Biden Says If Elected, Will Stand with India in Confronting Threats; Promises H-1B Visa Reform

The Democratic presidential nominee said that he will work on expanding two-way trade between the two nations and take on big global challenges like climate change and global health security.

Washington: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden asserted that if elected, his administration will stand with New Delhi in confronting the threats it faces and called for strengthening the “bond” between India and the US.

Presidential elections in the US will be held on November 3, 2020, and 77-year-old Biden is challenging incumbent Republican President Donald Trump in the polls.

“Fifteen years ago, I was leading the efforts to approve the historic civil nuclear deal with India. I said that if the US and India became closer friends and partners, then the world will be a safer place,” Biden, who was vice-president in the Obama administration, said while addressing the Indian American community on India’s Independence Day.

If elected president, Biden said that he will continue to stand with India against the threats it faces from its own region and along its borders.

He said that he will work on expanding two-way trade between the two nations and take on big global challenges like climate change and global health security.

If elected, the Democratic candidate said, he will work to strengthen the democracies where diversity is a mutual strength.

On this day, let us “continue to deepen the bond that endures between our nation’s and our people,” Biden said.

He said, “As president, I’ll also continue to rely on the Indian American diaspora, that keeps our two nations together, as I have throughout my career”.

“My constituents in Delaware, my staff in the Senate, the Obama administration that had more Indian Americans than any other administration in the history of this country and this campaign with Indian Americans at senior levels, which of course includes the top of the heap, our dear friend (Kamala Harris) who will be the first Indian American vice president in the history of the United States of America,” Biden said.

Early this week, Biden scripted history by selecting Harris, 55, as his running mate in the US presidential election. Harris, whose father is an African from Jamaica and mother an Indian, is the first-ever Black vice-presidential nominee.

“We all know she’s smart, she’s tested, she’s prepared. But another thing that makes Kamala so inspiring is her mother’s immigrant story to the US that started in India, with pure courage that brought her daughters to this moment. I know the pride you feel. It’s your story too,” Biden said.

“For your sacrifices, and your family’s courage, you became pillars of our community and our country. You’re patriots and the frontlines of this pandemic. In this reckoning of systemic racism, you’re making a real promise that America is a place where people of all races and religions can live together in peace,” he said.

“But I know it’s hard. I heart goes out to all those of you who have been the targets in a rise in hate crimes, and the crackdown of legal immigration, including sudden and harmful actions on H-1B visas. That for decades have made America stronger and brought our nation’s closer,” Biden said.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise.

“While it’s sometimes may not feel like the US of your dreams, we will overcome and build back better than ever. Like Barack Obama had asked me, I’m asking Kamala Harris, to be the last person in the room to ask the tough questions of me, provide counsel, most of all to always represent the belief in possibilities,” the former US vice president said.

H-1B reform

If voted to power in the November general elections, the Biden administration will reform the H-1B visa systemb v and work towards eliminating the country-quota for green cards, his campaign has said, in a move to woo the influential Indian American community.

The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. Companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.

In a major policy document for Indian Americans released on the occasion of India’s 74th Independence Day on Saturday, the Biden Campaign also emphasised its support to family-based immigration systems and streamlining processing for religious worker visas.

The administration will also take steps to stem the rising tide of hate and bigotry, address the security needs of the house of worship, eliminate language barriers and honour the diversity and contributions of Indian Americans, it said.

This is the first time that a Democratic presidential candidate has come out with an exclusive policy document for Indian Americans. There are 1.3 million eligible Indian American voters across eight battleground states.

Biden will support family-based immigration and preserve family unification as a core principle of our immigration system, which includes reducing the family visa backlog, his campaign said.

“He will increase the number of visas offered for permanent, work-based immigration based on macroeconomic conditions and exempt from any cap recent graduates of PhD programmes in STEM fields,” the campaign said.

“And, he will support first reforming the temporary visa system for high-skill, speciality 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,” it said.

According to the policy document, Biden will restore and defend the naturalisation process for green cardholders. A green card allows a non-US citizen to live and work permanently in America.

“He will increase the number of refugees we welcome into this country by setting the annual global refugee admissions target to 1,25,000 and seek to raise it over time to commensurate with our responsibility, our values and the unprecedented global need,” it said.

“He will also work with Congress to establish a minimum admissions number of 95,000 refugees annually. Biden will remove the uncertainty for Dreamers by reinstating the DACA programme and explore all legal options to protect their families from inhumane separation,” the campaign said.

It said Biden will end workplace raids and protect other sensitive locations from immigration enforcement actions.

As a largely immigrant community, but in some cases with American roots reaching back generations, Indian Americans know firsthand the strength and resilience that immigrants bring to the US, the campaign said.

“But President Trump has waged an unrelenting assault on our values and our history as a nation of immigrants. It’s wrong, and it stops when Biden is president,” it alleged.

“Biden will rescind Trump’s Muslim ban on day one and reverse the detrimental asylum policies that are causing chaos and a humanitarian crisis at our border,” the campaign said.

“He will immediately begin working with Congress to pass legislative immigration reform that modernises our system, with a priority on keeping families together by providing a roadmap to citizenship for nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants including more than 5,00,000 from India, it said.

Indian Americans of all backgrounds – Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jain and others – have been subjected to bullying and xenophobic attacks and need now, more than ever, a reassurance that the US leaders in Washington will have their backs, it said.

During the Obama-Biden administration, the FBI expanded its hate crime statistics programme to include Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists. As president, Biden will directly address the rise in hateful attacks and enact legislation prohibiting someone convicted of a hate crime from purchasing or possessing a firearm, it said.

“Biden will appoint leaders at the Department of Justice who will prioritise the prosecution of hate crimes, and he will order his justice department to focus additional resources to combat hate crimes including religion-based hate crimes and to confront white nationalist terrorism,” it said.

“He will also seek legislation that increases the potential sentence for certain hate crimes that occur in houses of worship and other religious community sites, such as gurudwaras, mandirs, temples and mosques. And, he will use his executive power to ensure that the Department of Justice pursues such heinous acts of violence against houses of worship to the fullest extent of the law,” the campaign said.

Noting that in 2012, the Sikh community suffered a terrible tragedy when a white supremacist opened fire in a gurudwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, ultimately killing seven and wounding four, the campaign added that in January 2019, a Hindu temple was the victim of a horrific act of vandalism and destruction, with windows shattered and xenophobic messages spray-painted across the walls.