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Former US Ambassadors call for India friendly immigration norms

September 12, 2013 10:06 IST

Former US Ambassadors call for India friendly immigration norms

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Suman Mozumder

Five former American ambassadors to India have written to top US lawmakers urging removal of visa provisions which, they say, are not in US economic interests and also stand to complicate relations with India.

“While we believe that the U.S. Congressional efforts to further Comprehensive Immigration Reform can be of great benefit, we are concerned that the high-skilled visa provisions in legislation currently contemplated by the Senate are not in US economic interests and they complicate our relations with India,” these former American envoys – Thomas R. Pickering, Frank G. Wisner, Richard Celeste, David C. Mulford and Robert Blackwill said in a letter addressed to the lawmakers – said in the letter.

The letter was addressed to Speaker John A. Boehner, U.S. House of Representatives; Majority Leader Harry Reid, U.S. Senate; Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senate, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives.

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Image: An immigration reform supporter wears a Guy Fawkes mask as he takes part in a May Day demonstation in San Diego.
Photographs: Mike Blake/Reuters

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“We are writing to you today as former Ambassadors to India and also as ongoing supporters of US trade and foreign policies, which further ties between the United States and India. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation that has passed the U.S. Senate unfortunately differentiates between US providers of IT and Indian IT companies which provide the same services to American businesses using virtually the same labor pool sourced from India.”

“In particular, the bill will block Indian IT companies (as well as significant US IT service providers) from providing these essential services – and free-market competition – to our leading US-based multinational companies. Equally important, such legislation sends a protectionist signal to our Indian counterparts – a signal normally reserved for nations with whom we have non- productive relations. India does not fit this category,” the letter said.

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Image: A woman leaves the US Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York.
Photographs: Keith Bedford/Reuters

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The letter noted that many US companies entering the Indian market have found tremendous success while others have struggled with Indian policies related to tariffs, intellectual property, tax treatment and local manufacturing requirements as well as needless interference by state and local officials.

“Our ongoing bilateral dialogue with India and not punitive legislation has in the past helped resolve differences. Departing from this approach will not solve these problems; it risks provoking ‘tit for tat’ retaliation, which denigrates this important relationship.

We would appreciate your bringing our concerns to the attention of those who are responsible for the preparation of final comprehensive immigration legislation and ask that they revise those sections and remove those features of any Bill that would limit market entry of IT professionals who work for so-called Visa-dependent IT companies.

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Image: archers carry signs in support of immigrant rights as thousands of protesters march up Broadway during a May Day immigration rally in Los Angeles, California.
Photographs: Reuters

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These provisions, currently in the Senate Bill and any which may be included in the counterpart pending House Bill, are virtually punitive and cry out for redress and excision.”

They noted that American competitiveness and vitality depend heavily on robust U.S.-India commercial ties.

“We ask that any comprehensive immigration reform legislation approved by Congress appreciates the mutual benefit of deepening the U.S.-India partnership, which is vitally important to our two countries and the global economy. Thank you for your urgent attention to this very important matter affecting U.S.-India commerce and economic and geopolitical relations between the world’s largest free-market democracies,” the ambassadors said.

 


Photographs: Reuters

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