Immigration Voice member participated in a panel on Immigration at the Indian American Republican Council’s fall conference in Washington DC on September 7, 2006.
The speaker list constituted prominent leaders from the Republican Party – Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Senators Brownback, George Allen, as well as U.S. House Representatives, Speaker Hastert, Ros-Lehtinen, Ed Royce, Bobby Jindal, and Joe Wilson.
Speaking at the event, Shilpa called for more focus on legal highly skilled immigration and urgent reform of the antiquated employment-based immigration system, adding that loss of talent to other countries was not in America’s interest. Shilpa observed – immigration debate included illegal immigration and H-1B quotas, but the issues faced by the legal educated foreign workers working in the US and seeking permanent residency were largely ignored.
Noting that 255,000 employment-based applications pending at the DOL (April 2006) and 170,000 to 230,000 applications pending at the USCIS translated into unconscionable delays, she elucidated the impact of bad bureaucracy on the lives of individuals: “During the long wait, highly skilled foreign workers are wary of buying homes, cannot accept promotions or change jobs for fear of losing their position in the green card queue – particularly because their job description is tied to the green card. Highly qualified doctors, scientists, engineers… etc. cannot utilize their skills to the fullest potential. Individuals cannot innovate and start companies that would create new jobs… lives are on hold. More importantly, employers share the same frustration, as they cannot access the talent pool available here in the US.”
Illustrating how Canada, UK, Australia, etc. are competing to welcome creative talent, and citing reasons for the shortage of skills in the US, Shilpa added that America direly needs to attract talent to sustain technological leadership. “Of the total legal immigration in 2004 and 2005, only 7.5% and 10.2% respectively went to highly skilled principal applicants. 2004-2005 figures from Australia indicate that their migration program comprised of 60% skilled immigrants”.
“The last time the quota for skilled immigrants was debated in Congress was in 1990. That was 16 years ago,” said Shilpa. Stating that high-skilled immigration created a net benefit to the country, she urged lawmakers to address immigration in a piece-by-piece manner, and pass sensible legislation that would retain talent in the country. “This is basically a symbiotic relationship, which if nurtured well will bring rich rewards to the US as well as the immigrants who are contributing here.”
Commending Senator Cornyn and Representative Shadegg for introducing the SKIL Bill in the Senate and the House, Shilpa concluded “The US can continue to remain the shining city on the hill, if it attracts high-skilled workers who will be great assets to this country”.
Immigration Voice is a non-profit national grassroots organization committed to feasible solutions to a broken employment-based immigration process. Immigration Voice is advocating for technical changes that will improve the quality of life of several individuals that are stuck in the backlogs/delays, and help the system to work as it was intended.