What can Indian Americans expect from an administration headed by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris?
The answers include many issues important to the desi community, including H1-B visas, green cards, the need for inclusion and diversity.
Neha Dewan served as the national director for South Asians for Biden, a volunteer organization that mobilized support for Biden in the run-up to the presidential election. Dewan, who works at a law firm, in a previous avatar in 2012 worked at South Asians for Obama as state director for their New York chapter, and as the national co-chair for South Asians for Hillary in 2016.
In a conversation with SEEMA even before the elections, Dewan spoke about how a Biden administration will be good for India-U.S. relations and the South Asian community.
One of the most important issues for Indian immigrants has been the cap on H1-B visas. Biden has already spoken about bringing reforms here.
“One of the things which speaks to me as an immigrant is that he (Biden) is going to remove these H1-B caps. The cap … disproportionately impacts Indians,” Dewan had told SEEMA.
Overall, the Biden administration is likely to take a more liberal approach to immigration, she said, pointing out that candidate Biden had released a policy document that specifically addressed his plan for the Indian American community. It stated, “he will support first reforming the temporary visa system for high-skill, specialty jobs to protect wages and workers, then expanding the number of visas offered and eliminating the limits on employment-based green cards by country, which have kept so many Indian families in waiting for too long.”
The policy document also asserted that Biden would immediately begin working with Congress “to pass legislative immigration reform that modernizes our system, with a priority on keeping families together by providing a road map to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants — including more than 500,000 from India.”
The Trump administration had suspended the issuing of H1-B, L, and other work visas till December 2020. A US judge blocked the temporary ban in October. The H1-B is a non-immigrant visa that lets American companies hire foreign nationals in professions that need theoretical or technical expertise. These are the visas most sought by IT and other high-skilled professionals from India.
Speaking about Kamala Harris, who is set to become the first Black and South Asian American woman to be the United States vice president, Dewan said, “He (Biden) picked Kamala Harris and that truly speaks to his vision for diversity and inclusion in ways that has not been done in the past.”
“In doing that he is acknowledging the South Asian community,” she added.
Indian Americans are set to play a significant role in the Biden administration. Recently, Biden named Vivek Murthy, an Indian American, to be the surgeon general in his administration. Murthy is also the co-chair of Biden’s advisory board on combating Covid-19. He was surgeon general in the Obama administration. Biden also picked Neera Tandon, another Indian American, to be the director of the Office of Management and Budget. There have been many others who thereafter.