US president believes it’s important to modernise immigration system: White House

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US president believes it’s important to modernise immigration system: White House

US President Joe Biden believes that it is important and long overdue to modernise the immigration system, and this includes taking steps to help ensure highly skilled workers can stay in the country, the White House has said.

Biden has revoked a policy issued by his predecessor during the COVID-19 pandemic that blocked many Green Card applicants from entering the US, a move that will benefit many Indians working in America on the H-1B visa.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently. “The president believes that it’s important and long overdue to modernise our immigration system, and that includes taking steps to help ensure that high skilled workers can stay in the country and can go through the proper processes to stay in the country,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters at her daily news conference on Thursday.

“So, we are eager to work with Democrats and Republicans in Congress to get that done,” she said a day after Biden issued the proclamation reversing the decision of his predecessor Donald Trump. Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.

The H-1B visa, the most sought after among Indian IT professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

Technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. Reopening the country to people seeking green cards, or legal permanent residence, Biden in his proclamation on Wednesday said that the policy of former president Trump does not advance the interests of the United States.

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“To the contrary, it harms the United States, including by preventing certain family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents from joining their families here,” he said.

“It also harms industries in the United States that utilise talent from around the world. And it harms individuals who were selected to receive the opportunity to apply for, and those who have likewise received, immigrant visas through the Fiscal Year 2020 Diversity Visa Lottery,” Biden, a Democrat, said.

Trump, a Republican, issued the ban last year, saying it was needed to protect US workers amid high unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic. The US is currently facing a backlog of nearly 473,000 qualified family-based Green Card requests. As a result of Trump’s ban on issuing green cards, as many as 120,000 family-based preference visas were lost. But this came as a big boon for issuing employment-based green cards, mainly those on H-1B visas. Thousands of Indian IT professionals who painstakingly waited for their Green Card received their legal permanent residency as a result in the last few months of the Trump administration.

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To a question on children reaching the US-Mexico border without a parent, the White House press secretary said that “having unaccompanied minors travel across the border and so many, that we are looking… we had to open new facilities, (this) is something that we take incredibly seriously and we, you know, are eager to, of course, address humanely and with a focus of keeping them safe”.

“I don’t think I’m going to put new labels on it from here or from the podium. But it is a priority of the administration. It’s a priority of our secretary of Homeland Security and certainly of the president, who’s kept abreast of the developments,” Psaki said.

The Department of Homeland Security has put in place interim enforcement priorities and is reviewing the prior administration’s policies and practices, she said. “The court’s ruling still allows us to do this. In terms of the next steps, or how we will approach it from here, I would send you to our Department of Justice,” Psaki said.

She said that “we don’t feel that sending unaccompanied minors, kids, back to take a dangerous journey is the right step to take”. This is not something that the administration is going to do and it will not be its policy, Psaki said. “But we always need to keep communicating more effectively about how this is a dangerous time to travel, this is a dangerous time for families to come, for children to come, and we’ll continue to work to do that more,” she said in response to a question.