What the US border wall deal means for Indian immigrants, explained

On Tuesday, February 12, Republicans and Democrats reached a consensus on how President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall will move forward. The bipartisan deal averted a total government shutdown.

Negotiators from both parties agreed to fund border security with $1.4 billion and allow construction of 55 miles (88 km) of fencing only with existing designs, like metal slats, says the Guardian.

In an effort to curb detention of undocumented immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, Democrats also managed to reduce the number of beds in detention centres from 49,057 to 40,250.

This deal undercuts Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion in funds to create a 215-mile-long (346 km) concrete wall.

Back and forth on the wall

The US government saw partial shutdown for 35 days in December and January because Democrats, who control the House, refused to approve the $5.7-billion budget for Trump’s border wall plan.

On January 25, Democrats worked with Trump to temporarily fund government departments till February 8. Reason: thousands of workers in agencies like healthcare and law enforcement had begun complaining of unpaid leave.

After the border deal was struck, Republican Senator Richard Shelby said, “Our staffs are going to be working feverishly to put all the particulars together. We believe that if this becomes law, it’ll keep the government open.”

This is not the first time politicians have gone toe to toe over Trump’s proposal of an impenetrable concrete wall along the US border in Texas shared with Mexico. The wall is one of his most controversial and well-known campaign promises.

Who said what

“I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick,” said Trump, expressing his disappointment at the deal during a cabinet meeting at the White House (WH). “I’m adding things to it, and when you add whatever I have to add, it’s all going to happen where we’re going to build a beautiful, big, strong wall.”

Trump also tweeted that the proposal will be “hooked up with lots of money from other sources” totaling almost $23 billion. Although Trump has not yet specified what other funding he plans to funnel into the proposal, CBS Correspondent David Begnaud tweeted that the President wants to divert disaster relief funds from Puerto Rico.

Other Republican leaders echoed Trump’s sentiment. Mark Meadows, a Congressman from North Carolina, said, “This conference agreement is hardly a serious attempt to secure our border or stop the flow of illegal immigration. It kicks the can down the road yet again, failing to address the critical priorities outlined by Border Patrol Chiefs. Congress is not doing its job.”

Why Indians should care

Quartz reports the partial government shutdown has adversely impacted businesses of Indian immigrants and visa programmes that benefit them. US Citizenship and Immigration Services said a popular investor-visa programme, EB-5 Immigrant Investor Regional Center Program, expired in December and is yet to be renewed.

Beyond this, Indian immigration to the US has received a considerable amount of pushback. The H-1B visa regulations, such as capping Green Card allotments, were tightened due to Trump’s protectionist “Buy American, Hire American” policy.

During the shutdown, a group of Indians on H-1B visas protested outside the WH for immigration reforms, such as clearing the backlog for Green Card approval. The group also sought Green Card for children of immigrants on H-1B visas, so that they can remain in the US legally without having to switch to other visas once they turn 21.

Although it’s unlikely these issues will be resolved immediately, H-1B visa holders are afraid their employers won’t be able to maintain their correct employment status because of lack of funding.

Owner of Legal Bullet, a company that helps small businesses secure visas for foreign employees, Matthew Asir said, “A lot of my clients and employers in general are extremely frustrated right now, because, while the administration continues to crack down on companies hiring unauthorised workers, the government shutdown has taken away the main tool for employers to ensure they comply with the law.”

In all likelihood, Congress will approve the border security deal because several government agencies will exhaust their funding, yet again. Trump will then need to sign the proposal.

Rhea Arora is a staff writer at Qrius

Donald TrumpUS shutdownUS-Mexico border