Twitter introduced me to this post by Hawkeye view. The post interspersed with Tamil catchphrases is a ridicule of those Indians in America who are on a work or student visa and root for President Obama. It characterizes them as silly and stupid and as rooting against their own interests by rooting for Obama over Romney. The best interests that the writer refers to are the paths to a green card and permanent residency for Indian immigrants and the hypothesis is that these paths are shorter and more realistic under a prospective Romney administration than a second Obama term.
As one of the Indians in America who cannot vote but annoys everyone with pro-Obama links and quotes everyday, I am going to take up the task of trying to rebut hawkeyeview’s hypothesis with a 5 point rebuttal plan. Looking forward to feedback from others who have experiences and takes on this issue.
North American energy independence , just kidding.
2. The president is but a small piece of the immigration puzzle – Passing immigration reform to staple green cards to engineering graduates is not something that can be done in the form of an executive order. It is something that requires support from the House and the Senate. The H.R. 3012 bill that is referred to in @hawkeyeview’s post is actually one that was held up in the (senate for over six months) from even being put to vote by a Republican senator Chuck Grassley. Similarly Republican senator Lamar Smith introduced similar reform in the House in a way that the desired outcome can not be achieved. While Governor Romney’s intentions may be to pass a bill that gives out green cards to science and engineering graduates, Congressional process and polarization over the last four years has shown that the difference between intention and action is very large. I think the case for electing Governor Romney solely on this issue will be stronger if his role in spearheading targeted legislation thru a divided or polarized Congress can be described. To portray Governor Romney as omnipotent and as a panacea for the issue is as flawed as portraying President Obama as the same. Congressional action is needed for this and Indians are better served getting the attention of Republican senators and Democratic members of Congress.
3. Rhetoric is different from record – One of the basic rules of election season is that rhetoric doesn’t always match the record. Any one who has followed Governor Romney thru the last four years will agree that he has said different things at different times to different audiences. This is what politicians do. And who’s to blame them? To convince a vast and diverse array of people why you are the best at a job when everyone has different interests and goals is an incredibly difficult task.
It is with this context that I view words from politicians. Is there anything in the recent Republican record that shows a path to permanent residency for H1B and EAD card holders as a priority? The party he belongs to is one of the least diverse and most opposed to any forms of immigration in recent history. In 2007, then president George W. Bush could not get his party to vote on a bill that solved the immigration issue for a generation.
The Republican party has jumped on any immigrant-friendly statements or measures that President Obama has made. Even in the Google+ hangout that the president participated in earlier this year, Republicans joined a chorus in criticizing the president on allegations that the president was not concerned about the growth of H1B engineers. While their rhetoric around elections is friendly towards green card seekers and tech firms, they have consistently shown that they will jump to the nativist side of the room at the first opportunity.
4. Voting for someone solely on one issue is hard – Even assuming Governor Romney and the Republican party would prioritize and expedite Indian Green card applications, it is really hard for intelligent human beings to vote solely on one issue. Even when the issue is as fundamental as their career and life flexibilities, it is hard to reconcile the position of a political party on that issue with their platforms against science, unemployment benefits, help for the poor and needy, healthcare for all and equality for gays and lesbians. If we were voting in the Indian elections would we vote for Narendra Modi over Rahul Gandhi on one issue? Would we be okay with a party that raises the reservation quota for a certain caste at public universities by 25% while also opposing foreign direct investment? Would we not weigh the pros and cons and make an informed choice? Why then should we root for one candidate here on one issue alone?
5. My personal experience – I came to the U.S in 2001. I was here in 2004 when President Bush and the Republican party took specific offense to John Kerry calling outsourcers ‘Benedict Arnolds’. Then president Bush’s message was that he would not demonize technology firms that outsourced or immigrants who got degrees in science and technology. My employer filed for my permanent residency status in the summer of 2007. I was told by plenty of immigration lawyers and immigration message boards that the election of a democratic president would be the worst thing that could happen to me and that I should start saving up money to move back to India whether rI wanted that or not. I noticed my EAD (Employment Authorization) priority date stuck for over three years in the long and non deterministic immigration pipeline. I experienced the same frustrations that several Indians do of not being able to make career or life plans because of the uncertainty surrounding the green card process. Suddenly in the spring of 2011, there was enormous movement and traction on this issue thanks to a huge push from President Obama’s jobs council which included several leaders from the technology world. I have also noticed that since then there has been little to no traction on this front for several of my friends and coworkers as parties have gotten neck-deep in the campaign rigmarole.
My summary is that the green card issue like most things is complex and nuanced. No one leader can change it overnight and the factors that govern it are too disparate and too vast to be narrowed to a singular rooting interest. Hopefully this explains why at this moment more American desis root for Obama and that they’re not stupid to do so.