Sraboni Bose was sitting in her parents’ house in India this week, carefully reading a proclamation signed by President Trump that restricted the entry of thousands of foreign workers and their families. In doing so, she sought confirmation that it would not affect her family.
Her husband, a software engineer, was in Texas and currently had an H-1B visa. Check.
She had come to India in February for her brother’s wedding, but had her H-4 visa – for spouses and children of some foreign workers – stamped and renewed. Check.
Her 5-year-old daughter had to get her H-4 visa renewed before coronavirus the pandemic prompted the United States to halt regular visa processing. Foreign workers and their families may benefit from an extension of their stay in America, but if they are traveling overseas, updated visa stamps are required to re-enter the United States. She hadn’t gotten the tampon yet.
Bose, 32, reread the order over and over again, and each time she came to the same fear: Since her daughter did not have her valid visa on June 24 as the proclamation requires, she thinks that she will not be allowed to return to the US.
“I was devastated. We never imagined this would happen,” she told BuzzFeed News. “How can a 5-year-old affect the economy? She is studying pre-K and wants see his father. “
Desperate, Bose tweeted about her family’s saga.
“How can an H4 miner waiting to be stamped for 4 months in India affect the economy!” ?? @USCIS @StateDept. We have been waiting in India for four months for his F2F interview which was canceled in light of Covid-19. There should be a few considerations when the H1 is in the US, ”she writes.
A State Department spokesperson said the agency could not comment on individual cases because visa records are confidential under federal law, and instead referred to the text of Trump’s proclamation.
Bose is just one of thousands of people stranded overseas or with family outside of the US seeking answers on social media in the days since Trump signed his order suspension of certain employment-based visas for foreigners.
It is a phenomenon that has been playing out since the beginning of the Trump era: a vast order that affects thousands of people who are confused, anxious, and seeking help or advice online.
The proclamation spawned hashtags such as #excludeusfromban and #LetMeGoHome. Immigration lawyers who issued calls to testify or offered advice were inundated with responses and messages. The State Department responded to tweets all week about the details of the order. Even some journalists were asked for their expertise.
“The administration’s implementation of this and other immigration policies shows complete disregard for affected populations,” said Sarah Pierce, analyst at the Migration Policy Institute. “Ideally, a major policy change like this would have been accompanied by questions and answers from relevant agencies to educate the public and efforts to reach out to stakeholders to be prepared for the change. Instead, we saw the affected population and their supporters reduced to asking for advice on their future in 240 characters. “
Trump’s proclamation details how “under ordinary circumstances, properly administered temporary worker programs can bring benefits to the economy.” But in the economic situation that followed the pandemic, “some nonimmigrant visa programs allowing such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
The order, signed on Monday, suspended H-1B visas for highly skilled tradespeople, most H-2B visas for non-farm seasonal workers, most J-1 visas for exchange visitors, and H visas. -4 for accompanying workers.
Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, director of government relations at the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said conversations on Twitter were evidence of “utter confusion, lack of clear direction and fear for the means to people’s livelihood and their future “.
The wave of questions and calls for help over the past week could also be attributed to the large number of people affected and the cumulative impact of yet another immigration order restricting access to the United States, a said Greg Siskind, a Tennessee-based immigration lawyer.
Siskind said he received thousands of messages on social media. When he can’t access a question on Twitter, people flood his LinkedIn, Facebook, and emails for advice.
“It was the usual sloppy deployment that we have become used to with this White House,” he said with reference to previous orders such as the initial travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries that led to chaos at airports in the United States.
This time around, he says, the language of the order has stumbled even the most seasoned lawyers.
“The order itself is worded confusingly, so even the experts can’t really tell who is and who is missing,” he said.
It remains to be seen whether those with current visas, but who leave the United States and go overseas, will be subject to the ban if they need new visa stamps to return.
Siskind said State Department officials said online that these people could not return to the United States, but “this is a total contradiction to the plain language of the order.” He believes people like Bose’s child might be refused entry.
Gayatri Patankar, a 32-year-old Arizona resident, was one of those who contacted Siskind on Twitter. She had left for India with her baby and her husband earlier this year. She needed a new H1B visa stamp, but could not receive it due to the closure of the consulate. She then lost her job and hoped to return to the United States on an H4 visa with her husband.
“Hello, I came to India with a 2 month old baby for family reasons and have been stuck here ever since. I have been studying / working in USA for 7 years now. We have our house, car, and other personal effects in the United States. Help us get home. It’s not fair, ”Patankar tweeted to Siskind.
She asked for help and advice on Twitter, she added, because “we don’t know what else to do.”
Sakshi Sharma, a 30-year-old H-1B visa holder who lives in Baltimore, was thinking of her husband when she took to social media. He had to leave the United States for Canada after his student visa ran out.
Due to the proclamation, he will not be able to receive an H-4 visa to accompany him to the United States.
“I am personally affected by the ban on family separation. I know friends who have visited India to meet dying relatives one last time, leaving their newly married spouse, home, car, everything in the US and are now stranded! It’s inhuman, ”she tweeted.
She posted her predicament on Twitter because she wanted people to know that the proclamation “separates me from my husband .. we have a lot of things planned for our personal and professional lives for the next 6-12 months, now with this ban, we have lost it all.
Meanwhile, Bose finds himself with difficult conversations with his 5-year-old daughter over whether they can return to the United States anytime soon.
The family has lived in the United States for three years.
“I don’t know how to explain it to him,” she said. “I told him, ‘Right now the proclamation isn’t leaving us because they think some of us can work and that can’t help them because we want more work. It is as if you are anchored or on a timeout. You can’t see your father for another 6 months. “”
June 26, 2020 at 11:40 PM
Correction: Sraboni Bose’s name was misspelled in an earlier version of this post.