Earlier this week, the agencies involved claimed that a communication gap and an overzealous attempt at reducing backlogs caused them to use up all available Green Cards for the current fiscal year by Monday, July 2, 2007, revoking a previous press release that they would honor applications through July 2007. The resulting discontent among applicants gained significant media attention across the United States and abroad, even striking a chord in Bollywood, the world’s largest movie industry.
This week, scores of highly-skilled professionals across various ethnicities and nationalities are sending flowers to the US Citizenship and Immigration Service in a symbolic act of "Gandhiism" or Gandhigiri, to demonstrate their displeasure and to request honoring of their Green Card applications filed in July.
In response to this event, Academy Award Nominee Vidhu Vinod Chopra, who produced the run-away successes "Munna Bhai MBBS", and "Lage Raho Munna Bhai" stated, "Mahatma Gandhi has influenced several personalities, including American Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. These young, law-abiding professionals have set out to strive for reform the right way- the Gandhigiri way."
The theme of “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” centers on the usage of non-violent principles to win over difficult and non-co-operating entities. In the movies, character Munna Bhai wins over the tough Dr. Asthana by means of chain deliveries of flower bouquets. The sequel has revived Gandhian principles and popularized the concept of Gandhigiri- literally meaning a symbolic act of peaceful protest across South Asia and the UK.
Rajkumar Hirani, who has directed the Munna Bhai series, had this to say - "When you feel you have been wronged, you feel angry. The best way to overcome what you think is unjust, is to protest peacefully. Be nice to your opponent and let him see your point of view. My well-wishes go out to these educated, highly-skilled professionals who have abided by the law and have been eagerly waiting in line for their Green Cards for nearly ten years."
Boman Irani, who plays hardball Dr. Asthana in the popular series, shared his views – “Gandhigiri is a tool that makes your opponent see your point of view without losing your dignity. With aggression, one usually loses focus over the main issue, whereas good behavior makes the other person open up a dialogue. What’s key is to keep the efforts ongoing – Gandhigiri isn’t easy, but works in the long run!”.
The film personalities shared their solidarity with Immigration Voice, a not-for-profit group that advocates highly-skilled immigration reform.
“Expectations ran high among applicants. Highly-skilled professionals and US employers have incurred financial expenses averaging USD 3,000 or more, per family in just filing and preparation fees, not including the rush to get medical examinations completed on time, or the resulting hurry to get supporting documentation from home countries. Several applicants have had to call off vacations or business trips to be in the US to file ‘adjustment of status’ applications as part of the final stage of the Green Card process. Some applicants or their representatives even traveled personally to Immigration Service Centers to be the first ones to submit. Not to mention the downtime that has resulted in lost productivity to several US businesses", says Aman Kapoor, of Immigration Voice. Aged parents and families in home countries were inconvenienced to source supporting documentation such as birth and baptismal certificates, all resulting in naught.
Although the ability to file for ‘adjustment of status’ during July would not have granted the coveted Green Card, this move alone would have provided several interim benefits to qualifying applicants while waiting for their Green Cards- benefits such as the right to travel and right to work. Several applicants’ spouses are highly-skilled and have been eroding their skills over the years in anticipation of a Green Card because they cannot otherwise work on dependent visas.
Also, several applicants have been subject to career stagnation over the years and this move would have provided flexibility to switch employers after 180 days of filing. Employers would have benefited from paperwork reduction as well as additional legal fees required to frequently temporary visas.
Says Kapoor, "Disconcert among highly-skilled professionals grew exponentially in the last few days. Several members, out of their own initiative decided to organize a peaceful protest in the Gandhigiri style to display their resentment.”
Dr. Emilio Gonzales, USCIS Director, announced in a press release Monday that the agency would arrange for the flowers to be sent to recuperating service personnel. In the movie, Dr. Asthana finally relents to Munna Bhai's chain flower campaign. Although, this symbolic gesture has by highly-skilled professionals has evinced a reaction from movie moguls, it is hoped that the incident will prompt real meaningful reform in the US immigration system in the days to come.
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Immigration Voice (www.immigrationvoice.org)