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Opinion 3 News India Times October 11, 2019 Our Dysfunctional ImmigrationSystemStrands AnAmericanFamily In India T hey've been stranded in India for six weeks now. In a stubborn display of optimism that our country's dysfunctional immigration systemwill somehowwork, Saurav Mazumdar refuses to buy any new clothes. "I packed for two weeks. Two shirts, two pants," said Mazumdar, 42, whose two-week vacation to visit relatives and renew his H1B visa in India has turned into a night- mare. Why should he buy more clothes? He has plenty of clothes back home inWashington, D.C., where he has lived for almost two decades. Mazumdar, his wife and their two American-born chil- dren can't get back to their home, to their jobs, friends or classrooms. They are stuck in a black hole of paperwork and nonanswers fromour erratic, broken legal immigration system. You know, the one everyone hating on undocu- mented immigrants thinks is easy. "I guess we were naive enough to think this couldn't happen to us," saidMazumdar's wife, Ishita Menon, 41, a Georgetown University PhDwho serves on the special events committee at her son's elementary school. While they wait, their kids, Sameer, 6, and Sitara, 11, try to keep up with schoolwork. "It's really hard to explain to a 6-year-old why he can't go back home," Mazumdar said. He goes on FaceTime with his best friend, Owen, once a week. His teacher has sent himpictures from the class, telling himhowmuch they miss him. Sitara, meanwhile, is missing practices with the presti- gious youth orchestra she earned a seat in after nailing her audition right before the summer. Mazumdar andMenon came to the United States 19 years ago to get their master's degrees. "I've been in a lot of countries, but I fell in love with Washington, D.C.," he said. "The fact that museums are free. And it's the people whomake the difference, the peo- ple in the U.S. are amazing. People in the U.S., in general, are well-meaning." And everything happening in his field - data engineering and artificial intelligence - was happening in the United States. And he got job offers at the highest levels, a coveted brain in this fast-developing field. He is exactly the kind of immigrant President Trump says he wants. Skilled, valued, smart. Menon lovedWashington, too. The couple bought a condo nearWashington National Cathedral and had their babies at Georgetown University Hospital. And they were faithful in keeping all their paperwork up- to-date: Mazumdar's H1B visa, designed for skilled work- ers, andMenon's H4 visa, the spousal companion to an H1B. He has to return to India every three years to have his passport restamped and the visa renewed. Every three years, the kids got to see their grandparents and their ex- tended family, then returned to D.C. Knowing they wanted to spend the rest of their lives in the United States, the couple applied for green cards eight years ago. That should be fine, right? Any day, they should be able to raise their right hands and become U.S. citizens. Not so fast. Because there's a major backlog of highly educated, highly skilled people from India seeking green cards, their wait could be anywhere from 75 to 115 years. Yes, years. Preposterous, right? This summer, the Democratic-controlled House passed the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act, which would help ease that backlog from India in particular. The Repub- lican-controlled Senate is futzing with its own version. Meanwhile, Mazumdar andMenon are stuck in limbo. Right after he got to India in July, Mazumdar dropped off his passport and paperwork at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, as he had done many times before. The family enjoyed their time and everything seemed on track when he received an email, eight days later, saying that his passport was ready. Perfect. But when he went to pick it up, there was no stamp. In- stead, he got a letter saying he needed to come in for an in- terview. So he went the next day, had a straightforward interview, got fingerprinted, and got a document telling him everything is being held up. The family canceled their August 13 plane tickets back to D.C. and hired an immigration lawyer. They prowl the on- line immigration forums for ideas, where hundreds of other H1B families are experiencing the same nightmare. The State Department keeps returning Mazumdar's emails with a warning that "before making inquiries about status of administrative processing, applicants should wait at least 180 days from the date of interview or submission of supplemental documents, whichever is later." That's six months of school missed. Six months of work missed. Six months in the same two shirts and same two pairs of pants. And even after those six months, there's no guarantee that this hard-working family will be able to come back home to America. - T HE W ASHINGTON P OST By Petula Dvorak ImpeachmentHysteria, RigidWhiteHouse Stance Stall ImmigrationReforms - NEW YORK apitol Hill is in impeachment hysteria. That’s bad news for bills to take shape into legislation, as partisan gridlock comes into play, political gamesmanship rules. There’s no deadline as to when normalcy could be restored. The wrenching timing has hit hard espe- cially, legal immigrants in limbo for a Green Card, as well as those overseas hoping for permanent residency to join ex- tended family members. Caught in the wretchedmess is the highly anticipated bill “Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019,” or S.386. The bill sought to increase the per-country cap on family-based Green Cards from the current 7 percent to 15 percent, and to eliminate the 7 percent cap for employ- ment-based Green Cards. It would have expedited Green Card for especially Indian nationals. S. 386 has strong bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate, and Its companion bill, HR 1044, was passed by the US House of Representatives in July. There were minor irritants along the way, with only one Senator, Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin, stalling it frommoving ahead. It seemed that hurdle would be crossed within days or matter of weeks, with smart lobbying and bargaining with Durbin. Then hell broke out over Ukraine. Democrats are today baying for impeachment. S. 386 is perhaps the last thing on their mind to take care of. However, it’s now evident that even if the bill did come to pass there were higher powers waiting in the wings who were ready to throw a spanner in its progress. There are wheels within wheels on Capitol Hill with the master charioteer sitting in theWhite House. If high skilled immigrants were hoping against hope that perhaps, just perhaps, this new bill would yet see daylight before the im- peachment imbroglio came to an end, came yet another blow through a TV interview this week whichmade it clear that the Trump administration is in nomood for any succor for legal immigrants already here. StephenMiller, theWhite House senior policy adviser, and architect of all hawkish policies to restrict immigration – legal or otherwise, to America, responding to a question by Fox Business anchor Lou Dobbs, made it clear that the bill is going to see its demise in the Senate, not move for- ward for reconciliation with the House, before it could have gone to President Trump’s desk for his approval. Dobbs, staunch and fierce anti-immigration advocate, gave a loaded question toMiller: “In the Senate, there is a Senate Bill 386… the rights for legal immigrants legislation that would double…the H-1B visas and in so doing it… most of those visas (will go to citizens of)] China and to India…Is the president going to veto the damn thing?” Miller responded succinctly: “Well, I don’t think that bill, as currently written, is going to be passing the Senate any- time soon,” adding for goodmeasure, “The administration has made clear that our view on (H-1B visas) is that you cannot displace or replace American workers. And the pres- ident has taken unprecedented action in the immigration space to do exactly that, including most recently with the public charge regulation to keep newcomers from taking advantage of our welfare system.” The fact of the matter is that it’s not just the wait for a Green Card that has taken away the quality of life for a lot of legal immigrants. It’s also the fear of traveling overseas with a growing fear that they would be barred from getting back on one pretext or the other. An example is a family of four – with two small school going children who are American citizens, who are at pres- ent stranded in India for the last seven weeks because of additional paperwork required for visa stamping, as re- ported by TheWashington Post. The father of the two chil- dren is on an H-1B visa, the mother on an H4 visa. Their vacation has turned into a nightmare. Life for immigrants like Saurav Mazumdar and Ishita Menon and their two young children stranded in India, is now as hard as passage of any immigration bill on Capitol Hill. Every dreamof theirs is turning into a nightmare. Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter: @SujeetRajan1 C Sujeet Rajan Executive Editor Parikh Worldwide Media Familyphoto—TheWashingtonPost Saurav Mazumdar and his wife, Ishita Menon, and their son Sameer, 6, and daughter Sitara, 11, are pictured in Washington before they got stranded in India.

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