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Obama's immigration plan falls short of Indian techies' hopes

Washington, Nov 22 (IANS) As President Barack Obama campaigned to sell his immigration plan to shield up to five million people from deportation and retain high-skilled immigrants, largely from India and China, analysts called it a mixed bag.

Obama’s plan, according to the White House, “focuses on cracking down on illegal immigration at the border; deporting felons, not families; and accountability through criminal background checks and taxes”.

It would also “make it easier and faster for high-skilled immigrants, graduates, and entrepreneurs to stay and contribute to our economy, as so many business leaders have proposed”.

Nearly six million Mexicans make up over half of an estimated 11.2 unauthorised immigrants in the US.

India is a distant fourth top source country with 450,000 living in the country without papers, according to a new Pew Research Centre report.

While about 8.1 million unauthorised immigrants make up 5.1 percent of the US labour force, many of them engaged in low paying jobs that Americans don’t want to do, Indians cornered nearly two thirds of the total work permits for skilled workers in 2012.

What he’s offering is a “common sense” first step to fixing a “broken system,” Obama Friday told a rowdy crowd at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, where two years ago he had outlined his post-election promise to finally reform immigration in his second term.

“Our immigration system has been broken for a very long time, and everybody knows it,” Obama said asserting his plan was “not amnesty” as alleged by his Republican critics.

Obama claimed he tried everything to work with Congress and chastised Republicans in the House for refusing to vote on the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate.

“I cajoled and I called and I met. I told [House Speaker] John Boehner, ‘I’ll wash your car. I’ll walk your dog. Whatever you need me to do, just call the bill.’ That’s how democracy is supposed to work,” he was quoted as saying by ABC News.

Earlier, Obama signed two presidential memoranda associated with his actions on immigration in his office on Air Force One shortly after landing at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

Commenting on Obama’s order, The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) said it will have only moderate benefits for the technology industry.

To help the technology sector, Obama has agreed to increase the number of foreign graduates of American universities with STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – degrees stay in the US to ease employment pressures and enable qualified students to stay in the country, it noted.

But it does not address industry hopes of keeping these individuals here on a long-term basis, CFR said as it does not increase the number of H-1B visas for high-skilled experts, currently capped at 65,000.

The Washington Post agreed that “the rule changes would make it easier for those from abroad to get a toehold in the US tech industry but will not address one of the tech industry’s top policy priorities: increase in H-1B visas.

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