Prime Minister Narendra Modi must raise the contentious H-1B visa issue besides defence cooperation and terrorism during his first bilateral meeting with US President Donald Trump, members of the Indian community said today. Modi, who arrived in the US capital today, was welcomed with loud cheers and applause by a group of people from the Indian community that was waiting outside the Willard InterContinental Hotel to catch a glimpse of the Indian leader. Among those waiting to catch a glimpse of Modi was Mridula, originally from Hyderabad, and working in New York on an H1B visa.
She and her friends, visibly excited to see Modi, said they hoped the Indian Prime Minister would raise with Trump concerns over the H1B visas, widely uses by Indian technology companies to send IT professionals to the US. “We hope that the outcome on the issue is positive for Indians and at the same time does not anger Americans as well. It is scary when we hear reports of attacks against Indians in the US,” she told PTI. Modi “is a very powerful leader and I am sure something very positive on the H1B visa is going to come out of his meeting with Trump,” she said.
Avinash Bilugu, another H1B visa holder working in Albany, echoed the concerns over the work visas. “This is a major issue for us. I hope Modi brings it up in his meeting with Trump. Defence and security are other important issues that the two leaders should discuss,” he said. Aatma Singh, chair of the fundraiser committee of Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), listed terrorism and cyber crime as key issues for the bilateral talks.
On H1B visas, he said, the IT industry in the US will be incomplete without the contribution and hard work of the Indian workers. “India and the US share historic ties and the meeting between Modi and Trump will lay the groundwork for further strengthening bilateral relations in the years and decades to come,” he said. Trump will host Modi at the White House tomorrow and the two leaders would spend about five hours together in various settings beginning with their bilateral discussion, delegation level talks, a reception and a working dinner, the first of its kind hosted by this administration.
Ahead of his visit, Modi had said that he looked forward to the opportunity of having an in-depth exchange of views. The Trump administration has said that if the Indian side raises the contentious H-1B visa issue during President Trump’s meeting with Modi, the Americans were ready to respond. Trump signed an executive order in April for tightening the rules of the H-1B visa programme to stop “visa abuses”. Trump said his administration is going to enforce ‘Hire American’ rules that are designed to protect jobs and wages of workers in the US.
The executive order also called upon the Departments of Labour, Justice, Homeland Security, and the state to take action against fraud and abuse of the US’ visa programmes.