Both our Department of State, and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, had golden opportunities to make an impact on their own nations' immigration problems last week in Washington, and both wasted them. Trump's State Department presumably wants to decrease illegal immigration; Modi's government wants to increase Indian migration to the States.
For a few minutes, it looked like the Department of State had done the right thing with the oft-abused K visa (for fiancées of citizens); it initially declared that the six-nation travel ban should cover aliens (largely women) arriving with this visa, and then, a few minutes later, State decided that the fiancées fell into the category of those "who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship" here.
Earlier in the week the Supreme Court, in an interim ruling on the Trump travel ban, said that those with such a claim could continue to come to the United States, and that others, such as tourists, from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, could not. The justices left it up to the executive to define who had such a claim, and State ruled — eventually — that the fiancées were not to be included in the ban.
That was too bad, because the frequently abused visa is totally needless.
I have never heard of anyone approaching the problem that way. If an alien is in this country and marries a citizen, the citizen can seek an immigrant visa for the new spouse. If the alien marries the citizen abroad, that visa is also available — without any numerical limits. The only time that a K visa comes into play is if the citizen will not travel overseas for the marriage and the prospective spouse cannot secure a nonimmigrant visa.
But Uncle Sam, playing the role of the stupid cupid, has created a special visa to solve the narrow inconvenience just described.
To secure a K visa, the government has ruled that the two people involved have to have met in person once, and even that minimal standard can be waived. K visas thus are often used in arranged marriages, something the government does not seem to worry about. Further, there is enough fraud in this program so that the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on the subject earlier this year.
And then there is the late Muslim mass murderer, who came here on what looks to me like an arranged marriage, Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino terrorists. She entered the United States on a K-1 visa. She was a Muslim, but not from one of the six nations; she was from Pakistan, a neighbor to Iran.
What the State Department had last week, but did not realize it, was one of the laboratory situations that one finds rarely in government — in this case, a chance to check out the impact on migration of the elimination of the K visa in the six nations. Bear in mind that something over 25 percent of our immigration visas, generally, result from weddings, and those weddings often lead to more chain migration.
What would happen to the total marriage-created inflow of aliens from those six nations if one of the visa opportunities were removed (i.e., the K visa). Would that flow continue at or near full volume, as the true lovers moved around the lack of a K-visa, or would the change in the rules reduce, perhaps sharply, the arrival of new brides and grooms from those nations?
And, if there were to be a sharp reduction in the arrivals, what would that tell us about the utility and the integrity of the K visa?
We will never know, because of State Department's lack of vision, complicated by the scarcity of Trump appointees working on immigration policy matters.
The results of this real life study could have been held up against what we already know about the K visa.
We know that a large fraction of the applications for the K visas are denied by our consular officers. The Visa Office reports that more than 20 percent of the applications, on a net basis, were denied in 2016, when one compares the number of approvals, a thundering 38,403 a year, to the net denials of 10,028 a year (some initial denials are subsequently reversed, but there seems to be no review process to sort out inappropriate initial approvals).
We also know, from that hearing and from numerous anguished letters from citizens scammed by V-1 spouses, that the Department of Homeland Security will not investigate these cases once they have given the alien spouse a green card, often on the grounds that the spouse had been abused by the citizen. It is one of those instances in which a gram of prevention is worth a ton of cure.
Meanwhile, although I have seen no press on the K-1 issue, an alert Indian reporter, Sujeet Rajan of News India Times, on June 29 wrote about a comparably nuanced policy opportunity that Modi did not use during his meeting with President Trump.
Rajan noted the enormous dependence of India on the H-1B program for job opportunities for Indians and the remittances they send home. He said that Modi should have announced two changes in India's migration policy designed to create goodwill and thus preserve the H-1B program, or to expand it. Both announcements would be surprises, if specialized ones. One would be to give spouses of American workers in India a chance to work in the Indian economy, which they now lack, and the second would be the creation of a one-year work experience program for U.S. graduates of Indian universities, like our OPT program.
There was no need for Rajan to point out to his Indian audience that those two gracious gestures on the part of India would relate to a few thousand Americans, while the Indian H-1B workers (and their spouses) number in the hundreds of thousands.
But Modi, like our State Department, missed the chance.