Category Archives: Immigration Blog

The Impact of Illegal Immigration in the U.S.

The impact of illegal immigration in the U.S. has been a topic of widespread speculation and debate for some time now. With context to what attracts illegal immigrants to the U.S. is the search for greener pastures and economic opportunities; illegal aliens or illegal immigrants to the U.S. come from all parts of the world. Despite the enforcement and the initiation of tougher measures by the U.S. immigration and other authorities to limit illegal immigration, the former’s desire to reach America is so strong that nothing in the world can dissuade them from not doing so. As the rest of it goes, they settle for the lowest wages possible and work in industries including construction, agriculture, and food-processing. Here lies the catch about why there is a demand for illegal immigrants: a globalized economy, the requirement for low-skilled labor at times of seasonal employment, the lack of a robust verifying mechanism for employers in the U.S. while hiring foreign workers, and the availability of labor at very low wages as compared to what American workers quote or demand. Further the American immigration policies have limited provisions for legal and permanent economic migration in the case of low-skilled workers. It is important to note that the American education system creates a small segment of people who are either high-school dropouts or have doctorates, thereby leaving a gap that needs to be filled by foreign workers. Therefore there is a dearth of workers required to complete seasonal low-skilled jobs or very high-skilled jobs.

George J. Borjas, economist and professor at Robert W. Scrivner Professor of Economics and Social Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School summarizes the impact of immigration as – “The laws of supply and demand imply that, other things being equal, an increase in the number of low-skilled immigrants will lower the wages of comparable native workers, at least in the short run, because they now face stiffer competition in the labor market. In contrast, high-skilled workers may gain from the influx of immigrant labor. Not only will they pay less for the services these laborers provide, such as painting the house and mowing the lawn, but by hiring immigrant workers they will be able to specialize in producing the goods and services to which their skills are better suited.” This summarizes the fact that today with the transition of most of the world economy from manufacturing to an economy that is knowledge-based, it has provided for mass immigration. This is how low-skilled labor is fulfilled by immigrant workers in the U.S. Most of them take up these jobs as they fetch higher wages than what they would earn in their home countries. Furthermore, there is also the ‘network-effect’ in which immigrants in the U.S. bring in more immigrants from their home countries due to whom the market for low-skilled labor in the U.S. has become very competitive. There are some American states that are more volatile in terms of the influx of illegal immigration; however the numbers are catching up in the other states. Although certain reports on immigration state that the number of illegal immigrants to the U.S. has dwindled, the U.S. market has fewer jobs right now and it is rife with stiff competition. However there is the other side of the opinion; a New York Times/CBS News Poll report revealed that 53 percent of Americans thought that ‘illegal immigrants mostly take the jobs Americans don’t want’ and that ‘without illegal immigration labor, it would almost certainly not be possible to produce the same volume of food in the country’. Some banking corporations wanted to initiate mortgage for illegal immigrants to attract investments; however that sort of initiation and the uncertainty of an unpredictable loom large. The debate continues and time will tell.

“AFGHANISTAN AND THE REGION: SECURITY, STABILITY, AND PROSPERITY” SESSION II: “INDIA, AFGHANISTAN, & REGIONAL SECURITY”

REMARKS
BY
M. ASHRAF HAIDARI
THE DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION (MINISTER COUNSELOR) OF
THE EMBASSY OF AFGHANISTAN, NEW DELHI
AT
THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS
“AFGHANISTAN AND THE REGION: SECURITY, STABILITY, AND
PROSPERITY”
SESSION II: “INDIA, AFGHANISTAN, & REGIONAL SECURITY”
CANNON HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING
WASHINGTON-DC – JULY 23, 2013
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The Honorable Members of Congress,
Excellencies,
Distinguished Scholars,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Please allow me to begin by thanking the co-organizers of this timely Conference,
including the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC), the American Foreign
Policy Council (AFPC), and the Foundation of India and Indian Diaspora Studies
(FIIDS). In fact, I have been on a private visit to the U.S., and did not come to
Washington-DC for this purpose. But my special thanks to the Chairman of USINPAC,
Mr. Sanjay Puri, who kindly extended to me an invitation to speak today. I gladly
accepted to do so, on a short notice, given the importance of our enduring strategic
partnership with India and the United States. Of course, I am deeply honored to share
this podium with Members of the United States Congress, B.J.P. President the
Honorable Rajnath Singh Ji, as well as other distinguished speakers from the U.S. and
India.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In an increasingly interdependent, interconnected, and shrinking world, security and
stability in one country depends on the security and stability of the rest. This is
especially the case with landlocked countries, whose stability and sustainable
development squarely depend on an enabling regional environment. Afghanistan is a
landlocked country and heavily relies on regional cooperation, from economic to
political and security sectors, in order to stabilize and develop on a sustainable basis.
However, as we recall from the recent history of Afghanistan, regional and international
actors have not always been kind to us, indeed, at their own peril on the long run.
During the Cold War, Afghanistan was compelled to side with the West led by the
United States, and together we ended the Soviet occupation of the Afghanistan and
subsequently toppled the Communist Regime, which the former Soviet Union
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supported. After this victory, the Afghan people rightfully expected the international
community and the United States in particular to help stabilize and rebuild our country
so that peace, freedom, democracy, and pluralism could gradually take root and become
institutionalized in Afghanistan.
On the contrary, however, soon after the fall of the Communist Regime, following the
withdrawal of the defeated Soviet forces from Afghanistan, the post-war reconstruction
and stabilization of our country were completely neglected. Morally speaking, we were
not rewarded for the destruction of our country, the killing of over two million Afghans,
and the displacement of over five million others, all caused by a Cold War proxy conflict
that we fought on behalf of the West.
As the world disengaged from Afghanistan prematurely, our state institutions began
failing, our politics became factionalized, and our country turned into a no man’s land,
serving as a battlefield for regional proxy conflicts. This subsequently allowed Pakistan
to create and launch a paramilitary force labeled as “Taliban” to invade and occupy
Afghanistan. And overtime, as we recall, the Taliban invited and sheltered the leader of
Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, in Afghanistan, from where he and his transnational
network comfortably mastermind and executed the tragedy of 9/11.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Anyone who visited Afghanistan under the Taliban 12 years ago and has visited the
country since would tell you about the fundamental ways in which Afghanistan has been
transformed. Our monumental achievements of the past 12 years result from the
sacrifices of many nations in Afghanistan. And we remain indebted to each of the 48
nations, which have been providing us with moral and material support over the past
decade.
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Foremost, we are thankful to the United States people and government for their
continued support, as they have stood by us every step of the way to get where we are
today. We honor the ultimate sacrifices of more than 3,000 American forces, who
bravely fought alongside their Afghan comrades to help provide an enabling, secure
environment for institutionalization of peace and democracy in Afghanistan. I want
their families and their Representatives in the United States Congress to know that
these forces’ ultimate sacrifices have not gone in vain but have changed forever the lives
of millions of Afghans across our country.
At the same time, we are grateful to the Indian people and government for sharing their
bread with us over the past 12 years. India’s generous assistance has complemented the
aid provided by the U.S. and other countries in building institutional capacity in our
government, rebuilding our critical infrastructure, and connecting Afghanistan
commercially with the rest of the region.
As a result of combined international aid over the past 12 years:
 10.5 million Afghans are enrolled in schools across Afghanistan. Each year, more
than 150,000 students graduate to pursue higher education in Afghanistan and
abroad, including India where we have nearly 10,000 students pursuing degrees
in the different fields.
 Our per capita GDP of $591 in 2011 is five times higher than $123 per capita GDP
of 10 years ago.
 Nearly 8,000 kilometers of national highways, regional highways, and provincial
roads have been built, cutting travel time by 75%.
 Moreover, civil aviation has improved, connecting Afghanistan with major
regional hub.
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 Access to electricity has increased by 250%, while some 18 million Afghans have
mobile phones. Collectively, this has helped us maintain a 10% growth rate,
creating many jobs that never existed in the Afghan history.
 And democracy is flourishing. We have the freest media in the region, one of the
most progressive constitutions in the region, allowing 27% of women to serve as
MPs in the Parliament. At the same time, Afghanistan’s civil society is growing
more and more vibrant, frequently challenging the government and holding it to
account.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These and many of our other achievements are naturally a work in progress. To ensure
their consolidation into sustainable gains, we have signed a number of Strategic
Partnership Agreements with our allies in the region and beyond. These Agreements
build on the objectives of the Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago, and Tokyo conferences on
Afghanistan, helping us transition towards self-reliance in the post 2014 period into a
decade of transformation.
The U.S. and India are two of our major strategic allies, and the Agreements we have
signed with them provide for their continued support to Afghanistan beyond 2014. In an
effort to work together towards our common objectives to help stabilize and rebuild
Afghanistan, our three countries have established a Trilateral Strategic Dialogue, which
has met two times so far. But the mechanism remains under-utilized, which must be
reinvigorated and used to ensure strategic coordination of the U.S. and Indian aid
efforts, in support of Afghanistan now and beyond 2014.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we consolidate our gains of the past 12 years with continued international support,
we have increasingly taken over from our allies the tasks that any sovereign country
should execute on its own. Last June, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) took
over from the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) the complete
leadership and ownership of all military operations across Afghanistan. The ANSF is
now providing protection for the whole Afghan population, while NATO-ISAF has begun
its new mission of advising, training, and equipping the ANSF.
In spite of the ongoing successes of the ANSF against the enemy, our forces are yet to be
fully independently operational. We continue to lack an Air Force and other such critical
enablers as artillery, armored mobility, reconnaissance and intelligence capabilities,
close air support capabilities, airlift and medical evacuation capabilities, as well as
logistics and maintenance mechanisms that constitute the backbone of any force.
To help address these needs, we are going to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)
with the United States. At the same time, we have provided India with a list of needs to
assist Afghanistan with. We believe that India can fill some of the training and
equipping gaps in the Afghan National Security Forces. And the Indian government has
responded positively to our request for enhanced defense cooperation, based on the
Afghanistan-India Strategic Partnership Agreement.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Parallel to the security transition, the Afghan government has striven to ensure the
success of our political transition through implementation of a legitimate, fair, and
transparent presidential election next year on April 5, 2014. As HE President Karzai has
said many times, his second and last term under the Constitution is going to come to an
end, and rumors that he would remain in office is baseless. In fact, the President signed
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in two law two critical electoral reforms paving the way for the peaceful and democratic
transfer of power to the next president.
At the same time, despite the way the Taliban office was opened in Doha, Qatar, we
remain committed to ending the war in Afghanistan that would result in further
strengthening of our sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is the basic expectation of
the Afghan people, the victims of more than three decades of war, who continue to fight
and die day after day and year after year to ensure the absolute freedom and
independence of our country, nothing less.
With that basic fact firmly in mind, the Afghan government and people are cautiously
seeking a negotiated settlement with the armed opposition, including the Taliban. And
that means an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled peace process where
only Afghans talk to Afghans, with non-Afghans only facilitating the process at the
request of the Afghan government.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The new democratically elected government of Pakistan under HE Prime Minister
Nawaz Sharif has taken initial, bold steps towards honest cooperation with Afghanistan
and India. The Afghan people and government welcome with great optimism the Prime
Minister’s call for a new policy that sees the end of interference in the Afghan affairs
now and beyond 2014.
To that end, this past Sunday, HE Sartaj Aziz, Adviser to the Prime Minister on National
Security and Foreign Affairs, visited Kabul, and delivered an invitation from HE Prime
Minister Sharif to HE President Karzai to visit Pakistan. The President accepted the
invitation “in principle,” but asked that a substantive agenda with specific objectives on
supporting the peace process and effectively fighting terrorism be prepared, before the
visit could take place.
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HE Foreign Minister Dr. Zalmai Rasool also met with HE Aziz and expressed our hope
to make considerable progress with Pakistan’s new government in all areas, including in
the fight against terrorism and extremism and the networks and systems supporting
them. HE Aziz offered to use his country’s influence and contacts with the Taliban, in
support of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process. This is a welcome offer of
assistance, which Afghanistan had long been seeking. The two sides also emphasized the
importance of expanding bilateral transit trade, following a meeting of the Coordinating
Authority to address issues related to the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit
Agreement (APTTA).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Afghanistan’s number one challenge is insecurity with external roots, which exploits
Afghanistan’s numerous vulnerabilities, including ethnic diversity, widespread poverty,
and weak state institutions. The externality of insecurity can also spoil the peace process
in Afghanistan and impede our progress into a decade of transformation beyond 2014.
That is why we welcome regional efforts with strong, proactive participation of India to
address this shared challenge facing Afghanistan and the whole region. India should
play a leading role in regional processes, as well as reaching a consensus with Russia
and China to work out a regional roadmap for stabilization and reconstruction of
Afghanistan where our sovereignty and territorial integrity are ensured, thereby
allowing the three countries in the region to invest in Afghanistan and to prevent
destructive interference in the Afghan affairs.
At the same time, we renew our call on the international community to stay the course
in Afghanistan. Our gains of the past 12 years should be consolidated through
implementation of win-win objectives, which have been outlined in the Bonn, Chicago,
and Tokyo Conferences, as well as through regional initiatives such as the Istanbul
Process.
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Indeed, winning or losing in Afghanistan squarely depends on whether our allies and
friends would actually deliver on the commitments they have made in these conferences
and their routine interactions with the Afghan government. We hope they would do so
for the reasons, which I would like to explain briefly.
The implications of winning are clear: a sovereign Afghanistan at peace internally and at
peace with others focused on win-win objectives towards a region where every nation
would be secure and prosper through economic cooperation. This is the world in which
we live today, a world which is increasingly interdependent and where zero-sum designs
have proven a failure and a disaster. Sincere, results-oriented cooperation is the call of
our peoples in the region and beyond. And Afghanistan stands ready to do our part for
the good of all.
By contrast, however, the implications of losing what is a winnable war for peace and
justice are also clear in Afghanistan. Any short-cut to peace leads to failure. Such halfmeasure
peace initiatives were tried to engage the Taliban in the 1990s, with disastrous
consequences. Let’s remember that the Taliban of today are the same dark forces that
brutally terrorized the Afghan people, systematically destroyed our cultural heritage
sites, enforced a gender-apartheid of unspeakable cruelty, and sheltered and aided Al
Qaeda to plot and execute from the Afghan soil the tragedy of 9/11. Morally speaking,
any attempt to sideline Afghans and undermine their democratic gains of the past 12
years would not only destabilize the region but irresponsibly endanger international
peace and security again.
Thank you.
***

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

A draft of a new US immigration law likely to be announced this week, holds mixed fortunes for international IT services companies and American businesses.

Globally competitive firms with offices in America, often send a number of foreign skilled workers on H-1B Visas to service American clients.  This helps boost operating margins and reduces costs on to American consumers.  The number of these Visas are currently capped  at 65,000 per year.

The legislation is seeking to increase the cap on H-1B Visas to 110,000, with an extra 25,000 for those who have earned advanced STEM degrees in the US.  This part of the bill has been warmly received by businesses and America’s friends and partners overseas.

However as part of a deal to create a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally, other proposals in the bill will dictate to employers that they must pay workers on the highly skilled program on par with onshore workers and require businesses to advertise open jobs for 30 days on a U.S. Department of Labor website before they could bring in a foreign workers.

The result is that many U.S. business who have a significant contingent of overseas employees would be forced to pay significantly higher fees and endure larger operating costs.  For service based businesses like IT management, most of the operating costs are purely from labor.  Changing the pay rules may in effect drive many onshore companies out of business entirely, lowering tax revenues and in effect driving operations offshore completely.  In a growing migration to cloud based IT management, that possibility is ever more likely.

Concern is also being voiced that these provisions have been made for the specific purpose of targeting Asian individuals in the United States and overseas, and that campaigns for comprehensive immigration reform will merely descend into a vote-bank exercise for future elections.

The H-1B conundrum

A new legislation intends to check H-1 B related frauds

Guest post by Madhu Nair

Ever since the 2008 economic crash, Americans have been accusing the H-1 B visa as an instrument used to steal their jobs. The United States is battling a high unemployment rate and the voice for a pro-American job policy is increasing day by day. With critics crying foul over the provisions of the policy and its abuse by technology majors, America’s H-1B visa policy has run into troubled waters.

According to a recent report, Senator Chuck Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has introduced a legislation which aims to eliminate fraud and abuse of the H-1B visa policy. The legislation intends to make reforms to increase enforcement, modify wage requirements and ensure protection of visa holders and American workers. Grassley says that the legislation will not only benefit American workers, but also help U.S. companies to get quality specialized workers from abroad.

Grassley adds, “Somewhere along the line, the H-1B program got side-tracked. The program was never meant to replace qualified American workers, but it was instead intended as a means to fill gaps in highly specialized areas of employment. When times are tough, like they are now, it’s especially important that Americans get every consideration before an employer looks to hire from abroad.”

The legislation, if passed, may affect jobseekers from India and elsewhere. The recently passed H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013 ensures that an H-1B application filed by a company employing 50 or more U.S. workers will not be accepted unless the employer attests that less than 50% of the its workforce are H-1B and L-1 visa holders. This, in addition, to the legislation introduced by Grassley could mean trouble for companies who seek cheap and quality workers, largely from developing economies. A recently published article had also highlighted that many of the H-1B hires do not belong to the “best and the brightest” category. This further pushed the need to reform the policy which has gained a political face of late.

With a cap of 65,000 H-1B visas a year, Indian companies were seen scrambling for approvals with over 50,000 applications being filed on the very first day of screening. Market analysts say that the cap on visas and other such compulsions will impact the margins of companies adversely. The increasing unemployment has also forced companies in the U.S. to take to sub-contracting and local hiring. This further adds pressure on companies to take to other means in order to achieve their ambitions.

While a short-term impact looks imminent, it would be better to come out with options to avoid such situations in the future. The global economy changed remarkably after the 2008 crisis with the world turning towards developing economies to pave the path ahead. India, with its growing young and abundant workforce, has an edge over other countries in reaping the benefits. But it would be rather cynical to neglect developed economies while doing so. The only way forward is to find a middle ground where countries can work together for a sustainable future.

Hard to Believe We Made It

This is the immigration story of Mr. Prabhakar Joshi, sent to USINPAC in response to the White House’s appeal for immigration stories to help frame robust immigration policies. The same has been sent to the White House as well.  

The year was 1963. We were citizens of India. My wife, Savita, got an admission and assistantship to work on her doctorate program in the Texas Woman’s University (TWU), Denton, TX. She did not want to go alone and I did not want to leave her. United States would not grant me a visa unless I had a work offer in hand. So my wife and I sent a letter to her major professor, Dr. P.B.Mack, to offer a job. She immediately agreed to give part-time work and sent us a letter to that effect. We were jubilant.

But that would not clear our road. My supervisor would not let me leave the Home Department, Govt. of Maharashtra state, because he claimed that he gave me promotions and I was working in Special Branch dealing with secret and confidential matters. I was frustrated. I petitioned to another officer holding a parallel position. He agreed and sent the papers to the ultimate authority, the Secretary of the Dept. He approved. We were jubilant again.

Then there was another hitch. The Reserve Bank of India would not let us take more than $7.40 each. Why? China had attacked India and the government wanted to save all the dollars. We wrote to a pen-friend in Louisiana, who was a Secretary to Governor. She promised $200 instantly when we arrive in the USA.

Passport was a hassle. Without using the good offices of my father who was the president of Thane Congress and my father in law who was a State senator (member of Legislative council), Bombay, & the chief of a national political party we received our passports and visas faster than the normal speed.

After a lot of thinking, we took leave from our work places, the Home Dept. for me and the SNDT, University for Savita, and decided to embark. Took loans to meet our huge expenses and got to a travel agent. Asked him to send us by a ship to England to save money and then by air to USA.

Our journey on a ship was very enjoyable except one night’s sea sickness. Finally, when arrived in New York, we got those $200 at a telegraph office. Took a taxi to the bus station. The driver asked for a tip. We asked for the change. Took the change and told him that since you are forcing us for a tip we are not giving any.

We bought 2 bus tickets to Denton, TX. A few dollars were left. Therefore did not eat on the way; only one cup of coffee for both of us. In Denton, a pen-friend had booked a one bed room apartment for us. Paid rent and all the money was gone.

Next day went to register at the Univ. of Texas. They won’t complete the process unless the fee was paid. We asked to see the treasurer, who in turn sent us to the Univ. President. He allowed us 10 days after which our names would be removed from the univ. if not paid.

We went to a bank; showed our credentials and offered my wife’s golden jewelry in exchange for the loan. The loan was approved. We took only the amount necessary for our fees and refused to take more.

Thus we got enrolled. I used to walk to the Univ.  two miles, one way, with a bag full of books in hand, in cold and in summer. After a month, a car stopped and asked me “are you at the Univ. of TX? I answered yes. He asked why did I walk? I told “ walking is a good exercise”. He smiled and offered a ride—every day. Next year, we bought a bicycle for $8 at a Police auction. My wife would sit on the bar while I drove for shopping. Some waived from their windows. In two years we completed our degrees and got employed. Then we brought our 8-year old son, Chandrashekhar, who was left with my parents/his grandparents. This much story is enough this time.

(Do you have an immigration story you would like to share? Write to USINPAC at info@usinpac.com)