In just a few months, thousands of Indian immigrant women working in this country could be forced to quit their jobs, all due to the Trump administration’s backwards and bigoted policies on immigration.
Come June, the administration is expected to rescind an Obama-era program that allowed spouses of H1-B visa holders—skilled workers sponsored by U.S. employers—awaiting permanent residency to obtain temporary work permits. Under the program, H-4EAD, the New York Times reports that “an estimated 100,000 spouses, overwhelmingly women, have obtained work permits.”
As the Times reports, the consequences for Indian families will be striking. Almost overnight, these spouses could be forced to quit their jobs, losing substantial income to support their families. They also risk losing a sense of identity, and the very promise that drew them to America in the first place. Here’s one story, from New Jersey woman Heta Madlani:
Armed with an H-4EAD permit, she was hired in late 2015 as a case manager for New Jersey’s 211 line, handling calls from drug addicts, homeless families, victims of domestic violence and others in crisis seeking help.
“I had no identity in this country. I got it, and now they want to take it away from me,” said Ms. Madlani, who opened her first bank account after getting the work permit and joined the rally on Capitol Hill.
The labyrinthian immigration process and federal restrictions on how green cards are distributed has created a massive backlog for Indian immigrants, who make up a significant portion of H1-B visa recipients. The H-4EAD program was designed, in part, to help alleviate the issue.
But the Trump administration’s decision to end the H-4EAD program would increase exacerbate the problem of Indian immigrants awaiting green cards, which could split up families, too—even in households where children have grown up in America. When children reach 21 they are no longer dependents and, without green cards, they may face deportation:
Some families have had to wait so long that they fear their children will reach adulthood and be forced to leave. Lakshmi Vishnubhotla, who has worked for 10 years as a teacher in Marion County, S.C., is currently sponsored for an H-1B by the school district. He was named teacher of the year for the district in 2015-16.
Mr. Vishnubhotla’s green card application, which includes his family, was approved in 2012. They are still waiting for the cards to be issued. Given that the wait time is 10 years, and getting longer, he is worried. In seven years, his 14-year-old daughter, Sivani, will be considered an adult. His son, Sarvan, will turn 21 in nine years. At that time, they will no longer be eligible for green cards as Mr. Vishnubhotla’s dependents and could be forced to return to India.
As a result of the administration’s policies, immigrants in America are stuck, facing uncertainty about their jobs, immigration status, and ability to succeed in a country that promised them opportunity.
Read the rest of the Times’s report on how the H1-B visa policies affect families here.