Will Khobragade’s Diplomatic Row Impact U.S. Immigration Bills?

By | Citizenship and Naturalization, Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

Sometimes, the final resolution of an important issue is swayed by both politics and tangential events. Politics, certainly, has already shaped the issue immigration reform. Now, a seemingly unrelated controversy has arisen and has the potential to shape some part of immigration reform in the U.S.

The controversy surrounding former Indian Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade has captured international media attention. Khobragade was arrested in New York City on December 12, 2013, for allegedly underpaying and exploiting her domestic employee, Sangeeta Richard.

Footage of Khobragade being strip-searched by U.S. federal law enforcement authorities has enflamed passions in India. Many believe she was disrespected and humiliated; advocates insist that she should have avoided such treatment because of her diplomatic immunity. At the same time, many Americans were appalled at Khobragade’s alleged flaunting of U.S. labor laws.

The U.S. attorney for the district of Manhattan, Preet Bharara, filed a memorandum denying Khobragade’s motion to dismiss the visa fraud indictment against her, saying that there was no basis for her immunity.

“Having left the U.S. and returned to India, the defendant currently has no diplomatic or consular status in the U.S., and the consular level immunity that she did have at the relevant times does not give her immunity from the charges in this case, crimes arising out of nonofficial acts,” Bharara said. “The defendant attempts through her motion to concoct a theory of immunity out of a UNGA (United Nations General Assembly) “Blue Card” that she purportedly had for a brief Indian delegation visit to the UN that ended close to three months before her arrest.”

The row that has ensued since Khobragade’s arrest — she left the United States on January 9, 2014 — has frayed U.S.-India relations and has led to some retaliatory measures against American diplomats stationed in India. It remains to be seen, however, whether Khobragade will become a standard image of a mutually embarrassing diplomatic incident or something more damaging.

Practical considerations may simply recapture attention on their own, pushing the Khobragade affair aside. After all, the United States is one of India’s largest trading partners and direct investors, and the two biggest democracies in the world have been increasing their military cooperation in the face of their common rival, China, and its rising power and influence in Asia.

Ultimately, it is likely that interested parties in both the U.S. and India will need to mount a sustained, effective lobbying campaign in the stateside debate over immigration, especially over visas such as the H-1B. Such efforts may help tip the scales in favor of a more immigrant-friendly bill in the U.S. Congress, replacing the possibility of an inappropriate focus on an international incident involving only a handful of people.

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History Suggests That Immigration Reform Has Good Prospects in Election Year

By | Immigration Policy, News & Press | No Comments

The role of politics can never be underestimated during the voters’ dance on Capitol Hill that spins legislation. As Congress enters another election year, conventional wisdom would say that immigration reform may be one of the political game’s most high-profile issues still standing without a resolution — except that history has tended to belie that conventional notion.

The general population of the United States has shown a long-term, marked resistance to the relaxation of immigration standards. This prevailing sentiment has, at times, translated into overtly anti-immigrant manifestations. Historically, these stances have been most pronounced during economically distressed times. In such circumstances, nativist groups lobby for restrictions to immigration on the premise that a restricted or eliminated flow of immigrants would help to preserve the dwindling number of jobs for Americans.

With the emergence of the Tea Party movement and the evidence of its strength within the Republican Party in recent years, many Republicans — afraid of being “primaried” by a more conservative Tea Party acolyte — have proclaimed their conservative bone fides on such sensitive issues as abortion, taxes and immigration. This phenomenon also tends to keep compromise-minded legislators from straying far from the conservative line.

But past statistics seem to suggest that election-year pressures may not be as pivotal as they are touted to be — at least not on the issue of immigration.

If one were to review the record over the last 50 years (a period that includes some of the most contentious immigration legislation passed in American history), it would become quite evident that election-year status has little bearing on the passage of legislation on immigration. Indeed, of the 81 immigration laws enacted during the five-decade-long period, 70 percent were passed in the same year in which a congressional election was scheduled.

It may seem counterintuitive that the prospects for immigration reform are better in an election year. But with the vast majority of immigration laws focused on such election-salient issues as the economy and law enforcement, immigration is quite magnetic as a running platform for an officeholder.

With the electoral environment more conducive to members of Congress running on immigration reform, perhaps it should be unsurprising that on January 30, 2014, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, promulgated a set of principles his caucus adopted that is more flexible and accommodating of an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws.

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Start preparing for the H-1B visa now

By | H1-B | No Comments

The H-1B season is fast approaching. Every year the Citizenship and Immigration Service grants 65,000 H-1B visas plus 20,000 H-1B visas for students holding Master’s or a higher degree from an US university. The government’s year starts on October 01, and the Citizenship and Immigration Service accepts applications from April 01. Last year more than this number was filed on April 01. Thus the Citizenship and Immigration Service had a lottery and only the lucky ones got the visa. We expect the same this year.

However before we can file the H-1B visa, we need to file an labor condition application with the Department of Labor. This process usually takes about 1 week at least for a recurrent employer, and may take 2 weeks for an employer new to the H-1B visa system. This time can double during late March when the Department of Labor typically receives an avalanche of new cases.

Also because of the increased demand for H-1B visas and the finding of large scale fraud on the part of employers, the Citizenship and Immigration Service expects a large volume of documents. This is particularly true of computer consulting companies and small businesses. And it is always better to submit all documents in the front end, so that the officer has a favorable opinion.

Thus the time to start preparing for the H-1B visa for the fiscal year 2015, (starting on October 01, 2014) is right now.

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