High Percentage of Undocumented Immigrant Indians Will Be Allowed to Stay in U.S.

When President Obama issued his executive order on immigration in November, estimates on the number of undocumented immigrants who would be spared deportation ranged between four and five million. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who will benefit from the policy change are from Latin America, especially Mexico and Central America, though the number of undocumented immigrants from India is significant.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s most recent statistics are from 2012, and they counted 11.4 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Fifty-nine percent were from Mexico, with El Salvador (6 percent), Guatemala (5 percent), Honduras (3 percent) and Philippines (3 percent) rounding out the top five countries of origin.

India was the sixth leading source of undocumented immigrants in the United States as of 2012. Interestingly, when one focuses only on the numbers and percentages of unauthorized immigrants who will be able to avail themselves of the terms of the president’s executive order, India’s rank rises dramatically. 

Roughly 44 percent of the 5.9 million Mexicans who are in this country illegally will benefit from the executive action, and 37 percent of the generously estimated 450,000 undocumented Indians in this country will benefit from the policy change.

With 37 percent of all undocumented immigrants — 170,000 of the 450,000 total — able to stay in the United States under the executive action, India vaults into second place, behind only Mexico, on its percentage of unauthorized immigrants who will qualify for the new non-deportation policy.

A large portion of the unauthorized immigrants in the United States from Mexico and other Latin American countries enter the country undocumented. By contrast, most current unauthorized immigrants from India were originally documented when they entered the United States. Later, these Indian nationals lost their status when their visas expired but remained in the country.

Under United States Citizenship and Immigration Services rules, when immigrants who have been allowed to enter the United States on a work-related visa — such as the H-1B visa — loses their job, they must find alternate employment and transfer their visa within a specific time period. If they do not, they lose their status. 

Along with related L-1 visa holders, many Indians who legally entered the United States to work in the technology industry lost their jobs during the Great Recession and were not able to find new work, losing their status in the process.

In addition to the estimated 170,000 Indians who will be able to remain in the United States under the president’s executive order, another 13,500 are shielded from deportation under current law. Also, the policy change will permit many spouses and children of undocumented immigrants from India to apply for a waiver from illegal status — and eventually, apply for a green card.

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