Merit-based immigration system in the works, Pence tells Indians

America will stand firm with allies like India on China, says Vice-President

August 31, 2020 10:22 pm | Updated 10:23 pm IST

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence. File

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence. File

With just over two months to go for the elections, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence told potential Indian immigrants that there would be a merit-based immigration system if there is a second term for the Trump administration.

“… I would just say to anyone looking on and people coming and taking opportunities at our great colleges and universities, is that we want to grow together and they should have no doubt about that. We’ve had challenges with our immigration system in the United States, particularly along our southern border. President Trump has been working to secure our border. We’ve made historic investments in border security. We’ll continue to do that,” Mr. Pence told John Chambers, Chairman of the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), at the Forum’s leadership summit.

“But we’re also going to fix our broken immigration system once and for all. And as the President and I have spoken many times, part of that second term agenda is going to be, it’s going to be the kind of immigration reform that’s built on the principle of a merit-based immigration system. We want …it’s what India wants is … we want the people to come to this country that are ready to participate, ready to contribute as people from India have done, as people in the United States have done in India,” he said.

The Trump administration has temporarily suspended new green cards for those outside the U.S. as well as H1-B visas (temporary skilled worker visas), most of which go to Indians each year. These actions, as well as other restrictive measures around student visas, increasing application fee for immigration services and so forth, has increasingly made the U.S. a less attractive destination for immigration.

Mr. Pence, who repeatedly praised the 4 million strong diaspora, said he wanted “the rising generation in India” and Indian business leaders who are looking to invest in the U.S. to know that America “is not only open for business” but also looking forward to growing the U.S.-India relationship.

Mr. Pence said President Trump wanted to deal with China and other countries from a position of strength and that American strength first came from its economic and military strength but also from the strength of its relationships. In this context the U.S.-India relationship — which as per Mr. Pence had got stronger under Prime Minister Modi and President Trump — “will strengthen the hand of those of us that want to see a future of freedom in the Indo Pacific.” The Vice-President’s comments were made hours after the Indian Army said the Chinese troops had tried to change the status quo in Eastern Ladakh.

“As we stand together more closely for security in our economies, we believe that that will only strengthen the case for a future of freedom,” Mr. Pence said.

He said the U.S. wanted a good relationship with every country including China. He also said the India-U.S. relationship was important in its own right (i..e, not just in the context of China).

“We’re going to continue to stand firm with our allies in the region like India and we’re going to continue to stand strong for America’s values, America’s strategic interests or American jobs and American workers in that relationship. And all we do, uh, with India and strengthening all the ties with India only strengthens that case,” Mr. Pence said.

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