About 7 years ago, I woke up to the reality of the US immigration system. Like many of you, I was staring at many years in long queues, sorted by country of birth. My wife's ability to work was in question as was my ability to move jobs and make progress in my career. But those were still optimistic days. A new grassroots organization called Immigration Voice
was starting. It would provide us a forum to come together and start making our voices heard.
We went through the roller coaster of two CIR bills, in 2006 and 2007. And then, in June 2007 USCIS played fast and loose with us when they cancelled the July 07 visa bulletin. With CIR having failed twice, we could have thrown up our hands and given up. Instead, we decided to stand up for ourselves and become a part of the solution. We launched the flower campaign
and participated in a hectic behind-the-scenes effort that got the visa bulletin restored. Then 2000 of us collected in DC, in September 07
and made our presence felt with a rally, a press conference and over 300 lawmaker meetings. We have not looked back since. We started many successful state chapters and from them developed IV's most inspirational leaders. We returned to DC repeatedly and made our case to lawmakers, the White House and USCIS, building relationships and slowly but surely making our message and proposals a central part of their immigration policies. Most recently we hosted a summit in San Jose
that was attended by key immigration players.
Today lawmakers introduce bills with our central proposals embedded in them and seek our support at the grassroots. The bill to remove country quotas has just been reintroduced in the House
. USCIS officials consult with us on fixes to their processes. Administration officials actively engage us in discussing executive proposals to fix the current set of problems. As Aman Kapoor likes to say, "In Washington, if you are not on the guest list, then you are on the menu". And we have a seat at the table. I have personally traveled to DC more times than I can remember now and will be back this month for the advocacy days. Last month, I had the privilege of testifying before the full Judiciary Committee in the House of Representative. It was an honor to represent the high-skilled immigrant community in America, the best and the brightest from across the world. I cannot describe in words, the weight and the joy of representing everyone stuck in the green card backlogs and have the opportunity to tell our stories. Many of us in IV's volunteer groups and leadership teams, including me, got Green Cards over the years. But we have not given up on our goal of reforming the system.
Today, we are again faced with the prospect of a CIR bill. In order to succeed though, we need each one of you to do your share. There are many ways to contribute and we cannot succeed without your help. So I am asking you to step-up and join hands, meet your lawmakers, speak up in town halls, come to DC for the advocacy event, donate air miles, help fund someone else's travel, donate towards the organization of the event, make phone calls and spread the message.
Life is too short. You can either spend your time on the sidelines, or, you could join others in the good fight. Put your time, money and effort on the table. You will not be doing it for me, or for anyone else. This is about you. The new demand data has been released by USCIS. Soon there will be a new visa bulletin. Except that there will nothing new about it. Watching bulletins has gotten us nowhere. Let's do something to change them instead.
I hope each one of you will make the right choice, so that you can look back at this moment, one day, with pride not regret.
Dr. Puneet Arora MD
Vice President, Immigration Voice