Washington D.C.: A New Year eve’s scare that the Trump Administration was considering potential policy changes to H1B visa extensions that would trigger ‘self-deportation’ of hundreds of thousands Indian tech workers, generated a swift and intense blowback from some lawmakers and the IT industry. Members of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, a Democrat from Hawaii and Rep. Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, sent a letter to Trump, urging him “not to deport H-1B holders awaiting permanent residency processing…We strongly believe this action would be harmful to the American economy, credibility, and relations with India and the Indian-American community.” The U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned it would be “tremendously bad policy” to tell highly skilled people they cannot stay any longer in the United States.
With the backing of the Indian government, groups representing the interests of Indian IT workers and businesses, like the National Association of Software and Services Companies, Immigration Voice and Compete America lobbied intensely with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
By Monday, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Chief of Media Relations Jonathan Withington had clarified that though the agency is reviewing other employment based visa programs under the “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, the H1-B extension policy was not on the chopping block.
In a statement, USCIS, a part of the Department of Homeland Security clarified, “We are not at liberty to discuss any part of the pre-decisional processes; however, all proposed rules publish in the federal register and USCIS posts all policy memoranda on our website…“What we can say, however, is that USCIS is not considering a regulatory change that would force H-1B visa holders to leave the United States by changing our interpretation of section 104(c) of AC-21, which provides for H-1B extensions beyond the 6-year limit. Even if it were, such a change would not likely result in these H-1B visa holders having to leave the United States because employers could request extensions in one-year increments under section 106(a)-(b) of AC21 instead.”
Sanjay Puri of the USINPAC, lauded the decision to drop the proposed policy shift, “The present immigration system needs comprehensive reform but not through vindictive policy change. H1B visa holders waiting on green card, having invested so much in this country mustn’t be made scapegoats to this reform."
The US India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) is the voice of over 3.2 million Indian- Americans and works on issues that concern the community. It supports candidates for local, state and federal office and encourages political participation by the Indian- American community.
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