I will start with an excerpt from the Business Week article, then discuss the lessons learned. Business Week Logo

The Gandhi Protests

Denied the permanent U.S. residency they’d been promised, high-skilled workers are taking to the streets in nonviolent protest

Engineers, computer programmers, and tech workers aren’t known for outspoken collective action and political protest. But on July 14, up to 1,000 high-skilled, legal immigrants will gather in San Jose, Calif., to express their outrage at the U.S. government’s failure to deliver on a promise to hasten the processing of their green-card applications. Many of these immigrants came to the U.S. from India on visas and have been stuck in what they say is an interminable wait for permanent residency and the freedoms it brings.

Long Delays Spur Protests

The rally follows a symbolic action on July 10 in which hundreds of green-card applicants sent flowers to the director of U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services in a show of peaceful protest reminiscent of Mohandas Gandhi’s nonviolent campaign against British rule before India gained independence in 1947. The idea for both the flower sending and the rally emerged from Immigration Voice, a group that advocates for high-tech immigrants in the U.S. on visas.

The green-card backlog has emerged because of a mismatch between the number of visa holders and the number of green cards available to them each year. Tens of thousands of foreign workers enter the U.S. on work visas each year, and many apply for green cards. But current government rules limit the number of people who can be admitted to the U.S. from any particular country to 9,800. The result is that for larger countries, including India and China, the wait for permanent U.S. residency now stretches for years. As they wait, visa workers are required to maintain the same job and salary, or they are bumped back to the long queue.

Get the whole article here.

Now I’d like to react to the news. The first lesson for me is this, when you are right and the government is wrong, nonviolence is the way to go. In other words, in all things related to U.S. immigration, nonviolence is the way to go. Government is accountable to its people, and when some of the people show the others that they are being mistreated and victimized (but that they will maintain a spirit of love, respect, and community), the rest will support the legal changes they seek.

Next, and while this is less groundbreaking, this article points out a fact of which few people are aware. Each country is limited in the number of emigrants who can be legally admitted to the U.S. That is called a quota. This quota system grew out of the Nations of Origin Act of 1924 which had the goal of ending immigration from Japan, just as the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act had ended immigration from China. The Nations of Origin Act had the effect of severely limiting the number of Asians who could gain residency in the United States while preserving a virtually unimpeded flow of immigrants from Western and Northern Europe. The 1964 legislation (the quota system we basically operate under at the present time) changed the system somewhat by giving each country an equal quota, whereas before, countries like France had been allowed perhaps 100 times more visas per year than India. Under the 1964 legislation, France and India now had an equal number of visas. The problem comes with the fact that right now, many more Indians than French want entry to the U.S., but because these countries have the same quota, the Indian has a much harder time getting accepted than does the French. Now compare Mexico and France and you will see that just as before, the current quota system has the same intention as well as the same effect as the most racist immigration laws in our history: to allow whites to enter, while excluding people of color. The clear thing to do is to eliminate the quota system and simply collect all the visa slots into one pool.

The final lesson is that the internet is the tool to bring about immigration reform. Immigration Voice is an on-line community; it is basically a chat room. But in that chat room, people got together, discussed Gandhi, created a plan, organized, and got the U.S. Government to change its mind. I hope that your mind just opened up, because it should have.

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