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Illegal immigrants from India rise alarmingly in US: Report

Last updated on: February 19, 2008 16:02 IST

India may have taken giant strides in every possible sphere of life across the world, but there are things that come as real blot to its global image.  

Quoting a US Department of Homeland Security report, mercurynews reports that Indians are the fastest-growing group of illegal immigrants in the United States. 

The report says there are 2,70,000 unauthorized Indians in the United States - a 125 percent jump since 2000, the largest percentage increase of any nation with more than 100,000 illegal immigrants in that country.

The report says though the number of Indian immigrants is low when compared to people from Mexico, the Indian context is appalling as the illegal immigrants mostly consist high-skilled workers. Illegal immigrants from other countries are mostly low-skilled workers.

Mercurynews, in its report, also says if the trend continues India will only trail only Mexico, El Salvador and Guatemala in illegal immigration.

The report quoting experts says virtually all immigrants enter the US legally and then violate the visa terms, thus becomimg illegal immigrants.

"How do you get in? You come across the border, or you arrive here with a visa," Lindsay Lowell, policy director for the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University told Mercurynews.

"Indians aren't going to be walking across the border like Mexicans," he said.

Federal officials calculated the number of illegal immigrants by using census estimates of the total number of immigrants from individual countries, compiling the total number of legal immigrants using federal immigration and naturalization records, and then subtracting the number of legal residents from the total immigrant population to determine the number of undocumented people, the report said.

Asked by Mercurynews about the number of illegal Indians in Silicon Valley, Banjit Singh, an Indian-born taxi driver, said, "Here, there is a little bit. But you go to another city or state, like Los Angeles or New York, there are many illegal people."

Local immigration lawyers say that particularly among Indians, the ups and downs of Silicon Valley's economy since 2001 are one reason why Indians have fallen out of legal status.

"Most are bachelors; the way they get here is they have a job," Gabriel Jack, a San Jose immigration lawyer, said of many of his Indian clients.

"They come here as professionals, most often in the H-1B program, and given the fluctuations of Silicon Valley, the business climate, these guys lose their jobs. They get laid off or they wager their hands on a start-up coming in," Jack said.

"The problem with the H-1B program is, you can't have any significant time between jobs" without falling out of legal status.

Indians made up 44 percent of H-1B applicants in the 2005-06 fiscal year, five times the number from second-place China, the report says.

The report says another source is relatives from India who arrive for a visit on a tourist visa and never go home.

"America is a very attractive country; everybody who comes here wants to stay," said Shah Peerally, a Silicon Valley immigration lawyer. "I can tell you right now, there are nearly 1 billion people in India, of which maybe 800 million want to come here."

The United States deported close to 500 Indians a year in recent years, another expert tells Mecurynews.

"Unless Congress reforms the immigration system we are going to see this high-skilled, illegal workforce emerging," said Frank D. Bean, director of the Immigration Research Center at the University of California-Irvine.


Rediff News Bureau