US House passes Green Card bill amid racist tirades against Indians

2 weeks ago
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WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a bill that will lift an existing 7% country cap on issuing green cards, overcoming a toxic campaign against India and Indian tech workers by protectionists who believe the new law will help them “steal American jobs”.
In a torrid run-up to the vote, right-wing activists mounted a furious campaign to sway lawmakers, drafting prominent Trump acolytes such as Fox News’ Sean Hannity to lobby against the bill. They warned Republican lawmakers of electoral consequences if they backed it.
But lawmakers ignored the threat and passed the bill by an overwhelming 365-65 margin. The bill had the backing of nearly 100 Republican legislators, making it a bipartisan effort in the Democrat-controlled House.
A similar bill is currently in the Senate, and after that is passed, a reconciled version has to be sent to the President, upon whose signature it becomes law.
If and when that happens, the new law will remove the 7% per country limit on green cards that has long constrained more than 300,000 Indian tech workers in the US, who wait for a decade or more in what is termed the “H1B limbo”, unable to change jobs or plan their future as they await permanent residency.
India and skilled Indian workers have been identified as potentially the biggest “beneficiaries” of the change in law because they constitute the largest group of foreign professionals waiting for permanent residency, and a path to citizenship, which is granted by the green card.
While supporters of the bill argue that the only thing this bill does is to ensure that all new applicants will wait the exact same time for a green card, regardless of country of birth, opponents maintain that the change in law will boost Indians, who happen to constitute the biggest educated and skilled foreign work force in the US.
In fact, according to some experts, the bill actually makes the green card process compliant with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, colour, national origin and religion. With its 7% country-specific cap, current law actively enjoins employers to discriminate against professionals of Indian-origin.
“Nation-based quotas are governmental discrimination that is every bit as useless — if not as malicious — as racial discrimination. (There is) no moral reason to treat people differently based on their nationality,” maintained Leon Fresco, a former congressional staff member who has been actively pressing for a change in law, while pointing out that the bill creates no new green cards and no new H-1B visas, and therefore should not worry protectionists. It simply redistributes the existing green card quota in a more equitable manner so large nations and their big tech worker pools, which the US needs and which contribute immensely to the American economy, are not discriminated against.
But American protectionists believe that H.R.1044, formally titled Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019, is anything but fair to American workers. They argue that removing the 7% country cap, which ensures that Icelanders and Indonesians can get as many green cards as Indians even though the Indian worker pool is much bigger, will simple result in Indians overrunning the US job market at the expense of native-born Americans and workers from smaller countries. In other words, India ought to be discriminated against because it is more populous and produces more skilled workers.
Some of the tirades supporting this argument were borderline racist. In a screed headlined “House sets Tuesday vote on green card giveaway to 300,000 Indian H-1B contract workers”, the right-wing Breitbart News repeatedly singled out Indians as the beneficiaries of the new law (which still needs Senate approval and presidential signature to come into effect) while accusing pro-immigration groups of mobilising Indian contract workers to lobby and charm GOP legislators with emotional appeals for equality “even though their own Indian culture is built on an ancient caste system which enforces deep and permanent inequalities”.
“The bill would create a fast-track to green cards for 300,000 Indian contract workers who have backlogged the green card waiting lines. The bill would also aid their 300,000 family members in the United States,” Breitbart argued, warning that “the promise of extra green cards — and subsequent citizenship — for Indians will also encourage many other Indian graduates to take jobs from American graduates via the uncapped low-wage H-1B visa and the uncapped optional practical training program”.

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Times of India

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