Opinion 3 News India Times January 11, 2019 - NEW YORK t’s the mother of all immigration bills for the Indian and Chinese communities. H.R. 392, or the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017, is now once again before Congress, awaiting decision, as early as next week, as the infuriating impasse over financing of a wall on the Southern border continues to dog Capitol Hill. If passed, H.R. 392 wouldmake a Green Card available very quickly for hundreds of thousands of workers on visas, and their dependent families. The crazy wait time ranging from 15 to 150 years (the latter as estimated by the Cato In- stitute, for visa workers who applied for a Green Card in 2018) for an Indian on an H-1B visa could change dramati- cally to as low as 5 months to five years. Question is: Is that Green Card going to come soon in the mail or is it just a mirage? Is the bill going to raise hope and expectations of skilled workers on a visa, before being cruelly dashed, once again? Will it flounder in the face of rising opposition by immigra- tion hawks? The legislation in question aims to eliminate the per- country numerical limitation for employment-based immi- gration. At the moment, each country has a numerical limit of 7 percent or 9,800 of the 140,000 green cards issued per year, regardless of its population, reported Foreign Policy. The bill intends to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate limitations relating to place of birth. More than 306,000 Indians and 67,000 Chinese immi- grants were waiting in the employment-based green-card queue, according to USCIS figures reported inMay. If it be- comes law, the bill will most probably mean that the major- ity of employment-based Green Cards issued in the next decade will go to people from India, noted Foreign Policy. When H.R. 392 was introduced as a stand-alone bill in 2017 by Representative Jason Chaffetz, it received strong backing by 329 co-sponsors fromboth sides of the aisle, re- ported Forbes. However, the bill was later attached to H.R. 6776, the Department of Homeland Security Appropria- tions Act of 2019, to have a better shot of passing. The biggest hurdle is also the Senate where, despite sup- port from it from some GOP Senators, it would find it hard going. The real tussle would begin if there is reconciliation for the bill. For now, it’s in limbo. The Center for Responsive Politics reported that in an in- terviewwith its website, Aman Kapoor, a co-founder of ImmigrationVoice – the organization cham- pioning the bill, said that the decades-long wait time for a Green Card was unacceptable. “Imagine somebody who is already here in a backlog for fifteen years,” Kapoor said. “Then imagine a man and a woman inMalaysia who have not evenmet yet. One day they will meet, one day they will get married, one day there will be a child then that child will go to primary school, high school, then go to college. And then imagine somehow a U.S. employer wants to hire that child…That child, who is not even born yet, will get a green card before somebody who is already in the country for fifteen years.” ImmigrationVoice spent $15,000 for lobbying in favor of H.R.392 in 2017. The entirety of that lobbying budget was paid to a firm calledTwinLogic Strategies. A significant por- tion of the lobbying done in favor of H.R.392 was bankrolled by tech companies. Over 100 lobbyists worked on the original H.R.392 bill, representing companies like Microsoft, Texas Instruments, IBM, Amazon and Bangalore-based tech-giant Infosys LTD. Chaffetz, who sponsored H.R.392, also counted companies like, Alphabet Inc. andMicrosoft as top con- tributors, reported Internet billionaire Marc Benioff is also a huge sup- porter, urging President Trump to fast-track the bill. “This is good for our economy,” Benioff said in a Tuesday tweet that was applauded by SiliconValley lobbyists, re- ported Breitbart. “We need to grow our workers to grow our economy.” There is stiff opposition from immigration hawks, to pas- sage of the bill. Kevin Lynn of U.S. TechWorkers, an anti-immigration group, has a solution for the backlog for the workers on an H-1B visa: eliminate the possibility of permanent residency altogether, do away with the possibility of a Green Card. “The best way to engineer a fix to this is just to say the H- 1B visa is just an employment visa and not an immigration visa or a dual intent visa,” Lynn told OpenSecrets. “Change that and we end the backlog overnight.” Breitbart noted that America’s workforce now includes roughly 1.5 million foreign college-graduate contract-work- ers who are imported via the H-1B, L-1, OPT, O-1, J-1, and other visa programs. ‘These outsourcing workers are not immigrants, but in- stead, they are contract workers hired for one to six years, at lower wages, to take jobs that would otherwise go to Ameri- can graduates,’ wrote Breitbart in a report. The Canadian American Bar Association on December 12 submitted a letter to the U.S. Congress opposing H.R. 392. CABA said the legislation “threatens to impede the free movement of highly skilled Canadian workers” and “cause harm to American businesses operating in cross-border in- dustries.” If significantly more visas and green cards are prioritized for employment-based immigrants fromone nation, those in other countries and their related industries will suffer, said Foreign Policy, highlighting the plight of nationals from a country like Iran. Inmany ways, the cause of the Indian and Chinese na- tionals waiting for a Green Card is the same as that of the ongoing Affirmative Action lawsuit against Ivy League uni- versities, brought forward by several Asian organizations fighting for merit to be the sole criteria. The stance by these institutions has been to promote di- versity, ignore the merits of many hardworking and aca- demically superior students of Indian and Chinese-origin, who would otherwise swamp the Freshman class every year. These universities, like anti-immigration groups, argue that diversity would be sacrificed in the process. In the battle for a Green Card, the rationale is that these best and brightest of foreign nationals from India should be given cognizance first. Then the rest of the nationals from around the world can be taken into account. Will Congress accept their plight and do what’s right? Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter: @SujeetRajan1 GreenCard InMail SoonOr Is It Just AMirage? I Sujeet Rajan Executive Editor Parikh Worldwide Media A good economic forecaster is one who can convinc- ingly explain why her forecasts are wrong, which is to say: Such forecasts should be ingested with lots of salt.With that caveat inmind, here are six predictions about key outcomes this year. To be more upfront about my confi- dence or lack thereof in each guesstimate, I've addedmy totally subjective percent likelihood for each one. The federal deficit is going up (90 percent). This one's a pretty sure bet, given the extent to which (a) most government spending for the year is already "baked in the cake," and (b) President Trump's tax cut broke the his- torical positive linkage between strong macroeconomics and revenue flows to the Treasury Department. The Con- gressional Budget Office predicts a deficit of 4.6 percent of gross domestic product in 2019 (just under $1 trillion), up from 3.8 percent this year. Historically, when unemploy- ment has been as low as it is (and I expect it to fall further this year), the deficit-GDP ratio has been close to zero. One key development to watch here is how Congress handles the potential "spending snapback," i.e., the return of budget caps in 2020. My forecast is that they again over- ride them (as they should, to avoid a too-negative fiscal im- pulse), but this will be fodder for yet another budget fight later this year. I know - can't wait. Economic growth will slow (75 percent). I try not to overweight GDP growth inmy analysis, as there's just a ton it leaves out. But if I'm right about this pre- diction - and it's by far the standard forecast - it could be a big deal. The main head wind we expect to slow growth is the fading of fiscal stimulus later this year. Deficit-financed tax cuts and spending added about a point to the 2018 growth rate. Unless Congress adds a lot more to the deficit than expected (since the expected part is already built into the forecasts), the fiscal fade will give up that point by the second half of the year, and we'll divert back to the trend growth rate of around 2 percent (though at least one credi- ble forecast is for 1 percent). Hey, at least that's not a recession, right?What's the big deal? First, it's a signal that, as expected, the tax cut didn't lift the trend growth rate the way its advocates claimed it would. Instead, the 3 percent growth rate of 2018 was a sugar high from stimulating an economy already closing in on full employment. Second, the political implications of slower growth could be huge. Even at his craziest, Trump could point to the above-trend growth rate and historically low unemploy- ment rate, essentially challenging critics with, "If I'm so nuts, why's the economy doing so well?" The truth is more complicated, of course, but what happens when the econ- omy no longer underpins his substantively paper-thin regime? Job creation tends to lag behind the rest of the economy, and I expect slower but still robust job growth to persist for a while, so these dynamics may not be observable until later this year. But I'mpretty sure they're out there. The Fed will pause, but it won't stop raising interest rates (65 percent). Given the slower growth forecast, along with tighter fi- nancial conditions (higher interest rates, the decline in eq- uity values), weakness in housing and autos, and thus far tame inflation, the Federal Reserve is likely to slow its rate hike campaign. Instead of raising rates a quarter-percent every quarter or so, it might raise themhalf that much in 2019.What I don't find plausible is the forecast by financial markets that the Fed won't raise rates at all this year. As it stands, unemployment (at 3.7 percent) is close to a percent- age point below the Fed's estimate of the lowest unemploy- ment rate the central bank believes to be consistent with stable prices (4.4 percent). The Fed's not raising at all this year, especially if unemployment falls further, would be to throw its forecast and economic model out the window. Whether you or I think that such defenestration is war- ranted is irrelevant. It's what the Fed thinks that matters, and it still roughly believes its model. Wages and inflation will both rise, but wages will rise faster (60 percent). It took a while, but low unemployment is now reliably lifting nominal wage growth. A few years ago, it was stuck at 1.5 percent, year-over-year; now, it's around 3 percent. But the key forecast here is for lower top-line inflation and thus for faster real wage growth. As I've documented, near-term, real wage gains are especially closely tied to oil and gas prices these days. Because energy costs have fallen so much, and I expect them to stay pretty low, I suspect we'll see real wages for mid-wage workers growing around 1 per- cent to 1.5 percent, at least in the first half of the year - surely a welcome development. The trade war will escalate (50 percent). Will Trump's tariff rate on a $200 billion subset of im- ports fromChina rise as planned from 10 percent to 25 per- cent in early March? I've got this as a coin flip. I believe the administration would like to go there, but if the economy is looking softer than expected by then, they could decide not to. If that happens, look for markets and investors to breathe a real sigh of relief, which yields an insight into Trumpian policy strategy: Create needless chaos so that when you cease the cray-cray, everyone applauds. -S PECIAL T O T HE W ASHINGTON P OST Political EconomyPredictionsFor 2019 By Jared Bernstein