Indian techies waiting for Green Cards see hope in US immigration talks


Washington: Negotiations got underway in the US Senate on February 12 on an uncertain but ambitious immigration deal that is expected to determine the fate of an estimated 1.5 million Indians on H-1B visas waiting for their Green Cards in a backlog-laden queue.
They expect their case to be a part of the deal, whose headline components are the future of 690,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children and, as demanded by President Donald Trump, a wall along the border with Mexico, and end to family-based chain migration and diversity visa lottery.
The Senate voted 97-1 on Monday to start the debate that will feature a variety of proposals put together by senators acting alone or in groups, with some of them trying for bipartisan support. One of them was a White House-backed bill encompassing Trump’s proposals.
There is another bill, introduced in January by Republican senators Orrin Hatch and Jeff Flake, called the Immigration Innovation (“I-Squared”) Act of 2018, which seeks to address the issue of backlogs by removing the annual country cap and drastically cut the Green Card waiting period for Indians. The current backlogs could take decades to clear, upwards of 70 years.
Flake has since gone on to propose a compromise bill that encompasses Trump’s plan, more or less, and other issues such as H-1B visas, Green Cards and removing the country cap. This sent a wave of excitement coursing through the Indian H-1B community.
Leon Fresco, an immigration expert who is advising an advocacy body of Indian H-1B workers called Immigration Voice, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday: “good news coming out soon re: senate compromises hopefully including removing per country limits.”
Negotiations are expected to continue till a legislation, any one of the many competing on the Senate floor, garners the support of at least 60 of the chamber’s 100 members. It will then go to the House of Representatives, which could decide to discuss and vote on an entirely different bill.
Immigration has been one of most divisive of political issues in the US and despite the long-felt need for reforms, Congress has not been able to legislate it in 30 years. The last attempt, in 2013, ended with the House ignoring a comprehensive reform bill passed with bipartisan support in the Senate.