Dream & promise for those hit worst by green card backlog

RITU JHA

The American Dream and Promise Act aka Bill HR 6, which the United States House of Representatives passed March 18, offers green cards not just to those who came to the US as undocumented immigrants but also those who have gone out of status because of the green card backlog.

Children and spouses of H-1B visa holders are allowed to come to the US on H-4 visas, also called dependent visa. There are no limitations for spouses as long as the H-1B is valid. However, when children on H-4 visas turn 21, they lose their status.

One such student is Ravi Vatshal Thodupunur, 23. Ravi’s father applied for a green card in 2011 and is still waiting for it.

Ravi turned 21 in June 2018, just three weeks short to complete his undergrad course from Portland State University. He had to take admission in the Caribbean, and it turned his world upside down.

The whole point was leaving the home you built and going to a different country because you don’t have any other option,” Ravi told indica News.

Specially if you have lived here since you were a kid. Everything gets into a dilemma because of this small glitch of age.”

He said had a dream to go to the best medical school but learned “nothing could have saved it” and so the only option was the Caribbean.

Ravi said he was 11 years old when his father, an engineer, came to the US on an H-1B visa. His mother is a homemaker and he has a younger brother who just turned 20.

Ravi, who said his family is part of a class action lawsuit at the US District Court of Portland against the US Citizenship and Immigration Services and Department of Homeland Security filed by parents of children who have lost status while their parents waited for a green card, hopes the US Senate will take up Bill HR 6 on priority.

If passed by the US Senate, it would enable permanent residency in 10 years to people who arrived in the United States before their 19th birthday and before January 1, 2021.

Chirayu Patel, who is on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and has been waiting for decades for permanent residency, told indica News that the moment he learned the bill got through the House, he wrote an email to US Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat-IL), chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, asking when he is going to prioritize it.

As part of the DACA program, established in 2012 by the Obama administration, nearly 800,000 young people who came to this country as children have been granted temporary protection from deportation and allowed to live and work in the US.

Chira, who learned his legal status when he was filling out university applications, said: “I am not excited but I am optimistic.”

He said he was wary of the Republicans torpedoing the bill but hoped that Senator Durbin would push for the bill.

He [Durbin] was the first to introduce it in 2001, I know he cares about it deeply because I have met him over the years and I think now is the time for him to really push it through and I am sure he wants to leave a legacy,” said Chira.

Immigration attorney Tejas Shah, partner at Barnes & Thornburg LLP in Chicago, told indica News that the politics over the bill was complicated “because some Republicans are citing the surge at the southern border as a reason not to vote for this bill.”

Chira agreed. “ We have to pressure the Senate,” he said. “It’s going to be a fight.”

Sruti Suryanarayanan, research & communications associate at South Asian Americans Leading Together, told indica News that the bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for thousands of South Asians on DACA as well as 15,000 Nepalis with Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

As of 2017, there are 630,000 undocumented Indians in the United States. There are approximately 2,220 active Indian DACA recipients. Only 13 percent of the overall 20,000 DACA eligible Indians have applied and received DACA. There are 1,1150 active Pakistani DACA recipients, 440 Bangladeshi recipients, 120 Sri Lankan recipients, and 60 Nepali recipients (March 2020 USCIS). There are many other South Asians in the U.S. who qualify under the bill’s current form.

We also support the Reuniting Families Act which addresses the family and employment-based backlog,” Suryanarayanan said.

We do not support criminalization provisions or an increase in immigration enforcement as part of the process to securing permanent residency for all 11 million undocumented immigrants including immigrant youth, TPS, and DED recipients.”