Washington US President Joe Biden plans to rebuild and expand legal immigration by cutting processing time, costs and security hoops, clearing backlogs, and fixing the H-1B visa programme that allows US companies to hire foreign employees, which have been overwhelmingly from India, the New York Times has reported, citing a blueprint.
This effort will run parallel to the White House-backed ambitious immigration reform legislation before the US congress, and the blueprint, titled “DHS Plan to Restore Trust in Our Legal Immigration System” — DHS is the Department of homeland Security, which oversees immigration, is only at a draft stage and will go through several versions before finalisation.
Biden ran for the White House on the promise of “building a fair and humane immigration system” and undoing some of President Donald Trump’s “cruel” policies reflected in his obsession of a wall along the border with Mexico. Since taking office, Biden has undone some of his predecessor’s policies such as the Muslim immigration curbs.
The central element, as the New York Times reported, of the new plan is to address backlogs in the immigration system, which had been building over the years and were only exacerbated by President Trump’ restrictive policies.
It wasn’t clear from the report what specific backlogs will be targeted but the one that impacts applicants from India the most is the one for Green Cards. The US granted one million Green Cards in 2019, and that has been the general turnover annually. But because of a per-country limit of 7%, the queue of Indian applicants has kept growing over the year, with one conservative-leaning think tank estimating it to be more than 150 years. More than 300,000 applicants are currently in line, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services; but Immigration Voice, an advocacy group, says the number is as high as 1.5 million.
The news report was not clear about plans for the H-1B visas — largest beneficiaries are Indian, accounting for more than 70% of the 85,000 granted annually — but the programme came in for harsh scrutiny and treatment from the Trump administration, which loaded it with restrictive measures, most of whom are either lapsed or rescinded.
The blueprint will fast-track immigration applications by expanding virtual interviews and electronic filing, as well as limiting the requests for evidence from applicants, according to the New York Times. Domestic violence will because grounds for seeking asylum.
Immigration opportunities will be expanded for LGBTQ refugees fleeing countries where they are persecuted or where same-sex marriage is not recognised.
The blueprint proposes a revamp of a programme that allows undocumented immigrants to seek citizenship if they help law enforcement, and also allow protection to those who cooperate with police even before they make it to the official waiting list for immigrant visas.