Monday, February 05, 2018

The American Dream ... not the Saudi Dream!

I think it was in the fifth or sixth grade when a classmate--Rabindranath, according to my memory--gave me a Saudi Arabia stamp.  For free. 

Unlike the usual protocols where stamps were exchanged, here I was getting one for free. What was the deal?

It turned out that Rabindranath was leaving school and leaving town. His father was going to work in Saudi Arabia.

Since then, I have known plenty of people who left for the "Gulf," as the usage was back then.  It meant that they could be working in any of the kingdoms/emirates near the Persian Gulf.  Some of them took their families also along.  The children attended schools there, and then came to India for college or went to other countries for higher education.  When the parents' contract ended, they returned to India or tried to immigrate elsewhere.

People went on work visas, and the end of work was also the end of their visa status.

The US, on the other hand, was highly restrictive.  Back then, a rare few went to the US on work visas.  Almost always, those who went to the US to work settled down there, raised their kids as Americans, and visited India with their American passports.  This was a small number of people compared to the crowds from the Gulf.

Over the years, we have gotten so much used to the idea of American work visas translating into American citizenship that I think we have started making the mistake of equating American work visas to American citizenship. 

And, thus, we have a new battlefront emerging about another group of Dreamers--these are the children of people who are in the US on work visas.
Nicknamed “H-4 Dreamers,” the children were brought to America from India with their parents on H-4, or dependent, visas. Until they turn 21, their status is the same as that of their parents, so if their parents become citizens, they do as well.
Many parents take this approach, coming into the country for a short period on an H-1B visa as a skilled worker and then applying to stay on an immigrant visa.
That’s usually not a problem, unless the family is from India, where there’s a 70-year wait for immigrant visa status because of a large number of qualified applicants.
They are pissed off that their parents came to the US on legal work visas, but are stuck in the Green Card lane forever, while the children of the parents who are here without legal papers are the ones who are getting all the attention.  The H4 Dreamers are not treated as "natives" when they apply for undergraduate education--because they are not permanent residents. And, even worse, when they turn 21, they cannot even continue as dependents on their parents' visas.

So, guess who organized a protest in DC about this?  The Republican Hindu Coalition.  Yes, "Hindu"--not "Indian."
“Trump loves Hindus,” “Trump loves India,” “Trump bringing Ram Rajya,” “Indians love Trump,” said the slogans
This is fucking nuts!  trump and "Ram Rajya"?  Do these people know anything about Ram, and about trump?
The march on Saturday, while endorsing Mr. Trump’s approach to immigration, was to highlight the issues concerning the legal residents who are already in the country. “While the current discussion is primarily focussing on those who illegally entered the country, we are working with the lawmakers to get some attention on this group that reached this country legally but face uncertainty now,” said Mr. Bansal.
The hindutva/modi/trump alliance is unholy as hell!

But then, this is yet another reason why I love this country--even non-citizens can protest here, unlike in the "Gulf."



Ramesh said...

Number of strands to comment on

The Republican "Hindu" coalition is probably a fringe group full of nutters. Anybody who thinks Trump brings Ram Rajya is probably "batshit crazy" (re : your comment in the last post !)

I do not have much sympathy for the H4 Dreamers, especially their parents. It was clear from the outset that they went there on a work visa. And their children, when they turn 21, have to move on. There's nothing unfair about it - that's the law in almost every country. People work for 30 years in the Gulf and then come back after retirement and nobody has any issue with the "Dreamers" there.

The big issue is how badly Indians are treated in the Gulf. It is only a step down from the system of indentured labour that the British used. Exploited to the core simply because of the relative differences in wage. Zero rights and almost everybody is exploited. But then the solution is not really to rave about what theGulf countrties do (abhorrent as it might be). The solution is to improve job and economic conditions in India. Something of that nature has happened - the flood to the Gulf has somewhat slowed down.

Sriram Khé said...

Nope, this is not a fringe group of nutters. The backer behind this protest is the same guy who organized that ad for trump based on modi's line: "ab ki baar, trump sarkar" ... he is a big-time trump backer/fundraiser, who is now using the merit-based visa rhetoric.

I agree with you about the terrible treatment of Indian (and other browns as well) workers in the Gulf. Terrible exploitation :( Especially after the drop in oil prices ...

You and I are mostly in agreement these days, which should worry you that you are becoming a liberal like us ;)