It is with a heavy heart that we write this post today.
Even though our community of folks in the Green Card backlog recognizes the United States as our home and has come together in myriad ways to serve our fellow Americans during these difficult times, our efforts are not met with gratitude, or even indifference, but with increased obstacles that put our very existence in the United States in jeopardy.
Thousands of people in the backlog are doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals, putting themselves in danger to treat COVID patients across the US despite the lack of adequate protective gear. We are the engineers and STEM professionals and essential workers, serving the U.S. population dealing with this catastrophe – from manufacturing essential health products to manufacturing medical devices, from online banking to online shopping, from foodservice and retail to working with technologies that make it possible for people to remain connected despite social distancing. We are also the researchers working across various laboratories across the U.S. on potential vaccines for COVID-19. We are in every field, every step of the way, all while dealing with the pandemic on a personal level as well.
The Green Card backlogged community continues to do these crucial jobs while carrying the dual burden of the pandemic and a discriminatory immigration system that has kept us in a ~150+ year wait for Green Cards. We continue to live in perpetual threat of being booted out of our lives in the U.S. if there are layoffs or delays in visa renewals given USCIS closures. Healthcare professionals in our community are putting their families’ lives in even greater danger because the death of a person in the backlog could mean deportation for the entire family. With travel bans around the world due to the pandemic, our families have nowhere to go!
We are now being impacted by this uncertainty in a myriad of ways – in the absence of permanent residency though we have been approved for it- we remain dependent on either the employers who sponsor our work visas or our spouses who are the primary applicants on the employment-based green card applications. The backlog, coupled with the pandemic, has made us particularly vulnerable to family separations since our children risk aging out of their parents’ green card applications.
We are striving to protect our families’ health while doing everything in our capacity to hold on to our jobs, deemed necessary for allowing us to legally reside in the US, even after living as integral parts of US communities for several years – a situation that the pandemic has made drastically worse for us.
With a 20% unemployment rate, a crippled economy, and increased corporate bankruptcies, lay-offs, and furloughs, folks on employment-sponsored visas are extremely vulnerable to losing everything they have built. The risks of exploitation due to our dependence on our employers or on our spouses for our visas have increased manifold, healthcare workers are unable to advocate for better protective gear and there are increased incidents of domestic violence in the community. With the family’s vulnerability to self-deportation, if the principal green card applicant dies, the threat of contracting the Coronavirus is deeply entwined with our immigration-related fears.
As grievous as this situation is, it is now looking like a rosy scenario compared to the onslaught that we are now staring at. Some of it targeted and some of it the unintentional result of U.S. politics.
The tweets about a new Immigration Ban promises to make things immeasurably harder. Although we have not seen the order, we would like to note that backlogged individuals already in the U.S., waiting for Green Cards in the Employment-Based category, have already proven to the government that there are no Americans able to do that job and it is unfair to exclude them from the United States on a false premise. The free market has already shown time and again that in the case of a downturn in the economy, immigration and visa petitions drop drastically. The market determines the flow efficiently, as history has shown repeatedly. The threat of losing the limited legal standing we have right now is alarming. What is a mere tweet or a scroll-through piece of news for others, is a crisis of epic proportions for us. Losing our immigration status takes us beyond indentured servitude and brings us closer to being homeless slaves with no recourse to finding respite for the years we have lived as part of local US communities and contributed to building America.
Once the new Executive Order is out, we will not be able to leave the country to tend to an ailing mother or father, sister, or brother. Because now our visas will not get renewed or stamped, even if USCIS or the embassies are open, under the guise of implementing the Executive Order due to closed immigration offices, embassies, consulates, or even new executive orders. We are prisoners here until the time we are unceremoniously kicked out of this country and our lives, if the primary applicant is fired, or his/ her status is not renewed despite Green Card approval, or he/ she dies while serving on the frontlines of the pandemic.
We have always maintained that the only fix to the backlog is to eliminate per-country limits. S.386: Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act is the only bill before Congress that can begin to fix the broken immigration system. A bipartisan bill that makes the Green Card system “first-come first-processed” and ensures that backlogged immigrants can become permanent residents of the U.S. in this lifetime. We are afraid it might be too late for that!
We have a few questions for our friends and well-wishers in Congress, or for that matter, anyone who values the American values of “freedom, equality, justice” and is not an anti-immigrant or anti-Indian.
- Why are we being punished for doing what is right and good?
- What have we done that we deserve such treatment where it is okay to destroy us mentally, financially, and uproot us from our home because of a discriminatory process in the first place?
- Were our lives not painfully uncertain and difficult before the pandemic, that now we are being treated as worthless and akin to use and throw faceless creatures?
- What can we do to show you that we are also worthy of being treated equally? What can we do to stop this unnatural and unbearable onslaught from all sides?
Not even criminals deserve to be treated this way.
At a time when we ought to be focused on protecting our families, we are bracing to be stripped of whatever limited rights we have, we fervently hoped that our allies in Congress would help us to at least pass S.386 so that some of our backlogged families could be safeguarded but instead we are dealing with the threat of losing the last shreds of our safeguards.
If Congress acts now, at least some of these innocent backlogged families could be saved…However, it looks like the only person happier than the Administration with our deportation will be Senator Dick Durbin who has attacked the law-abiding skilled immigrants from India and our families for decades now.
Tell us, Senator Durbin – Where is Home for us?