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Immigration Reform: Where The Candidates Stand

Neeraja Deshpande

Immigration reform has been one of the most biggest issues this election season, inciting strong opinions, emotions, and overall responses from the both sides of the political spectrum in the United States.

This is a particularly pressing issue for the South Asian-American community, with the vast majority of its population being composed of immigrants and their children.

The two major visas South Asian immigrants arrive on are the H-1B visa and the F1 visa. The H1-B is a non-immigrant visa which US companies can use to employ foreign workers for up to six years in specialized fields, including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, provided the recipient has an undergraduate degree and licensure. With India producing more trained graduates in these fields than the US, many immigrants are brought in on these visas. According to the Online Journal of the Migration Policy Institute, Indian citizens make up around 70% of H-1B visa recipients; half of these workers end up staying in the United States on a Green Card. (Zong)

Only behind China in exporting international students to America, India sends thousands of Indian students to study abroad in the United States (Zong). Many of these students arrive on the F-1 visa, which allows them to study in the US under a non-immigrant status.

Disregarding the third party alternatives (namely Gary Johnson and Bill Weld of the Libertarian Party, and Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Green Party) there are two major choices on the ticket for November: Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine of the Democratic Party, or Donald Trump and Mike Pence of the Republican Party.

In a statement issued in the early March of this year, Trump has his official policy listed on visas as:

“...The H-1B program is neither high-skilled nor immigration: these are temporary foreign workers, imported from abroad, for the explicit purpose of substituting for American workers at lower pay. I remain totally committed to eliminating rampant, widespread H-1B abuse and ending outrageous practices… I will end forever the use of the H-1B as a cheap labor program, and institute an absolute requirement to hire American workers first for every visa and immigration program. No exceptions.”

Trump has repeatedly called the H-1B program “unfair” for American workers, and during the March 10th Republican debate on CNN, he explicitly stated that the US needs to end the program. ("Transcript of Republican Debate in Miami, Full Text.")

Clinton, on the other hand, has stated quite the opposite, supporting an increase in the caps as compared to Trump’s desire to get rid of the program entirely. As of 2007, she has stated:

"I also want to reaffirm my commitment to the H-1B visa program and to increase the current cap. Foreign skilled workers contribute greatly to our U.S. technological development." (Thibodeau)

For voters in favor of legal immigration from South Asian nations to the United States, Hillary Clinton is clearly more aligned with those views, whereas Donald Trump’s position is better aligned with voters who are more hesitant on legal immigration. A great deal of immigration policy, and for that matter, all other policies, can be impacted in four years time, so it is important to research the candidates and their positions and track records carefully.

Thibodeau, Patrick. "Here's Where Clinton and Rubio Stand on the H-1B Visa Issue." Computerworld. N.p., 14 Apr. 2015. Web. 03 Aug. 2016. <http://www.computerworld.com/article/2909983/it-outsourcing/heres-where-clinton-and-rubio-stand-on-the-h-1b-visa-issue.html>.

"Transcript of Republican Debate in Miami, Full Text." CNN. Cable News Network, 15 Mar. 2016. Web. 03 Aug. 2016. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/10/politics/republican-debate-transcript-full-text/>.

Zong, Jie, and Jeanne Batalova. "Indian Immigrants in the United States."Migrationpolicy.org. Migration Policy Institute, 06 May 2015. Web. 03 Aug. 2016. <http://www.migrationpolicy.org/article/indian-immigrants-united-states>.

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