Washington: Top Indian-American Democratic lawmakers have vehemently opposed the Trump administration's plan to scrap an Obama-era rule allowing spouses of H-1B visa holders to work legally in the US.
The Trump administration is planning to propose to end allowing spouses of H1-B visa holders to work legally in the US, a move that could have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of Indians. The plan to end the Obama-era rule could have an impact on more than 70,000 H-4 visas holders, who have work permits.
"I will say that the H-4 visas go to women who are just as qualified, sometimes more qualified, than their spouses but haven't been able to work," Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said at an event at the US Capitol organised by the US India Friendship Council.
"I oppose the move to terminate work permits to H-4 visas," Jayapal, the first Indian-American woman elected to the House of Representatives told PTI. This is a gender issue as well, she emphasised, referring to the fact that a significantly large number of beneficiaries H-4 work permits are women.
Before being elected to the Congress, Jayapal had worked to build a coalition across the country to get permits to the spouses of H-1B visa.
H-4 is issued to the spouse of H-1B visa holders, a significantly large number of whom are high-skilled professionals from India. They had obtained work permits under a special order issued by the previous Obama administration.
Indian-Americans were a major beneficiary of this provision. More than 100,000 H-4 visa holders have been beneficiary of this rule.
A 2015 rule issued by the Obama administration allows work permits for spouses who otherwise could not be employed while H-1B visa holders seek permanent resident status -- a process that can take a decade or longer.
"We worked with the Obama administration to institute a rule that said that the spouses of H-1B should also be able to work. If we have talented men and women who are spouses, we want them to be able to also contribute those skills. We passed that rule administratively. Now the Trump administration is threatening to pull that rule back. It would hurt many many people spouses and children across the country," Jayapal told the audience.
Immigration she said is good for the economy. "It is a core part of who we are as a country. The issue of immigration has never just been about immigration, it has been about who we are as a country and what we're willing to stand up for," she said.
Jayapal said she represented the Seattle district where many of the large corporations have a need for skilled workers. "I myself was on an H-1B at various times. I understand how important it is that we have our H1B visa programme in a way that works," she said.
"Yes, there are some places where we need to reform and adjust it to make sure that we're not taking advantage of that programme; to make sure that we continue to allow American workers to have jobs. But all of the research shows us that immigration does not take jobs away from people it actually contributes to greater economic growth but also the ability for American workers to move up themselves," Jayapal said.
She also advocated for family-based immigration system. During the conference yesterday, she was joined by several other Democratic Congressmen Joe Crowley, Ami Bera and Raja Krishnamoorthi -- on H-1B and H4 visas.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis said that H-1B brings much-needed talent to the country. President Donald Trump is aware of this and wants to have an immigration system that attracts and retains talent in the country.
"The business people that I know in the Indian American community in North Carolina who have gotten American citizenship are extraordinary people. They love this country as much as I do as an American born citizen. They add a richness to our society that is very important," the Republican Senator from North Carolina said.
"The president feels the same way. I've had a discussion with him about the concept of not only advanced degrees but trade skills and other certifications from other countries that we need. Skills that are helpful to this nation, skills that we should find every possible way to accept anyone from any nation who's willing to come here and work," Tillis said.
"The president of the United States has a view that there is a place for legal immigration, work visas and green cards. Because I've heard him say it more than once. What we're trying to do is debate how you actually get to that policy," he said