“More green cards and no country limits”, says Republican Senator Rand Paul at immigration rally on Capitol Hill
By Geeta Goindi
Washington, DC, June 15, 2018 – Powerful Republican lawmakers avowed their support for high-skilled Indian workers and their kids caught up in the broken American immigration system, so flawed that it could take some of the best and brightest up to 92 years to obtain lawful permanent residency, popularly known as a green card.
Addressing a rally on the expansive west lawn of the US Capitol, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky told a sizable crowd of Indian immigrants: “You have come lawfully. You have come legally and yet it takes forever and maybe it never happens at all that you get your permanent residency”. A simple way to fix that, he said, is “more green cards and no country limits”. The current immigration system imposes a seven percent per-country quota on the allotment of family-sponsored and employment-based visas.
An influential voice in Congress, Paul has been in the forefront of boosting high-skilled immigration including increasing the H-1B visa cap, allowing the best and brightest to come to America. “The Indian-American community has exceeded to such levels that it is difficult to recount”, he told the crowd at the rally, mentioning Nobel laureates, Deans at prestigious universities, CEOs in Silicon Valley of Indian origin.
Imploring the gathering to be more engaged, Paul said, “People need to talk about what the Indian-American community has brought to America, how you are already part of America, how you are making America great”.
On eliminating the per country cap for allotment of employment-based visas, he reasoned, “If you want to work and you’ve got a job and you want to be part of America, there are much larger amounts (of immigrant workers) that we can bring in. There is not really a limit if people will work”. In his own state, he disclosed, there is a shortage of skilled workers. “So, we want more people in our country, but we need to do it lawfully, legally and with a process”, he emphasized.
The rally was organized under the aegis of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC) founded by Chicago-based industrialist Shalabh Kumar, a staunch supporter of President Trump. On hand, were his son Vikram Aditya and daughter Manasvi spearheading the proceedings on a picture-perfect Wednesday afternoon in late Spring.
The event drew busloads of Indian professionals and kids from across the US including the states of California, North Carolina and New Jersey. At one point, rally-goers made a human chain on the expansive lawn of the US Capitol chanting slogans like “Clear green card backlog”, “High-skilled immigrants deserve better”, “DALCA deserves better”. It was quite a sight to behold as they raised their voices in unison hoping those in the corridors of power would hear and heed their clarion call for action.
In the spotlight were children of H-1B visa holders which the RHC calls DALCA (Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals) kids, some 200,000 who face possible deportation when they age out of their H-4 dependent status. These are the legal Dreamers sidelined by the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) kids who were brought to the US illegally as children.
While acknowledging that he sympathizes with DACA recipients, Senator Paul made it clear he doesn’t believe “they should somehow get in front or obscure the kids of legal immigrants” who must have protections in place.
Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas, Chairman of the House Committee on Rules, thanked the crowd at the rally for sending a message to their families in India that “America wants and needs India to succeed. We want your great and young Prime Minister Modi to be just not a world leader, but a brave leader who will forge a path with America towards a better future”, he said.
“President Donald Trump is proud of you as immigrants to this country”, the lawmaker said to loud cheers. “He not only understands the Hindus, he understands the thirst for freedom and education and academic credentials and most of all what you can do for us to keep our way of life free and great”.
Sessions affirmed, “If we work together we have an unlimited opportunity for the future to make America and India great”.
He told the crowd of Indian immigrants that their presence on Capitol Hill is very important as the House DACA deal is in the final stages with lawmakers set to vote on two immigration bills next week. “You are here properly, petitioning your government, your members of Congress to talk about DALCA, to talk about its inclusion in the immigration bill, to talk about the opportunity for so many people who have come here, who have received their education, who stand at the top of their class, who desire to make this country even better”, he noted.
Describing Indian immigrants as “skilled, smart workers” who have devoted themselves to various professions as leading-edge doctors, scientists, engineers, Sessions applauded their ability to be self-reliant, to take care of themselves as well as others.
“They did not come here for anything that would be second place. They came here to win among winners”, the lawmaker said to cheers from the crowd.
Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado decried what he called “the discriminatory problems” relating to high-skilled workers in America. “To have a per-country cap is wrong”, he said expressing relief that both the immigration bills which will be considered by the House next week include an elimination of the country cap.
“The sad stories that I’ve heard from families in my District where they bring their young children here to America, they become part of the fabric of our community, of America, and yet this process that we have is so discriminatory on them that their children age out when they hit 21 and have to return to India, we know that is wrong and that must change”, the lawmaker said.
“We must join together as one strong family and fight this discrimination”, he emphasized. “It will make America a better, fairer and stronger country”.
Congressman Roger Marshall of Kansas informed the gathering that most business leaders in his home state believe the biggest challenge right now for the American economy is the lack of skilled labor. “We have 50,000 open jobs in Kansas, 6 million open jobs across the US”, he said.
Noting that the House will most likely be voting next week on some immigration reform issues, the lawmaker averred, “I am very proud to stand with the DALCA recipients and look forward to helping them out”.
Janvi Mehta, 25, “an aged out DALCA kid” by her own description, couldn’t hold back the tears as she shared her story at the rally.
Like other legal minors, she came to America knowing nothing about the country except it is “the land of dreams”. She was fourteen at the time and went on to graduate from high school, later earning a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
“I achieved my dreams but in the process, I had multiple setbacks”, Janvi told the crowd citing a number of obstacles: not qualifying for summer internships while in school; denied admission in a number of pharmacy schools for not being a legal permanent resident; having to pay international student fees when she did secure admission which is about three times higher than that paid by green card holders.
Finding an employer who would sponsor her on an H-1B visa was her biggest struggle. She couldn’t celebrate her graduation. “I was so nervous I would have to leave the country”, she recalled. Fortunately, after several denials, she found an employer willing to file for an H-1B visa. “However, my struggle doesn’t end because my H-1B is only for the next three years. What happens after that? Where do I go?”, she asked.
Her parents and sister have cleared the green card process and are now lawful permanent residents. “The day they received their green cards, they did not celebrate. Why? Because I was left behind”, Janvi told the rally.
“If I have to leave this country, not only will I be leaving my home, my job, my friends, but now also my parents, my family”, she bemoaned.
“Please stand up for kids like me because we didn’t know what we were getting into when we came to this country”, she told the gathering on Capitol Hill. “It makes me wonder, what did I do wrong? Should I have just crossed the border when I was little? No. That’s not how my parents raised me. I will continue to follow the laws and I will fight for this cause”, she said.