By Lalit K Jha
Washington, Jan 30 (PTI) An advocacy group in the US has come up with a proposal under which Green Card aspirants will have to pay an additional one-time USD 2,500 fee to get Americas coveted legal permanent residency.
The funds -- an estimated USD 4 billion -- collected through the channel from hundreds of thousands of aspirants will be used for enhancing security mechanism in the US including construction of a wall along the Mexico border, according to the Immigration Voice.
The Washington-based the non-profit organisation said it is currently working with several US lawmakers, pushing to incorporate this provision in an upcoming legislation, being widely referred to as the DACA or deferred action against childhood arrivals package.
It argues that all that is needed to raise USD 4 billion is to include HR 392, or the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, into any appropriations legislation, that is under consideration, and add a USD-2,500 fee to it.
This fee will be paid by each individual who will receive permanent residency under this bill whose Green Card would otherwise have taken longer under the status quo, it said.
"This is a win-win (situation) for everybody," Leon Fresco, working with the Immigration Voice, told PTI.
He has formerly worked as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Immigration Litigation at Department of Justice Civil Division.
President Donald Trump has affirmed that he does not want US tax payers to pay for the wall, Fresco said, adding it is a big issue because Mexico does not want to pay for the wall.
There are an estimated 1-1.5 million Indian Americans in the US waiting for Green Card and have a much longer wait than anyone else, because of the seven per cent cap that exists per country for it, he said.
The bill, HR 392, which seeks to remove the per country quota, is not going anywhere even there are more than 300 co- sponsors, he said.
Fresco said in order to have an incentive for the Congress and the administration to include this bill in the upcoming DACA package, Immigration Voice came up with this innovative idea of the Green Card seekers to help raise the funds for the wall and border security.
This -- USD 2,500 -- is the amount an Indian American on a temporary visa has to spend on fees, and related travel to continue to stay in the US.
"This is basically a one upfront fee going to the treasury," he said.
"The Congress likes this," Fresco said, noting that the challenge is to incorporate this in the upcoming DACA bill.
The initiative is currently being led by Congressman Kevin Yoder and Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who has written a dear colleague letter in support of the HR392 urging them to add this to the upcoming DACA package.
The two lawmakers have shared their plan with the White House and Congressional leadership.
"Under this plan, all those seeking permanent legal residency would pay USD 2,500 per applicant to get the Green Card by doing away with the per country quota," Aman Kapoor, co-founder of Immigration Voice, said.
"This will help raise USD 4 billion. This can be used for border security," Kapoor said, adding there is an overwhelming support among the Green Card applicants on this.
The proposal means that a family of four would have to give a onetime fee of USD 10,000 to get a Green Card, he said.
Kapoor said the proposal to raise USD 4 billion by increasing the one-time application fee is being added to the bill. A dear colleague letter written by Yoder and Gabbard is seeking to incorporate this proposal in the DACA/Dreamer bill.
"This fee will not be paid by the companies, but the Green Card applicant," Kapoor said in response to a question.
"The proposal does not force anybody to pay. Those applicants who do not want to pay this one-time fee, they would continue to be in the queue of Green Card, which at present for an Indian range from 29 years to 70 years," he said.
"The overriding purpose of the employment-based Green Card system is to provide permanent residence to individuals who add value to the US economy. This bill creates a fair and equitable, first come, first serve system, putting an end to the discriminatory process that has left hundreds of thousands of our constituents in immigration limbo," Yoder and Gabbard said in their letter.
In a fact sheet, Immigration Voice said all individuals who would benefit from removal of the "discriminatory" Green- Card provisions of the current system would be more than willing to pay USD 2,500 in order to be able to start their businesses and employ American workers more quickly.
The group argues that this kind of programme has been done in the past. In 2010, a USD 2,500-fee was added to certain H-1B visas to pay for a supplemental border security bill. In 2014, the fee was renewed and increased to USD 5,000 to pay for biometric visa security programmes and for health care for 9/11 first responders.
"Given that HR 392 already has over 300 co-sponsors, this bill could be added to a moving vehicle without as much opposition and without creating any controversy whatsoever," the Immigration Voice said. PTI LKJ KIS AKJ KIS