— WASHINGTON, D.C.
Gathering in front of the White House, several hundred Indian- Americans declared their support for President Donald Trump's proposed merit-based immigration plan and called on him to end the per-country quota on green cards.
The Feb. 3 rally under the auspices of the Republican Hindu Coalition drew participants from around the country, most of them high-skilled professionals with H-1B visas awaiting green cards.
They carried signs that said "We Love Trump," "Trump Loves Hindus," "Trump is Not a Racist" and "End Chain, Reallocate to Skilled." Their signs and banners reflected their disdain for DACA — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — calling on the White House to consider the plight of children of H-1B skilled workers and those caught up in green card backlogs who could be subject to deportation.
"No DACA without DALCA" rally participants chanted, adding an L to the acronym for the Obama-era program. The modified acronym referred to the plight of Indian children whom they dubbed DALCA — Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals.
"In the entire immigration debate so far, this is the first time the issue of clearing the green card backlog for high-skilled professionals has been taken up. All this is because of efforts of Republican Hindu Coalition," said Krishna Bansal, national policy and political director of the RHC.
"Besides 700,000 DACA kids, there are 200,000 DALCA kids, children of legal immigrants-inline from India, who have never broken the law, but who simply age out at 21 and have to go back, because their parents have a 60-year wait to get their green card after it is approved."
He said that the RHC has been in touch with the major players in Congress and the White House who are involved in legislation addressing these issues. "We are with President Trump for taking initiative towards a merit-based immigration system," he said. He noted that Trump had said in his State of the Union address on Jan. 30 that the nation must move toward a merit-based system.
"Any initiative to move towards a merit-based immigration system is highly laudable," said Souptik Mukherjee, another RHC team member.
Anil Sharma, another organizer of the rally, said the gathering was also being held to reassure the community. "The Hindu and Indian community has some anxiety related to immigration issues," Sharma said. "This event will help to alleviate their anxieties and give them back the confidence."
Bansal said the rally was a show of support for Trump. "We have once again demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Hindu- Americans under the leadership provided by RHC have come to love this businessman-turned-politician [Trump] who is bold, speaks the truth and is a man of action. It was quite evident from this rally that Hindus totally debunk the mainstream narrative of Trump being a racist. RHC believes that President Trump would be remembered as a historical, and one of the best presidents of the country." Bansal said the rally was sponsored by Chicago's Kumar family, with Shalabh "Shalli" Kumar at the helm.
Bansal said that RHC has made it clear that lawmakers must do "what is ethically and morally right, issue green cards to DALCA kids....Where DACA broke the law, DALCA did not."
An emotionally-charged speech delivered by Akshita Ramesh, 13, of Virginia, drove the point home. Ramesh, a student at Ronald Regan Middle School in Virginia, spoke of the strain the green card backlogs been on parents who came to the U.S. with their skills, seeking a better life and were now caught in a decadeslong limbo.
She said H-4 visa dreamers like her could end up aging out of the system at 21 and not receive permanent residency because of her parents' long wait for green cards.
"I have always known I was born in India and that I was on an H-4 Visa with my dad having an approved petition to apply for green card, but I didn't know about everything to the full extent. I didn't know that being on a H-4 could mean that it will be much harder for colleges to accept me, no matter how good my grades are," she said. Ramesh said that all of her dreams could be shattered "just because I was born in a different country that I barely even lived in. Don't you think that's unfair?"
'RHC believes that President Trump would be remembered as....one of the best presidents of the country' – Krishna Bansal