US President Joe Biden has moved swiftly to undo most of the harsh anti-immigration policies initiated by his predecessor Donald Trump. He has kept one of his key poll pledges by moving one of the most sweeping legislative reforms to America’s immigration processes. If passed by both chambers – the Democrats control the House of Representatives and enjoy a wafer-thin majority in the Senate – it could see America return to its pre-eminent position as the beacon of hope for oppressed people everywhere, as well as those who simply dream of a better life for themselves or their children.
He has already used his executive authority to halt construction of the Mexico wall, axed the so-called Muslim travel ban and reinstated the DACA programme, which protects illegal immigrants who were brought in as children. Getting the US Citizenship Act of 2021 through both Houses may prove a tougher act, as the last time an attempt was made to pave a path to citizenship for juvenile illegal immigrants, some Democrats sided with the Republicans in shooting it down.
Nevertheless, Indians have much to cheer, with Biden’s latest move. The Act proposes an eight-year pathway to citizenship for more than 11 million undocumented workers, of whom at least half-a-million are Indian. It also plans to eliminate country-based quotas for employment-based green cards and work authorisation for dependents of H-1B foreign workers, both of which will ease the path for Indian knowledge workers, particularly those in the IT sector.
Those who have been waiting more than 10 years for green cards also get immediate legal residency, which will benefit tens of thousands of Indian tech workers and their families. More encouragingly, a Gallup poll found that for the first time since 1965, more Americans believe immigration should be increased. Biden appears to have ushered in an era of greater inclusivity for America.