At least 800 Indian-Americans participated in a march outside the White House on Saturday raising slogans in support of U.S. President Donald Trump’s proposal to implement a “merit-based” immigration system in the country and demanding discontinuation of country quotas for Green Card approvals.
Indian applicants are at a disadvantage under the current approval system that limits the number of Green Cards issued to individual countries at 9,800, while more than 50,000 of them newly join the queue each year. The Trump administration has not indicated its views on this issue, but marchers in front of the White House said the President’s declared preference for “merit-based” immigration would tilt the balance in their favour.
“Trump loves Hindus,” “Trump loves India,” “Trump bringing Ram Rajya,” “Indians love Trump,” said the slogans at the march organised under the banner of the Republican Hindu Coalition (RHC), an organisation led by Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Kumar who is close to Mr. Trump. The marchers were all Indian technology workers who had come from all over the U.S. — California, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois and New York.
Krishna Bansal, National Policy and Political Director of RHC, said Mr. Trump’s proposal to end family unification immigration would open up more space for Indian skilled workers. Nearly half of the one million Green Cards issued every year goes to close relatives of American citizens regardless of their skills and the Trump administration wants to restrict this practice. “Thirty per cent of the country’s skilled immigrants come from India, but they have to wait several decades before being eligible for Green Cards. These are people who are already here, contributing to the economy, paying their taxes and raising their families,” he said. He said the group supported the proposal for building a wall on the U.S. southern border with Mexico and ending the diversity lottery programme for Green Card allotment. The marchers supported the ending of what the administration calls ‘chain migration.’
Krishna Mullakuri, whose application for Green Card is pending for five years, agreed with the view. He said the emphasis on merit as the primary criteria for allowing new entrants into the country would work to India’s advantage.
The march on Saturday, while endorsing Mr. Trump’s approach to immigration, was to highlight the issues concerning the legal residents who are already in the country. “While the current discussion is primarily focussing on those who illegally entered the country, we are working with the lawmakers to get some attention on this group that reached this country legally but face uncertainty now,” said Mr. Bansal.
The immediate immigration question in America is about undocumented residents who were brought to the country illegally when they were children, a cohort termed ‘dreamers.’ A protection provided to them under an Obama era executive action will end in March if new legislative action is not taken. The administration has offered a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented residents if the Democrats agreed to tougher restrictions on legal immigration and enforcement. The marchers supported this policy. “Dreamers pay for the wall,” and “Make American strong again,” they shouted. Mr. Bansal said the President’s proposals were generous and those being offered a path to citizenship would be happy to pay a fees that would fund the wall.
An issue of particular concern for several of the marchers was the future of their children, who will lose their dependency status when they turn 21. “These are legal dreamers. Colleges are reluctant to admit them as their visa status has to be changed midway through the course. And once they are graduates, they go back to the end of the queue, again starting with an H-1B application,” said Ramesh Ramanath, who grew up in Chennai. “While they address the issue of dreamers, this question also should get priority,” he said.