 that any one country can only be granted 7 percent of all available employment-based and family-based green cards annually.
While everyone has got the right to have a difference of opinion and protest, it should be on a ground of fairness and humanitarian values.
Major problem with this per-country cap provision was that it include middle-east countries such as Iran, who also qualify for and in all fairness of lack of access to High-tech education use the route of diversity visa to get their green card. Due to the double adjustments of such low-skilled countries representation in allocation of green cards to the overall cap per year, the low-skill immigrants from the middle-east countries such as Iran were able to get Green Card in weeks versus the highly skilled and high-value contributing Indian Immigrants’ petitions were backlogged since 2009 (in addition to the pre-green card times they spend in US).
This unfair provision has resulted into family separation and separation of Indian Immigrant children from the parents – either children who age out when parents were waiting in the queue for a long time or the children who were born as US citizens but the parents have to return back due to visa renewal issues that have become common with administrative delays and errors.
House of Representatives, acknowledging the unfairness, recently passed the ‘Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants’ (HR 1044), a bipartisan bill to phase out the per-country limits on employment-based immigrant visas – thanks to the support from 365 Congress Representatives while just 65 opposed to it. This bill acknowledged that country of birth is not a Skill and all the diversity concerns will be addressed with Diversity Visa. While understandably few Republican representatives, who oppose any type of immigration have voted against it, the shocker came from the Democrat representatives who were extreme supporters of even naturalization of illegal and undocumented immigrants to avoid family or child separation.
Specially, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, who were projecting themselves as the epitome of American immigration value and going to an extreme of providing immediate naturalization, health care, and social benefits to the illegal and undocumented immigrants, voted against the “Fairness” when it came to the Highly Skilled Immigrants. While some questioned their allegiance to USA versus to their middle-eastern or African Islamic natives in the past due to their rhetoric, this action against fairness in immigration has now raised questions among their own base of immigration supporters as to their hypocrisy. Supporters of their social agenda are questioning whether their hearts are misplaced when it came to leaning towards the low-skill middle-eastern immigration while voting against the High Skilled immigrants – effectively leading to family and child separation in the current times. Supporters of their economic agenda are asking who will fund their Medicare for all or Social Security for low-skill or undocumented immigrants if the almost million highly paid, high tax paying highly skilled immigrants are forced to move back to their country of origin.
Contrary to the above hypocrisy, the anti-immigration right extremists, who project themselves as opposers of ‘illegal immigration’ are also up in arms against the legal highly skilled immigration Bill, have been spreading false news about India’s crackdown on divisive forces, action in Kashmir, outsourcing industry and stray visa offender issues. They are spreading homophobic messages, surprisingly joining forces with the fake campaign accounts created in collaboration with Iranian lobby and anti-immigration lobbyists. This has worsened the plights of Indians, their family and children due to the attack these fake profiles and trolls perpetuate in the social media and mainstream media. Because of this same reason of fringe groups vehemently opposing similar bills introduced in the past 4 instances failed in the House.
The good news here is that there are 365 Representatives who supported the Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants have now promoted the bill to Senate as Senate Bill 386 (S.386) for approval based on Unilateral Consent. Sen. Michael Lee (R) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D) have recently come to a bi-partisan agreement that make the bill fair for both legal highly skilled immigrants as well as to the American workers thereby retaining the social value of contributions to tax, social security, and Medicare while increasing economic impact by enabling opening of new startups, ensuring upward mobility and jobs for the Americans. First time, the House Representatives have ignored the deafening noise of political correctness and violent opposition from political extremists to do what is sensible for the nation and the majority of people.
While the Indians in US are waiting with hope that the S.386 bill will be passed by US Senate with Unanimous Consent, Citizenship Amendment Act has been passed by Indian Parliament to provides refuge to the people who already have immigrated to India before 2015 to escape religious persecution from religious fundamentalist nations of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. This bill is passed by the parliament, which is elected by the people of India and hence it is will of the people is to provide fairness in immigration that was honored by the current BJP Government led by Prime Minister Sri. Narendra Modi.
I am disheartened to see the violence that are perpetrated by some mobs against the Citizenship Amendment Bill. While everyone has got the right to have a difference of opinion and protest, it should be on a ground of fairness and humanitarian values. Fairness to the immigration and naturalization here rests with the persecuted regardless of their religion. But when one religion persecutes everyone else, how can people from the same religion be allowed to immigrate along with these persecuted people as it would cause tremendous trauma and distrust as to the same kind of atrocities in the place where they both were relocated. It would be like granting asylum to both Syrian refugees as well as ISIS terrorists to live in the same place.
Granting citizenship to the people who have already immigrated will also help in the economic causes and assimilate them into the society with the cultural nuances that are well aligned to their own practices and religious freedom. Hence Citizenship Amendment Act is in the right direction, similar to Fairness for Highly Skilled Immigrants Bill, towards such fairness and human empathy towards the immigrant population ignoring the noise of political opportunists, fringe extremist groups and divisive forces. I strongly believe that the people who play identity politics and the polarized extremists should reconcile with the benefits of fairness based on the socio, economic and cultural aspects of the immigration or if they continue to play the divisive politics, people would vote them out of office and ultimately will be marginalized as ‘Paper Tigers’.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
- Fairness in Immigration is at Political Crossroads and Crossfires - January 4, 2020