Summer is a good time to visit the United States. The pleasant weather conditions, blooming seasonal flowers and the relaxed air kind of entice many to visit around this time of the year. Who does not want to experience the Big Apple, the Grand Canyon and the thriving amusement parks strewn across the country? Not surprisingly many Indian residents in the United States get busy hosting friends and family members. But then it is the same if it were the reverse — guests are always welcome in India to the extent that they are revered.
There are some of us who arrived in this great country and opted to make this our home away from home. And there are many of us. Recent survey findings released by Pew Research revealed that Asian Americans provided favorable numbers that point to increased attention and recognition of Indian immigrants and their contribution to U.S. economy. The survey goes on to state that Asian Americans which include Indians (among other nationalities such as Chinese, Filipinos, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean) are the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States, with Asians now making up the largest share of recent immigrants. Also Asian Americans are more satisfied than the general public with their lives, finances and the direction of the country, and they place a greater value on marriage, parenthood, hard work and career success.
In so far as the history of immigration from India is concerned, a large number of highly educated professionals came to the United States from 1965 onward. Today, Indian Americans are the third-largest group among Asian Americans. Since 1980, Indian immigrants were about 0.4 million and in 2010 they number 28 million. The median household income of Indian immigrant is at $88,000 as compared to the national median of $49,800.
Impressive as this quantifiable data seems, the experience of the regular skilled worker who is on a visa employed by a sponsor in the United States now faces a steep climb and a wait to become resident. Many give up on the hope and leave for their home country or try out pastures in other countries. Studies conducted at Stanford University have noted that the emergent patterns show a "brain drain" whereby U.S.-educated Indians are leaving for India to work in multinational companies. Perhaps more attention needs to be paid to this trend.
India has realized its own markets despite pitfalls and continues to expand. Globally India has made its presence felt in many ways. Recently, India's contribution along with pledges by other member countries of the five-nation BRICS bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has helped increase IMF's resources and give a boost to the $430 billion fund being used as a firewall to support struggling Eurozone economies. This shows that India is committed to global financial stability.
Knowing the figures as they show, we certainly understand that there is strength in numbers. While most immigration debates focus on illegal immigrants, not much has been done about contributing, intelligent and committed legal workers and their families who opt to stay on. This is evident in the massive backlog of Indian and Chinese workers who have applied for a green card. For years intelligent students have had to deal with these stringent laws and finally bit their tongue and stayed on because the option of going back was not something they wanted to consider as a lucrative proposition. But now, the times, they are a changing!
"The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2011" seems to be an answer to this seeming impasse. It is anticipated that the act would begin to reduce the backlog of Indian and Chinese immigrants who currently have longer waiting times than other nationalities. This somewhat recognizes the contributions of Indians in the United States as they have some of the highest levels of educational attainment and income among immigrants. It is also covertly familiar with the fact that India has risen as a global competitor and to keep the cream of the crop from leaving, this is certainly a step in the right direction. The 21st Century requires a new outlook in so far as immigration is concerned and perhaps ushers responsible, thoughtful inclusiveness to someone building a home that will last many seasons and years.
Rajashree Ghosh is a resident scholar at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.