The Trump administration doesn't want to make life miserable for immigrants who don't play by the rules of America's broken
immigration system but even those who do. Consider its treatment of the spouses of high-skilled H-1B immigrants, the vast majority from India.
These spouses aren't allowed to work till their husbands'—and their—green cards are processed. When I came to the United States from India in 1985, I note in a column in The New York Times, the average wait times to switch from these visas to green cards was four years.
But things have gotten infinitely worse for Indian spouses who came after me because, thanks to a layer of quotas, green card backlogs for Indian nationals now span decades. This means that Indian wives are essentially frozen out of the U.S. labor market for life, even though they tend to be highly qualified. Hence they've taken to calling their visa "the involuntary housewife visa."
The real solution to their plight would be to get rid of the quotas that have created the green card backlogs. And, indeed, there is a bipartisan bill called the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act of 2017 that would eliminate both the per country quota for employment-based green cards and increase the quota for family-based ones.
But any such legislation did not have a prayer of passing during President Obama's term. So he took a small step in addressing their plight by handing work authorization to those H-1B spouses whose green card application had been filed and accepted and so it was just a matter of time—a very lon….g time, to be sure—before they got their green cards. This made complete sense given that at that stage these women are here to stay, and so what would be the point of preventing them from working and paying taxes?
The policy offered relief to about 100,000 primarily Indian women, but the Trump administration has announced that, come June, it will rescind the Obama-era rule—no doubt because it has succumbed to the restrictionist argument that work authorization for H-1B spouses means that the United States would end up "importing" two foreign workers for every one.
But squandering talent won't only not Make America Great Again, it'll make the restrictionist worry that immigrants today prefer to live transnational lives rather than assimilate a self-fulfilling prophecy. "A job is not just income," I note. "It is also an assimilation program because it offers an entry into a new culture and a chance to form new friendships."
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