American DREAM Or American Nightmare? The Plight Of Indian American Immigrant Children

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Vikram Kumar Chairman and CEO of AVG Group
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This is arguably the most prosperous time in history to be an American. Alternatively it is a particularly precarious time to be a child of immigrant parents in America, especially if your parents came here legally.

That’s right, I said “legally.”

“I wish I were an illegal child instead of a legal one.” As a standalone statement, those words are perplexing but in present context it serves as the mantra of 200,000 Indian American children who were brought here legally by their parents on H1-B visas. Those children now face the real threat of self-deportation once they turn 21 years old due to the end of their H-4 dependent status and a seemingly endless backlog of green card dissemination. My community of Indian Americans refers to this issue as DALCA, or Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals. The caveat to just plain DACA is that the pathway to citizenship only applies to children who were brought here illegally. The conspicuous absence of this status disparity from Congressional discussions and the in the media is a truly sad scenario that is leading to a brain drain in the United States. The DALCA voice is just not loud enough and it’s about time we turned the volume up.

I was lucky enough to have been born in this country in the early 1980ss to a mother and father who came here from India in the late 1960s on student visas. Compared to Indian immigrants today, my family and I are generationally lucky. The young people who are losing their legal status are no different than my siblings and I were; The real MTV is gone but DALCA kids have been raised on Dorito’s, PlayStation and Coke just like we were and now they’re being forced to leave — which benefits “Silicon Vancouver” and beyond. Each high skilled worker who is forced to move is a loss for the U.S. and our future as a competitive tech country.

Nearly a dozen Indian families at my company alone have shipped off to Vancouver because of the prospect of their child losing H-4 status or because it’s happened already. It’s also prohibitively expensive for a child to remain here on an F-1 foreign student visa once their H-4 runs out. I can’t find enough H1-B holders to fill all of the open positions at my company as the talent’s being pushed out! Prior to the new millennium it would only take 6 months to get a green card. Now the wait is up to 60-70 years. Many H1-B holders will die before they get a green card and since they can renew their visas an unlimited amount of times, they’ll spend their entire lives on H1-B status.

June 25 has been set as a self-inflicted deadline by the House GOP to secure the legal status of Dreamers at least for a few more years. I think that is a noble cause which will put the minds of many a young dreamer at ease. Those children, teens and millennials will hopefully get to stay in the U.S., finish high school, go to college and get jobs in the only country they call home. Eventually they will have the opportunity to become citizens and vote. What this legislative deadline doesn’t do is placate any Indian American children who entered this country legally and that is just wrong.

There has been zero debate of the DALCA issue on either the House or Senate Floors and the only real mentions of it anywhere are in India based periodicals since it affects Indian Americans more than any other minority; 70 percent of EB visas have been awarded to Indian Americans in the past decade. Congress needs to address this problem and include the DALCA dreamers in whatever compassionate fix they intend to bestow upon the DACA dreamers. We cannot let this talent spill out of our country which will in turn deter continued growth and prosperity.

To me this is an easy fix – simply adjust the White House policy on DACA by including the word “legal” in its immigration framework. Current framework is below:

DACA LEGALIZATION:  “Provide legal status for DACA recipients and other DACA-eligible illegal immigrants, adjusting the time-frame to encompass a total population of approximately 1.8 million individuals.

I commend Sen. Rand Paul for having the courage to call out Congress on their hypocrisy on this issue. I also urge President Trump to fix this for the betterment of the country so that we can continue our contributions of creating jobs and making this country greater for generations to come.

… as we endeavor in good faith to come up with a compromise that would remedy the effects caused by the repeal of the DACA program, we must not lose sight of the fact, that, under the current system, when H-1B visa holders from certain countries are forced to  wait decades to receive a green card, the children of those H-1B holders can fall out of legal status and would not be covered by either DACA or the DREAM Act. Those children who came in legally through no fault of anyone will suddenly be faced with the choice of remaining illegally in the United States or leaving the only country they have even known as home…a group that includes some of the most talented young students in America’s schools today.” — Sen. Rand Paul

Vikram Kumar, a, member of the Republican Hindu Coalition, is chairman and CEO of AVG Group, an electronics company based in Chicago.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.