OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA, U.S. SENATORS AND MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Dear President Obama, Honorable Senators and Members of Congress,
I am writing this letter as a concerned citizen and member of the California State Bar to alert of you a dire situation affecting the lives of thousands of individuals, mostly women, in theUnited States. As a lawyer focusing in immigration, it is my duty to inform you, representatives of the State, about any inconsistencies in U.S immigration policy that negatively impact the well-being of theUnited Statesand its citizens. I am specifically referring to the work status of H4 non-immigrant visa holders. H4 visa holders are the spouses and children of H1B non-immigrant workers; they are classified as ‘dependents’ and are restricted from being able to work for a living while under H4 status. Such labor restrictions are driving H1B families into economic and psychological tribulations. Before we can properly assess the relevancy of this problem, we must first understand the role of H1B visa holders in theUnited Stateseconomy.
H1B visas are temporary, nonimmigrant visas granted to foreign workers possessing specialized skills for a particular industry, that are uncommon in the U.S labor force. According to the United States Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, these foreign workers require “the theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty” in order to qualify for the H1B visa. Only a limited number of visas are issued each year, and employers must file ahead of time in order to hire foreign workers. Many American companies use the specialized skills of these foreign workers to increase the profitability of their company as well as to train their American workers in these unique technical skills. In this regard, H1B workers are an invaluable asset to the U.S economy, due to their specific knowledge and experience in their particular industry. Despite their obvious benefit to American companies, U.S immigration policy inhibits the freedom of H1B visa holders and in particular their dependents, the H4 visa holders, causing forms of mental and economic depression.
U.S immigration policy restrictions placed on H4 visa holders, prohibit them from being legally employed. This has constituted tremendous difficulties for many H1B workers and their families. By being legally confined to one source of income, many of these H1B workers are unable to financially sustain their families. Besides economic distress, a more drastic effect of the H4 labor restrictions has been the psychological trauma suffered by spouses (mostly women) of H1B workers, which has resulted in two forms.
The first form is in reference to those spouses who have valued technical skills, but are barred from applying them in the labor market. As a result, these spouses frequently suffer from various psychological disorders, such as chronic depression and suicidal tendency. The second form of psychological trauma has occurred with H4 holders who are victims of mental abuse from their spouses. Currently U.S immigration policy does not grant a VAWA visa or a U-Visa, for mental abuse; hence these H4 holders are coerced into a life of domestic violence.
As an advocate for immigrant rights in the United States, I have heard the testimonies of many H4 visa dependents that confirm the hardships caused by U.S immigration policy, that contradict the values and ideals of this country. Enclosed is a CD of our radio show where dozens of H4 visa holders expressed their pain on the radio show for over three hours to a documented audience of over 10,000 people nation-wide (see KLOK 1170 AM radio audience www.klok1170am.com) . Moreover, we have a started an online petition on www.change.org (H4 visa rights – http://www.change.org/petitions/give-more-rights-to-h4-visa-holders). This petition has gathered 1000 signatures along with heartbreaking comments from the signatories. A copy of the petition, signatures and comments are enclosed.
In order to rectify these injustices, I propose an amendment to H4 visa regulations for:
a) Allowing the employment of H4 holders; and
b) Allowing H4 holders to self-petition in case of a divorce or separation to stay in theUnited Statesand be able to continue their lives peacefully;
c) Alternatively allow the H4 visa holders to start a small business with the requirement of hiring at least one US citizen, thus potentially creating thousands of jobs.
While U.S immigration policies have improved and provided great mutual benefit for foreign workers and American business, there are still many imperfections in the law that must be refined.
On March 2012, the Department of Home Security made the following proposition:
|DHS/USCIS||RIN: 1615-AB92||Publication ID: Spring 2011|
|Title: ●Allowing Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses to Apply for Employment Authorization.|
|Abstract: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposes to amend its regulations by extending the availability of employment authorization to H-4 dependent spouses of principal H-1B nonimmigrants who have begun the process of seeking lawful permanent resident (LPR) status through employment and have extended their authorized period of admission or “stay” in the U.S. under section 104(c) or 106(a) of Public Law 106-313, also known as the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 (AC21). Allowing the eligible class of H-4 dependent spouses to work encourages professionals with high demand skills to remain in the country and help spur the innovation and growth of U.S. companies, and thus allow the United States to remain a world leader in high technology.|
Passing the above will be a great start especially now that the waiting time for many of the H1B visa holders to obtain a permanent residence has been extended minimum of 2 years in case of the Employment Based Category 2 (EB2) for most countries and to “unknown” or “unavailable” for people from India and mainland China. As for those on EB3, the waiting time is close to 30 years. This is really not acceptable.
The issue at hand traverses both economic concerns and moral obligations. At present these policies hinder both the lives of immigrant workers as well as the prosperity of American businesses. The proposed amendments are a better alternative in fulfilling the needs of theUnited States. I urge you to reform this policy and enact these laws, for the benefit of our great nation.
President and Managing Attorney
Shah Peerally Law Group PC