Everyone has a fix for ‘broken’ US immigration system

Washington, April 15 (IANS) With an estimated 11.5 million foreigners, including some 260,000 Indians, living in the country illegally, everyone is agreed that the US immigration system is broken and everyone has their own fix.

A so-called Gang of Eight Senators – four Democrats and four Republicans – is said to have worked out a deal offering undocumented workers a path to citizenship in 13 years. Another bipartisan Gang of Eight in the House is also working out its own separate scheme.

President Barack Obama, who has made immigration reform a key priority of his second term, has his own back up plan if the legislators fail to agree on one.

And Indian-Americans have their own take on the issue.

Community bodies like the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a coalition of 41 organisations from the sub-continent, favours preference for family ties in giving permanent residence green cards to immigarnts.

Professional bodies like the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and the North American Association of Indian IT Professional (NAIIP), have sought more green cards for doctors and techies respectively.

Even the Indian ambassador to the US, Nirupama Rao has made out a case for a generous visa policy for highly skilled workers saying it would help everyone and both “India and the United States would come out winners.”

The latest Census Bureau estimates indicate that one third of the 11.5 million unauthorized resident foreigners in 2011 had entered from 2000 to 2010.

There are three types of illegal immigrants in the US. Nearly six in ten of the undocumented come from Mexico, many of them crossing over surreptitiously.

About 40 percent of illegal immigrants are made up of those who overstay their non-immigrant visas. Indians students, tourists and semi-skilled workers tend to fall into this category.

According to a March Congressional Research Service (CRS) report the number of foreign-born residents in the US reached 40 million in 2010, its highest level in US history, and made up 12.9 percent of the total US population.

In fiscal 2011, 1.1 million foreigners became US legal permanent residents. Of this total, nearly 65 percent entered on the basis of family ties.

Mexico was the source country of 14 percent of them. Other top countries were China (8.2 percent), India (6.5 percent), Philippines (5.4 percent), and the Dominican Republic (4.3 percent).

Although Europe was home to the countries sending the most immigrants during the early 20th century Mexico has been a top sending country for most of the 20 th century-largely after 1970-and into the 21st century.

Other top sending countries from fiscal 2001 through fiscal 2010 were the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Colombia, and Cuba (Western Hemisphere); and the Philippines, India, China, South Korea, and Vietnam (Asia).

But professional and skilled workers and unskilled workers from China, India, and the Philippines have to wait for long years to get green cards due to a country quota system.

According to recent Public Religion Research Institute and The Brookings Institution survey more than 6-in-10 (63 percent) Americans agree that illegal immigrants should be given a way to become citizens, provided they meet certain requirements.

More than 7-in-10 (71 percent) Democrats, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of independents, and a majority (53 percent) of Republicans favor an earned path to citizenship.

Overall, Americans are more likely to have positive rather than negative views about immigrants, it said.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])

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