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Trump assures ‘certainty, path to citizenship’ for H1B visa-holders

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Donald Trump

New York, Jan 11 (IANS) Singalling his support for legal immigration, US President Donald Trump said on Friday he will change the H1-B visa system for professionals to ensure “certainty” and a path to citizenship for those on the visa.

Trump said in an early morning tweet: “H1-B holders in the US can rest assured that changes are soon coming which will bring both simplicity and certainty to your stay, including a potential path to citizenship. We want to encourage talented and highly skilled people to pursue career options in the US.”

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the temporary H1-B visas, 76 per cent of which went to professionals from India last year, according to government statistics.

Caught in a controversy over his plans to stop illegal immigration that has been made to appear he is anti-immigrant, Trump appeared to be sending a message that he supports legal immigrants and opposes only those coming in illegally.

Limiting H1-B visas has been a matter of concern for India and New Delhi has taken it up with Washington as a trade-related issue.

Major US companies have warned that the limiting of H1-B visas and the long waits for permanent residence seriously affect their ability to get and retain talented staff.

Since it was only a tweet, there were no details about how he would go about making the changes.

An immigration expert expressed scepticism about Trump’s show of concern for H1-B visa-holders.

“Trump’s tweet is a distraction from the fact that the administration’s H-1B policies and its actions more broadly are actually making everything more difficult for legal immigrants across the board,” said Doug Rand, the president of Boundless Immigration, a technology company helping people navigate the immigration process.

Rand, who was the assistant director for entrepreneurship in the former President Barack Obama’s White House, said that Trump “is probably talking about two already known regulatory plans.”

These relate to a changeover to online filing of H1-B applications each April and redefining the jobs that qualify for H1-B visas, which could make it “much more difficult for lower-salary skilled workers to obtain these visas,” Rand said.

Trump announces many plans and ideas through tweets but not all of them get implemented. Trump’s tweet came the morning after his visit to the US-Mexico border on Thursday to promote his plan for building the wall to prevent illegal immigration, crime and drug-smuggling.

The border wall or barrier is opposed by Democrats, who have refused to allocate funds for it in the budget.

This has led to a standoff with Trump, who has refused to accept a budget without funding for the wall and as a result there has been a partial shutdown of non-essential parts of the federal government now in its 20th day.

The media, the Democrats and activists blur the distinction between illegal and legal immigrants and assert that Trump is anti-immigrant, which his tweet appears to aim to dispel.

Addressing the nation on Tuesday to build support for the wall, Trump mentioned an Indian-American police corporal, Ronil Singh, who was killed by an illegal immigrant.

One of the immediate concerns for H1-B visa-holders is the Trump administration’s plan to end permission for their spouses – who are on H-4 visas – to work, which had been granted by the administration of former President Barack Obama.

Another is the path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship because of the current minimum wait of 10 years for Indian professionals to get their green cards.

Trump may need the support of Congress, where the Democrats control the lower chamber, to make these changes.

The Democrats are likely to demand concessions for illegal immigration in return for supporting the changes.

Trump has called for abolishing the immigration quotas for relatives of citizens and moving to a merit-based system similar to that of Canada and Australia.

There is a 20,000 limit on the number of green cards that can be given each year to people from India and most countries.

In November, the Trump administration announced changes to the H1-B visa system to give preferences to applicants with advanced degrees.

A total of 85,000 H1-B visas are available each year under regulations imposed by the Congress. Of these, 20,000 are reserved for those graduating with advance degrees from US universities.

Immigration authorities have reportedly intensified their crackdown on H1-B visa fraud and some Indians as well as Indian companies have been caught in it.

The authorities are also reported to be closely examining applicants from India and demanding more documentation.

Rand said that under Trump, request for more evidence for H1-B applications has increased by 45 percent and the number of denial rate by 41percent.

He added, “It’s no wonder that many companies and immigrants believe that the H-1B program is under siege.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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Republican ‘disturbed’ over party’s stance in Trump impeachment

Murkowski also said there should be distance between the White House and the Senate over how the trial is conducted.

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Donald Trump

Washington, Dec 26 : Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski has said that she was “disturbed” by her party’s stance before President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it was reported on Thursday.

The Alaska Senator’s comments come after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellpledged “total co-ordination” with the White House, the BBC said in a report.

Murkowski told Alaska’s KTUU news channel on Wednesday that she was uncomfortable with McConnell’s comments about “total co-ordination”.

“When I heard that I was disturbed,” she said.

Murkowski also said there should be distance between the White House and the Senate over how the trial is conducted.

“To me it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defence,” the BBC quoted her as saying to KTUU channel.

She further said that the impeachment proceedings were “rushed”.

Murkowski, a moderate Republican, has criticised President Trump on a number of policy issues.

In October 2018, she opted not to vote to confirm Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, after sexual assault allegations.

On December 18, Trump was impeached by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

He now faces a trial in the Republican-dominated Senate, whose members are supposed to remain impartial.

The trial could begin next month, after the holiday break.

However, Trump, the third President in US history to be impeached, was unlikely to be removed from office because of the Republican control of the Senate.

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Speaker Pelosi orders Trump’s impeachment to proceed

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Trump Speaker PelosTrump Speaker Nancy Pelosii

New York, Dec 5 : House of Representatives’ Democrat Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the impeachment to proceed on Thursday with the framing of charges of jeopardising national security against President Donald Trump for a trial in the Senate.

The historic announcement came after about two months of investigation by House of Representatives, making it only the third time in the 243-year history of the US that a President would be impeached.

“The President leaves us no choice but to act, because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit,” she said asking the House of Representatives committee leaders to proceed with the drafting of the Articles of Impeachment, which is a charge sheet for the Senate to try Trump.

“The President has engaged in abuse of power undermining our national security and jeopardising the integrity of our elections,” Pelosi said in a Washington press conference.

She ended her announcement with an appeal to religion, saying, “So help me God,” after saying the Democrats were “prayerful”.

Before her announcement, Trump threw a challenge at her in a tweet: “if you are going to impeach me, do it now, fast, so we can have a fair trial in the Senate, and so that our Country can get back to business.”

Trump is relying on the Senate, where his party has a majority to throw out the charges and acquit him.

The Republicans will be able to call the witnesses blocked by the Democrats in the House panels’ hearings to testify.

Trump tweeted that they would call former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff, and Pelosi.

He added that this “will reveal, for the first time, how corrupt our system really is. I was elected to ‘Clean the Swamp,’ and that’s what I am doing”.

Pelosi’s announcement sets the Democrat-controlled House firmly on the path to early impeachment, with a vote likely before it adjourns for the Christmas vacation.

A Senate trial would then follow in January in an election year.

Only two Presidents, Andrew Johnson in the 19th century and Bill Clinton in the last have been impeached and both were acquitted by the Senate.

Pelosi had to make a firm statement because some members of her party in swing constituencies, which were Republican but moved to Democrats in last year’s elections, were apprehensive that the impeachment may work against them next year.

The nation’s polarisation is reflected in the impeachment issue with an almost even split in public opinion. According to the latest RealClear Politics aggregation of polls, there is 48.3 per cent support for impeachment and 44.6 per cent against, with a narrow spread of 3.7 per cent.

Mindful of this, Pelosi said: “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and a heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment.”

She likened Trump’s conduct to the late 18th century British monarch George III against whom Americans rose in revolt because he was considered above the law.

The founders of the US established the impeachment process to ensure that the President was not above the law like a king, she said.

The House Judicial Committee held a public hearing on Wednesday where four law professors testified on the constitutional and legal aspects of impeachment.

The three summoned by the Democrats made the case for Trump’s impeachment while the one called by the Republicans opposed it.

The Judicial Committee picked up the impeachment process from the Intelligence Committee, which delivered a 300-page report on Tuesday outlining the charges against Trump.

The Intelligence Committee accused him of placing “his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

It said his “scheme subverted US foreign policy toward Ukraine and undermined our national security in favour of two politically motivated investigations that would help his presidential re-election campaign”.

At the heart of the charges is Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “as a favour” to inquire into the dealings of former Vice President Biden and his son in Ukraine, and into alleged interference by that country in the 2016 elections.

Joe Biden also sought the removal of the prosecutor looking into the gas company, Burisma.

The Trump administration delayed military aid to Ukraine, which the Democrats say was done to force the country to launch the probes, but Republicans contend was done to ensure that there was no corruption.

Democrats say the request to investigate the Bidens was seeking foreign interference in US elections because the former Vice President is the front-runner for Democratic Party nomination to run against Trump.

The delay in aid, Democrats say, threatened US national security as it was beneficial to Russia.

Zelensky has denied that he felt he was under pressure from Trump to carry out the inquiries.

Republicans point out that the aid was released without Zelensky ordering the probes.

Hunter Biden who was removed from the Navy for alleged drug use and had no experience in the energy business was appointed to the board of a gas company with a monthly payment of $83,000 while the then Vice President was overseeing US relations with Ukraine.

(Arul Louis can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @arulouis)

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US unemployment rate falls to 50-year low

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The U.S. unemployment rate fell in September to a new five-decade low of 3.5%, while employers added a modest 136,000 jobs.

The Labor Department says that despite the ultra-low unemployment rate, which was down from 3.7% in August, average hourly wages slipped by a penny. Hourly pay rose just 2.9% from a year earlier, lower than 3.4% at the beginning of the year.

Hiring has slowed this year as the U.S.-China trade war has intensified, global growth has slowed, and businesses have cut back on their investment spending. Still, hiring has averaged 157,000 in the past three months, enough to lower the unemployment rate over time.

The unemployment rate for Latinos fell to 3.9%, the lowest on records dating from 1973.

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