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But in some ways, it is even more tragic – because they are young Indian adults on the pathway to legal immigration, and they say they are having to make way for illegal immigrants first.
Scores of Indian-origin teenagers and young adults supported by parents and activists rallied on Capitol Hill on Wednesday in an effort to draw attention to their strange plight that is resulting in them having to “self-deport” themselves when they reach the age of 21 — even though their parents are in the US on legal work visas. They dubbed the DALCA kids, for Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals, as opposed to the more high-profile DACA, the sought-after pathway to citizenship that applies to children who came to US illegally.
And why do DALCA kids have to self-deport at 21? Because that is when their H-4 dependent status ends, even through their parents, most of whom are on H-1B visas, remain in green card limbo, their permanent residency applications taking as long as 70-plus years because of a backlog that is particularly tough on Indians because of their high numbers.
By some accounts, there are nearly 200,000 Indian-American children who were brought to the US legally by their parents on H-1B or other work visas. Their prevailing sentiment, says Vikram Aditya Kumar, one of Wednesday’s rally organisers, is “I wish I were an illegally arrived child instead of a legal one.” While DACA hopefuls are getting all the attention, the DALCA voice, he says, “is just not loud enough” even though losing DALCA kids, most of them in the STEM track, could potentially cause a brain drain for the US.
“Each high-skilled worker who is forced to move is a loss for the US and our future as a competitive tech country,” says Kumar, who is also chairman of the chairman of Republican Hindu Coalition, warning that many young adults are shipping out to what he calls “Silicon Vancouver,” the Canadian city just across the border. “We cannot let this talent spill out of our country. Congress must fix the root-cause of the DALCA problem: the 60-70-year backlog of high-skilled immigrants from India.”
A few lawmakers like Senator Rand Paul are sympathetic, but the clock is running down. June 25 has been set as a deadline by the House GOP to secure the legal status of the so-called Dreamers, and Congress, says Kumar, needs to address this problem and “include the DALCA Dreamers in whatever compassionate fix they intend to bestow upon the DACA Dreamers.”
Such is the sense of urgency and desperation that Kumar, whose father Shalabh Kumar sprang into limelight with a million dollar contribution to the Trump campaign when no one expected him to win, says the Indian-American community is offering to raise $25 billion over the next decade to help build President Trump’s wall.
How they will raise such an immense amount of money is not clear. But the bait appears aimed more at attracting attention to the cause of DALCA youngsters and their economic potential, and the fact illegals are getting first dibs on immigration ahead of those on the legal track.
As of Thursday morning there was a glimmer of hope for the DALCA young adults. Draft proposals being circulated on the Hill showed both individuals who qualify for the new iteration of a DACA permit and children of legal immigrants who have grown up in the country but may be aging out of status to apply for a green card after a waiting period.