Green card: Indian-American healthcare workers hold protest at US Capitol

Urging American lawmakers to pass a legislation that ends the archaic per country quota for legal permanent residency in the US, a group of frontline Indian-American healthcare professionals, stuck in the 150-plus-year Green Card backlog, held a peaceful demonstration in front of the Capitol.

A Green Card, known officially as a Permanent Resident Card, is a document issued to immigrants to the US as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the country.

In a joint statement on Monday, the Indian-American doctors said that they are in a 150-plus-year Green Card backlog due to archaic country caps that allows no nation to get more than seven per cent of employment-based green cards.

India is a land of a billion plus people but the number of green cards it gets is the same as a country as small as Iceland. There is no cap on H-1B visa though and Indians make 50 per cent of the H-1B work force. This discrepancy between H-1B and green cards has created an inhuman backlog that is adversely affecting our professional and personal lives, they said.

Indian IT professionals, most of whom are highly skilled and come to the US mainly on the H-1B work visas, are the worst sufferers of the current immigration system which imposes a seven per cent per country quota on allotment of the coveted Green Card or permanent legal residency.

The protesters said that the fairness bill removes country caps and allots green cards as a first come first serve basis. It passed in the House of Representatives by 365 votes in 2019 and its Senate equivalent S386 passed the Senate in 2020. Now the bill is back to the House as a modified version.

They urged Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to bring it to vote as a bipartisan solution to end the suffering of skilled professionals.

The Green Card backlog is taking a toll on the frontline health care workers and their families. They are living in fear and anxiety, Dr Namita Dhiman, a child and adolescent psychiatrist said.

US President Joe Biden should end the Green Card backlog by allowing USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to utilise unused green cards from the past years for the frontline healthcare workers in the backlog, she said.

COVID-19 has been brutal to frontline healthcare workers and the green card backlog makes it miserable. This is leading to serious mental health issues in this group, Dhiman added.

Baltimore-based Dr Santanu Samanta, a radiation oncologist, said he feels threatened about the consequences to his family and his job, if there is no change brought in the Green Card system.

I would desperately want to see changes that would help us become permanent green holders to serve people in this country, he said.

Due to being stuck in the Green Card backlog, I couldn’t get fellowship training for four years despite being the most worthy candidate. After training is finished, I couldn’t find an appropriate job. My wife and daughter got so scared during COVID Pandemic that they wanted to go back to India, said Dr Saurabh Ranjan, an interventional cardiologist.

If I die while on H-1B visa, I don’t get any benefits and my family will be deported. After serving the last 10 years as a physician, I still am alien and feel so desperate and hopeless how we have been treated in regard to green cards and citizenship, Dr Ranjan said.

Infectious disease and critical care physician from Wisconsin Dr Raj Karnatak said that they are fighting to save lives on the frontline knowing that if they get sick or die serving on the frontline, their families will get deported.


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