Sitting at her parents’ home in India this week, Sraboni Bose read exactly one proclamation signed by President Trump restricting the entry of thousands of foreign workers and their families. In doing so, she sought confirmation that this would not affect her family.
Her husband, a software engineer, was in Texas and had a current 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 certain foreign workers – stamped and renewed. Check.
Her 5-year-old daughter was supposed to have her H-4 visa renewed before the coronavirus pandemic caused the US to stop regular visa processing. Foreign workers and their families can have their stay in America extended. However, if they are traveling overseas, updated visa stamps are required to re-enter the US. She hadn’t got the stamp yet.
32-year-old Bose read the command over and over and every time she came to the same fear: Since her daughter did not have a valid visa on June 24, as the proclamation requires, she believes they will not return to the city may US.
“I was devastated. We never thought this would happen,” she told BuzzFeed News. “How can a 5-year-old affect the economy? She studies Pre-K and wants to see her father.”
Desperate, Bose tweeted about her family’s saga.
“How can an H4 minor waiting 4 months in India to be stamped affect the economy? @USCIS @StateDept. We waited four months in India for her F2F interview which was canceled in light of Covid-19. There should be some consideration when the H1 is in the US, ”she wrote.
A State Department spokesman said the agency cannot comment on individual cases because the visa records are confidential under federal law, referring instead to the text of Trump’s proclamation.
Bose is just one of the thousands of people stuck overseas or with a family outside of the U.S. looking for answers on social media in the days since Trump signed his order to suspend some foreign labor visas.
It’s a phenomenon that has been going on since the beginning of the Trump era: a broad order that affects thousands of people who are confused and fearful looking for help or advice online.
The proclamation spawned hashtags like #excludeusfromban and #LetMeGoHome. Immigration lawyers who posted calls for stories or gave advice have been inundated with responses and messages. The State Department has been responding to tweets about the details of the contract all week. Even some reporters were wanted for their expertise.
“The implementation of these and other immigration policies by the government shows a complete disregard for the affected population,” said Sarah Pierce, an analyst at the Institute for Migration Policy. “Ideally, a major policy change like this would have been accompanied by questions and answers from the relevant agencies to educate the public and reach out to stakeholders so they are prepared for the change. Instead, we have seen that the affected population and their supporters have reduced themselves to seeking advice about their future in 240-character bits. “
Trump’s proclamation describes how “under normal circumstances, properly managed temporary employment programs can benefit the economy”. In the post-pandemic economic situation, “certain non-immigrant visa programs that authorize such employment pose an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.”
The ordinance signed on Monday suspended H-1B visas for highly skilled workers, most H-2B visas for non-seasonal agricultural workers, most J-1 visas for exchange visitors, and H-4 visas for escort workers.
Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, director of government relations for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said the conversations on Twitter were evidence of “utter confusion, lack of clear guidance and fear for people’s livelihoods and futures”.
The pouring out of questions and requests for help over the past week could also be attributed to the large numbers affected and the cumulative impact of yet another immigration ordinance restricting access to the U.S., said Greg Siskind, a Tennessee-based immigration attorney.
Siskind said he received thousands of messages on social media. When he can’t answer a question on Twitter, people flood LinkedIn, Facebook, and email for advice.
“This is the usual botched introduction we’ve gotten used to at this White House,” he said, referring to previous orders such as the initial travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries that caused chaos at airports in the US.
This time the language of the order put even the most experienced lawyers in the shade.
“The order itself is written in a confusing way, so even the experts can’t really be sure who is in and who is out,” he said.
Questions still remain as to whether those who have a current visa but are leaving the US and going overseas are subject to the ban if they need new visa stamps for return.
Siskind said State Department officials said online that these individuals would not be able to return to the US, but “this is a complete contradiction to the plain language of the Order.” He believes that such as Bose’s child could be refused entry.
Gayatri Patankar, a 32-year-old Arizona resident, was one of those who reached out to Siskind on Twitter. She had gone to India with her child and husband earlier this year. She had needed a new H1B visa stamp but was unable to get it because the consulate was closed. She later lost her job, hoping to return to the US with her husband on an H4 visa.
“Hello, I came to India with a 2 month old child for family reasons and have been stuck here ever since. I have been studying / working in the US for 7 years now. We have our home, our car and other things in the US. Please help us return home. That’s not fair, ”tweeted Patankar at Siskind.
She asked for help and guidance 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, had thought of her husband when she went on social media. He had to leave the United States for Canada as soon as his student visa expired.
Due to the proclamation, he cannot obtain an H-4 visa to accompany her in the US.
“I am personally affected by the ban on family separation. I know friends who visited India to meet dying parents one last time, newly married spouses, home, car, everything in the US and are now stuck! 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 life for the next 6 to 12 months, now with this ban, everything has been lost. “
Meanwhile, Bose has had difficult conversations with her 5-year-old daughter about whether she 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 her,” she said. I said to her, ‘At the moment the proclamation doesn’t allow us because they think some of us can work and that can’t help them because they want more work. It’s like you’re grounded or on time out. You can’t see your father for another 6 months. “
June 26, 2020, 11:40 p.m.
Correction: Sraboni Bose’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this post.