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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Right to work? Not if you’re an immigrant spouse.

Houston Chronicle (Editorial)
July 11, 2018

Whiling away the days doing chores and watching movies isn’t the best use of time for a trained pharmaceutical analyst with a masters degree. But that’s what Manasa Kokonda found herself doing when her husband’s work as a mechanical engineer brought them from India to America in 2014.

As the spouse of an H-1B visa holder, she legally wasn’t able to work. She got antsy and went back to school to get a second master’s degree at the University of Houston-Clear Lake, but it wasn’t until 2015 that she could put her education to good use. The Obama administration implemented the “H-4EAD” option allowing spouses of highly skilled visa holders to work as their families awaited green cards.

Kokonda, now 28, works as a software analyst for a local energy services company, and she told the Chronicle’s Ileana Najarro: “I cannot imagine my life again sitting at home.”

Yet, that may be the fate that awaits her if the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services decides to heed President Trump’s call to end the H-4EAD work permit. We urge the federal agency to reject that call. The move, under the auspices of Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” executive order, could sideline thousands of family members, predominately Indian women, who work in fields such as engineering, medical research and the energy sector.

It’s another narrow-minded attack on the kind of immigrants Americans say they welcome: those who come legally. Our economy is the envy of the world, in part because we attract the best and the brightest. Relegating those talented folks to the sofa benefits no one except the partisans pushing a nativist agenda of fear and division.

Proponents of the policy change claim spouses are taking jobs Americans could fill. That’s wishful thinking. These visa holders have jobs many Texans couldn’t qualify for. Of the nearly 16,800 such spouses with the right to work in 2016, nearly 81 percent held at least a bachelor’s degree and nearly 33 percent held an advanced degree, according to data provided by New American Economy, which promotes comprehensive immigration reform. Meanwhile, only 30 percent of Texans ages 25-34 years have a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to state figures.

Denying work authorizations to this worthy group could even cost jobs, since some H-4EAD entrepreneurs create work for others. Overall, immigrant-owned businesses with employees have an average of 11 employees, according to a policy analysis by the George W. Bush Presidential Center. There’s no question that keeping this talented pool of individuals in the workplace pays off: spouses with H-4EAD visas earned almost $1.2 billion in the 2016 fiscal year alone.

It’s money that gets spent at local shops, restaurants and other businesses. Houstonian Minal Bhadane, who holds a Ph.D in biomedical engineering, told the editorial board she and her husband love to eat out and enjoy everything that a major city like Houston has to offer — luxuries that they can only afford because she has a job.

The threat of losing work authorization may cause many women in Texas and across the country to consider leaving the United States. An exodus of H-1B visa holders and their families would hit major technology industries that rely on these specialized workers, including, as the Chronicle reported, the global IT company Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp., whose U.S. headquarters is in College Station.

Why would we want to punish immigrants who contribute so much to this country? We should be expanding the welcome mat instead of hurling them into an abyss of worry like the kind Houstonian Anushri Maru is facing. The computer science engineer told us uncertainty is holding up planning for retirement to her children’s future.

Every person wants to find fulfillment in life, whether that means staying home with children or pursuing a career. Government policies that arbitrarily thwart these basic precepts are wrong — not only because they deprive individuals of their potential but because they deprive all of us of a talented, motivated pool of workers that America needs to thrive.

For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com

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