H1B, Green Card, H4 issues face strong DACA headwinds in gridlocked Washington DC

No wall, no deal, says Trump. Gridlock week has arrived again as bickering US lawmakers face a tight deadline for reaching deals on what to do with 700,000 immigrants who were brought into America illegally as children while Donald Trump is wagging an accusing finger at his opponents while a government shutdown looms.

Into this toxic mix where Trump will likely turn up the volume on the word "illegal" will descend a swoop of Indians on valid work visas in the green card queue restless for a breakthrough after years of waiting. The 500 odd Indian workers are hoping that timing their advocacy at a time of swirling DACA headwinds will work in their favor. Yet, Senators are privately saying "First DACA, then everything else."

Link: H1B workers from 30 states will rally for expedited Green Card processing Feb 8

Government funding, meanwhile, runs out Thursday night and a vote to fund the government could come as soon as Tuesday. This playbook for Indian H1B workers looks at the key alignments ahead of this week's tightrope in Washington D.C.

The latest we are hearing on the immigration standoff is that Congress is seriously considering leaving ~ 1.8 million immigrants, including some 700,000 recipients of the Obama era temporary protection for children in limbo for another year. If that's how the current impasse ends, it gives Trump a weapons grade persuasion tool to rile his base further before the 2018 midterm elections where Democrats needs just two wins to tip the scales.

The DACA saga enters its final bend and H1B workers will be rallying for their issues against this kind of political backdrop/ Reuters

The DACA saga enters its final bend and H1B workers will be rallying for their issues against this kind of political backdrop/ Reuters

Will a bipartisan plan to grant permanent legal status to immigrant “dreamers” and start bolstering security along the U.S.-Mexico border work if it does not lay out the detailing on the $ 25 billion Trump is seeking to fortify the border with new wall and fence construction?

Trump’s Twitter says no.

From the legal side, we asked ace immigration attorney Cyrus Mehta what might kind of stew he expects to be cooked this week and he seconded the view about a partial limbo: “Could be some sort of compromise by extending DACA short term as is in exchange for some border security, without tearing down family immigration and creating a merits system - this kicks the can down the road.”

In a fight that's as wide as Trump has made this, what is the pie that's being sliced? What's on the table and what can be taken off? Is there a pie at all? Is a negotiated settlement possible?

To understand this, we spoke to Professor Barry Nalebuff, Milton Steinbach Professor of Management at Yale and world renowned negotiation expert. Here's what he has to say: "The current “debate” on immigration is not about creating the pie. Imagine the disruption to the US economy if a million dreamers were deported. We’d lose teachers, healthcare workers, and many more. The challenge is that some Republicans view giving permanent status to DACA as a gateway drug to open immigration. Others see this as an issue that energizes their base. In such an environment, it is hard to negotiate with people who would rather not reach any resolution. Meanwhile, on the Democrat side, I fear that the folks there don’t fully appreciate what is reversible and what is irreversible. Deporting someone is irreversible. In contrast, limiting “chain” migration or ending the visa lottery is reversible. The fact is that the Democrats are not in power. Thus they should focus on finding ways to mitigate irreversible losses and then focus on winning power to reverse the reversible decisions."

If we take Nalebuff's twin themes of reversible and irreversible and apply it to the Indian cohort we are focusing on, where does it leave the 500 odd H1B workers and families who will be flying down from 30 states to push for an expedited Green Card process?

On the upside, they will arrive into a Washington DC sandbox which is geared towards immigration issues. On the other side, the term H1B has come to represent steel wool on an open wound in the Trump era. Just take a cursory glance at the USCIS Twitter handle speaks to the theme of how rotten apples can corrupt the wider arc of the entire H1B narrative. Yet, it's probably safe to say that the H1B will endure and shutting it down is one of those "irreversible" decisions which is costly to do and may take forever. What's reversible is the H4 EAD rule - far more easily done than killing the H1B, for instance. That is why, on balance, the H4 community is the worst hit in the H1B story.

From his ‘American carnage’ inauguration speech Trump to the dark themes of equating immigration with gangs (State of the Union, 2018) and now the nationwide crackdown on illegal immigrants by ICE, Trump has seeded the delusion that all immigrants (legal and illegal) are dangerous. For legal immigrants / non immigrants to push back against the notion and deal with taking on the might of the US President's mighty megaphone on social media is part of the package of living in Trump's America.

By now, a year of Trump has convinced even hardwired left wingers that persuasive skill is different from effectiveness. Trump’s initial stand was that he would deport millions of undocumented immigrants who were otherwise obeying the law and then he rescinded DACA last September, forcing a March 5 deadline on Congress to make a deal. We are likely to see more of this Trumpian dealmaking on display this week - asking for the moon and then pedaling back to his side of the middle.

Updated Date: Feb 06, 2018 00:49 AM

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