A closer look at Immigration Voice

The Washington Post profiles Immigration Voice and its founder, Aman Kapoor. “Immigration Voice boasts 3,000 members; a fundraising goal of $200,000; and, most notably, a partnership with a high-powered lobbying firm, Quinn Gillespie & Associates LLC. The group’s transformation from an insular circle to a politically active movement offers a window into an alternative immigrant campaign being waged as the Senate this week resumes its work on immigration laws.”

Most members and all the core organizers of Immigration Voice hail from India, though Chinese membership numbers in the hundreds and is on the rise. Most arrived on an international student visa or a visa known as the H-1B, reserved for highly skilled workers who can stay for up to six years — unless an employer sponsors their green cards, which grant immigrants permanent residence in the United States and the right to live and work here freely. Over the past decade, the largest numbers of H-1Bs have been awarded to high-technology workers from India and China.

Many of the members are stuck in green card application purgatory:

About a half-million immigrants are caught in the green-card backlog, some as they wait for Labor Department approval or because quotas have been exceeded. In that time, they cannot be promoted or given substantial pay increases because that would mean a change in job description and salary. They turn to Web sites to compare their wait times with others, and their Internet handles, such as “stucklabor” and “waiting_labor,” exude their frustration.

While the immigrant marchers’ demands have covered a range of issues, including allowing immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship, the members of this association are more narrowly focused: They want Congress to pass measures that would end the years-long wait for a green card. In fact, they warn that efforts to enable millions of illegal immigrants to remain here permanently would result in the same bureaucratic nightmare legal immigrants are now facing.

Another possible cause it has not been active in yet is increasing the number of H-1B visas:

Under a proposal introduced by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the number of employment-based green cards being issued would increase from 140,000 to 290,000. Currently, no one country is supposed to take up more than 7 percent of the allotment, though unused green cards can be redistributed to countries that have already met their quota. That has made possible migrations in excess of 7 percent from nations such as India, China, Mexico and the Philippines. Under the proposal, the per-country cap would be increased to a hard and fast 10 percent. Proponents say this would prevent one country from dominating the category and would retain jobs for native-born Americans.

A profile of one volunteer:

During meetings on Capitol Hill, Maduros and at least one Immigration Voice representative lay out the group’s platform, weaving in the personal stories of members. Shilpa Ghodgaonkar, a Germantown housewife, has become a staple anecdote — and a frequent visitor on the Hill. For four years, she and her husband have been waiting for their green cards. Ghodgaonkar’s husband arrived on an H-1B visa, and she followed as his dependent, unauthorized to work here. To pass the time, she learned to cook. Then she volunteered as a career counselor in Montgomery County. Last year, she earned her MBA from George Washington University. In December, around the time Kapoor sent out his e-mail plea for mass mobilization, Ghodgaonkar had run out of options. “I just couldn’t keep quiet anymore,” Ghodgaonkar said. “I cannot be depressed anymore.”

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