Kids of skilled immigrants from India may be forced to leave US


The Columbus Dispatch

As Congress contemplates the next step for children who immigrated to this country illegally, a population of young immigrants who entered America legally is beginning to speak out.

Not covered by the proposed DREAM Act, not eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, these children are unlike any other class of immigrants and probably have no chance to stay in the country as adults unless the federal government clears a decades-long backlog of applications.

Nicknamed “H-4 Dreamers,” the children were brought to America from India with their parents on H-4, or dependent, visas. Until they turn 21, their status is the same as that of their parents, so if their parents become citizens, they do as well.

Many parents take this approach, coming into the country for a short period on an H-1B visa as a skilled worker and then applying to stay on an immigrant visa.

That’s usually not a problem, unless the family is from India, where there’s a 70-year wait for immigrant visa status because of a large number of qualified applicants.

Citizens from India face the longest wait of any group because about 370,000 have applied for immigrant visas, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s 2017 annual report, and fewer than 10,000 are accepted per year.

Shrivatsan, a 12-year-old Columbus resident who is nicknamed Shri, found out recently that he might never be able to become a U.S. citizen, meaning he also might have to leave the country at age 21 and return to India, a country he doesn’t recall living in and doesn’t call home.

He entered the United States as a 2-year-old with his parents.

His father, who asked not to be identified and asked that Shri be identified only by first name because of his uncertain immigration status, works in information technology and was able to enter the country on a skilled-worker, or H-1B, visa.

Shri’s father, who works for a company based in central Ohio, applied for an immigrant visa in 2012.

“I was very disturbed,” Shri’s father said recently of finding out about the lengthy wait.

“Initially, I was in disbelief. … He’ll have to leave the country at a certain age,” said Shri’s father. “Permanent residency and a green card would never become a reality in his lifetime.”

Shri doesn’t know what the future holds for him. For years, he has been dreaming and planning like other kids his age. He wants to work part time in high school, go to college and work for NASA one day.

“When I heard about this, I had mixed emotions, because I really wanted to stay here and grow up with my friends,” Shri said. “I thought I could stay here as long as I wanted, and I could work for NASA when I grow up, and I could go to college without paying an entire admission fee.”

Without a green card, he can’t work, yet he will have to pay for college out of his own pocket because he’s not eligible for student loans. When it comes to a career, he’ll probably have to apply for the same visa his dad holds. It has a backlog, too.

Families such as Shri’s are beginning to talk about their situation and advocate for change. On Oct. 22, Shri and his father, along with Ashwin, a local advocate for skilled workers who is one himself, will be in Washington, D.C., to talk to lawmakers about House Bill 392 and Senate Bill 281, both titled the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017. Ashwin asked to be identified only by his first name.

The legislation would eliminate a current cap on immigrant visas of 7 percent per country each year. The total number of employment-based immigrant visas available per year is 140,000, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Shri’s family and others wonder why the visas that are not used with certain countries can’t be allocated to India and other countries with large backlogs.

Any leftover visas are allocated first to countries not meeting the 7 percent cap, said a spokesman at the Bureau of Consular Affairs. He said every effort is made to use the visas available.

Ashwin already has talked to some local lawmakers. He said he also has visited Sens. Rob Portman and Sherrod Brown’s offices.

“Rather than a piecemeal approach, Sen. Brown understands we need an overall solution to fix our broken immigration system that allows people to earn citizenship and rewards those who follow the law without penalizing innocent children who were brought to this country through no fault of their own,” Brown spokeswoman Jennifer Donohue said in a statement.

Portman declined to comment.

Ashwin, a Columbus resident who is a member of Skilled Immigrants in America, an advocacy organization for skilled workers, works in aviation locally on an H-1B visa. His 7-year-old son is in the same situation as Shri.

“We just want to follow the law and get green cards,” Ashwin said. “We are just asking for fairness.”


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Ever heard of CSPA act??

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