News India Times February 15, 2019 4 Opinion - NEW YORK t’s one thing for President Trump to exhort the cause of legal immigration in his State of the Union address, declaring he wants skilled immigrants to “come into our country in the largest numbers ever,” and quite another for those skilled immigrants to find them- selves in limbo after they emigrate to the US, unsure for years and decades if they would ever be welcome to stay on permanently in the land they have carved a new home, started a family. Recent developments on the legal immigration front seems more like strategies being shaped by some shrewd business-minded folks, who are more interested in raising capital, than ensuring steady levels of immigration. While work visas for foreign workers are getting convo- luted, with intense scrutiny, foreign students are being goaded to study more in the US, for an elusive work permit. This is a win-win situation for the US, withmore capital pouring in for colleges and universities, while at the same paving the way for more Americans to take up available jobs. The cog in the wheel for most skilled immigrants who pass through the rigors of studying, graduating, getting a job through an H-1B visa, and then being sponsored for a Green Card, is to actually get a Green Card.What with the long waiting period, which stretches to as much as mind boggling 100 years, the fear is applicants would die waiting for permanent residency. Some legislators on Capitol Hill, mostly in the House, continue to strive for the rights of skilled immigrants. On Thursday, some legislators again took up the cudgels for these hard-working immigrants, to try and give them a fair chance to thrive and prosper in the US. US Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Ken Buck (R- Colo.), and 112 bipartisanmembers introduced the Fair- ness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (H.R. 1044) – a bill to reform the legal immigration systemby eliminating per- country percentage limits that cause backlogs in the em- ployment-based green card system. The bill would also ease backlogs for certain family- sponsored immigrants by modifying the per-country limits in the family-sponsored green card system. Lofgren and Buck are the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Judi- ciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, re- spectively. In the Senate, which has often proved to be the barrier for such bills in the past, Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ka- mala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced a companion bill with 13 co-sponsors. The US makes 140,000 Green Cards available every year to employment-based immigrants, including many who first come here on temporary H-1B or L visas. Current law, however, provides that nomore than 7% of these green cards can go to nationals of any one country—even though some countries are more populous than others. Because of this 7% limit, for example, a Chinese or Indian post-gradu- ate at the top of her class at MITmay have to wait half a decade or more for a green card, much longer than a stu- dent from a less-populated country, like Japan. The bipartisan ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act’ seeks to alter the per-country limits for employment-based immigrants so that all are treated equally regardless of their country of birth. “We all know that our immigration system is severely broken, and it has been broken for decades,” said Lofgren, in a statement. “At the heart of this broken system are the outdated employment- and family-based immigration sys- tems, which suffer under decades-long backlogs. In combi- nation with the per country limits, these backlogs keep nuclear families apart for decades, while preventing U.S. employers from accessing and retaining the employees they need to stay competitive.” Buck pointed out the unfair treatment meted out to In- dian and Chinese nationals. “Year after year, I have met with constituents who come here legally on work visas from India or China and face decades-long wait times for obtaining permanent resi- dence. If we want to ensure America remains globally com- petitive, we need to ease the backlogs and leverage the talent and expertise of our high-skilled immigrants who help strengthen the U.S. economy and fill knowledge gaps in certain fields,” he said, adding, “These are people who have helped America grow and thrive as a nation of immi- grants and we need tomake sure our system continues to value those who are following our laws and doing the right thing.” Aman Kapoor, Co-Founder and President of Immigra- tionVoice, an immigration activist, said removing the coun- try caps “would help to grow our economy by allowing highly skilled immigrants to start their own companies and hire American workers. And, it will finally remove the last vestiges of discrimination fromour high-skilled immigra- tion system.” The fact of the matter is that the bill will once again find it tough going on Capitol Hill, but it could see some fruition if there is traction on comprehensive immigration reforms later this year. Trump’s focus to build a wall to deter illegal immigration may seem ironical given the fact that their numbers within the US borders continue to swell, and deportation numbers are often dwarfed by those whomanage to sneak in. This is happening even as tens of thousands of skilled workers are finding themselves in a quandary, thinking of alternatives like emigrating to another developed country, or heading back to their home country, tired of waiting for a Green Card. The Investor’s Business Daily calculated last month that if there are 22 million illegal immigrants in the US, that’s larger than the entire population of countries like Syria, Chile, the Netherlands and Ecuador. Even if the number is just 12 million, that's still more than the entire population of Sweden, Switzerland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland and New Zealand. Perhaps, it’s time to increase the number of legal immi- grants into full-fledged permanent residents and citizens. Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: Follow him on Twitter: @SujeetRajan1 Fight For Skilled Immigrants BeginsAnew OnCapitol Hill I I n 2018, Democrats won the midterm elections on the issue of health care, specifically protecting the Afford- able Care Act and its guarantee of coverage for pre-exist- ing conditions. It was a hard-earned victory: Passing the ACA was a major reason Democrats lost the House and seats in the Senate in 2010, and polls showed the ACA was not a winner for Democrats in 2012, 2014 or 2016. Now, the question is: Having won the upper hand on health care, will Democrats give it back in 2020? What might squander that advantage? A primary battle among Democrats who all favor universal coverage but have differences about how to get there. Candidates seeking advantage in that contest by questioning the purity of each other's views on health care, or conversely, trying to scare voters with nightmare scenarios about those withmore lib- eral views. Andmost important, a focus on internecine dif- ferences instead of on the sharp contrast between the core Democratic position and the Republican stand on the fu- ture of health coverage in our country. The first warning sign was the recent false debate over whether any potential Democratic candidates favor abol- ishing private health insurance as part of their support for Medicare-for-all. None do. The Medicare for All bill explic- itly says: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed as prohibit- ing the sale of health insurance coverage for any additional benefits . . . including additional benefits that an employer may provide to employees . . . or to former employees." In fact, many Americans already onMedicare also have some formof private insurance, whether it is private-company retiree health benefits or a "Medigap" plan to cover services that Medicare doesn't. But the statements from Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., at a CNN town hall pointing out the obvious pain points many encounter when using private insurance were portrayed as a desire to ban all private coverage. And Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.,'s subsequent acknowledgment that private insur- ance would remain in a Medicare-for-all world was painted as a rebuke of Harris. Neither is correct. Nor is expanding Medicare some radical departure in our system. One in three Americans already gets coverage fromMedicare or Medicaid - far more than are covered by any private insurer. Expanding that coverage isn't "un- American" (unless one-third of the country is "un-Ameri- can"); Medicare expansion should not scare anyone or suggest an end to private coverage as part of our system. Yes, there are differences among the Democrats running for president. Some favor all Americans getting their basic coverage from a restructuredMedicare. Others may back a plan that would allow all Americans to choose between Medicare or continuing to get their basic insurance from private carriers. Still others back a more limited growth in Medicare, expanding its reach to those age 55 or older. The differences are important, but two critical points are evenmore significant. First, overwrought hair-splitting among the primary contenders' positions proves little about what any would actually do as president. In 2008, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama waged a fierce battle over whether an "individual mandate" - requiring each per- son to buy health-care coverage - should be part of health- care reform. Obama opposed the mandate during the campaign, and then put one in his health-care plan once in office. Likewise, most of 2020's Democratic contenders - no matter what their apparent differences on the campaign trail - are likely to work toward essentially the same policies once in office: Strengthening the Affordable Care Act, ex- panding Medicaid and creating a path to universal coverage under Medicare. The devil may be in the details, but Satan will be wrestled to the ground in the Oval Office, not the Iowa caucuses. Second, Democrats cannot let relatively minor differ- ences between themover how to achieve universal cover- age overshadow the real divide in U.S. politics: The gaping hole between Democratic plans to expand health-care cov- erage and the relentless Republican pursuit of the wish list of the health insurance industry. Republicans in Congress spent years doing everything they could to repeal the ACA. If they had gotten their way, millions would have lost their coverage, and tens of millions would have had no protection from insurance company abuses, such as denying coverage due to pre-existing condi- tions or cutting off coverage after patients hit a "lifetime cap." Once in power, and after they were unable to repeal the law, President DonaldTrump pushed forward an agenda to shred state regulation of insurance companies and allow a single state regulator captured by insurance in- terests to green light "sham insurance" plans for sale coast- to-coast. And onTrump's watch, the percentage of Americans lacking coverage has climbed, and the number of families getting covered under the ACA has fallen. -S PECIAL T O T HE W ASHINGTON P OST HowDemocratsCouldSquanderTheirAdvantage OnHealthCare By Ronald A. Klain Sujeet Rajan Executive Editor Parikh Worldwide Media