Thursday, September 20, 2007

Skilled immigrants protest in DC

This is a news story that I heard on NPR this morning, but found a link only on an Indian news portal: link
About 1,000 highly skilled legal immigrants, including many Indians, rallied at Capitol Hill to protest long delays and vast bureaucratic backlogs in the US immigration system, and called for more permanent visas.

On Tuesday, the immigrants, including doctors, medical technicians and computer engineers from India and China, came to Washington from as far as California to participate in the protest rally. They carried placards and wore T-shirts emblazoned with American flags to call on Congress to provide more permanent visas for highly educated immigrants and more resources for the overburdened immigration system.

As an immigrant myself, I feel for their plight and the limbo in which they find themselves.

The immigration system needs to be reformed so that the false hope and the uncertainty are eliminated. With the understanding that an overwhelming proportion of people who come on temporary visas will end up wanting to stay, there needs to be a link between the number of people admitted on temporary visas and the number of permanent visas available.

I believe that an evolved society is one in which exploitation, fraud and even plain misleading - even if it is by proxy - is not allowed to take place. In that sense, we are not being a particularly evolved society right now.

The current system hurts those who are on temporary visas (including those who are illegal), and it hurts ordinary Americans because they are displaced from their jobs. The only constituency that is sitting cozy - like the cat who swallowed the canary - is the employers.


Some might say, if the waits are so long, why don't they leave? Many times what awaits them at home is far worse than even the limbo here. In many cases, and this may be hard for non-immigrants to understand - America changes people in ways small and large. For women in particular, being away from tradition-bound societies cane be unimaginably liberating. Also children come along and they know no other home except the one here in America. All in all, moving back is sometimes a more challenging paradigm shift than moving here.

Also, it is a strength of America that the agitators like the ones in this story feel that their pleas and protests here have the potential to change their circumstances whereas similar efforts in their home countries do not. And, don't forget, by and large, most of the skilled immigrants are from the relatively upper/elite class in their respective countries. In other words whatever perks/access their class is likely to confer on them in their home countries, which by rights should be more attractive, in reality pales in comparison to being on the margins/in limbo here.


Many readers will find this blog post at variance with the tone and content of most of my other
posts. I guess my point is that being against globalization and outsourcing does not have to mean we cannot be sympathetic to the plight of the people caught in the trap of the broken immigration system.

What we need is law and order:
  • A transparent process
  • Enforcement of the rules
  • Rules that are truly representative of all constituencies - not just the ones with money/clout - that is, American workers
  • In the spirit that "justice delayed is justice denied", reasonable decision times - in the one year range
Let us not be like the proverbial bridegroom who leaves the bride waiting at the altar and then decides not to show up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agree with the sentiments here too. People confuse the individual and the group in opposite ways
- I know many good Mexican people so how can large scale illegals immigration be bad, right?
- I am against illegals and H1Bs so I must dislike Mexicans and Indians, right?
Individuals are part of a group but they are not synonymous.

The current H1/L1 system has gone from a system to keep exceptional talent to one catering to low cost/low talent/middlemen/fraud/ entitlement mentality. At one time, the GC was a high prize now it is racist if you are not given it freely. The pendulum has swung too far it seems and is now shifting back a bit....