Families separated by new Trump visa order frantic for answers
By Mica Rosenberg
(Reuters) - In early March, Poorva Dixit hurried to buy a ticket to India from the United States, her home for more than a decade after learning that her 72-year-old mother had fallen out of bed and was in a critical state Condition.
She decided to leave her two young children and husband in California because the novel coronavirus could spread around the world. Dixit and her husband are both Indian citizens, while their children are US citizens.
As a software developer with a temporary work permit in the U.S., Dixit knew that she needed to go to the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai to get a new visa in her passport, which some visa holders need when traveling abroad.
On March 16, one day before their visa date, the consulate was closed due to coronavirus restrictions. Her mother died eight days later.
Now, President Donald Trump's new immigration regulation on Monday, which prohibits the entry of certain temporary visa holders, could keep Dixit trapped in India by at least the end of the year, far from her children.
"I have already lost my mother and will also be kept away from my motherhood," Dixit, who lives with relatives on the outskirts of Mumbai, told Reuters. "At this point my brain is just a fog."
Dixit is one of nearly 1,000 people in India who are trapped in similar situations and have joined a private group through the Telegram messaging app.
Many like them have legally lived and worked in the U.S. for years, but were in India when Trump made his announcement on Monday. They are confused and concerned about their return options, the group's administrators told Reuters.
Trump's proclamation temporarily suspends the entry of people arriving with a range of work visas, including the H-1B for skilled workers, often in the technology industry, such as the visas that Dixit and her husband have. In addition to accompanying family members, the ban, which comes into force on Wednesday, also applies to L-Visa, which is used for the international transfer of high-ranking workers, as well as to various categories for seasonal workers and internship and internship programs.
There are some exceptions to the ban, including those working in the food industry and some medical workers involved in the fight against the coronavirus. While the Proclamation frees spouses and children from US citizens, it is silent about parents of children who are US citizens.
Dixit's husband Kaustubh tried to reconcile his full-time job with childcare for their 6 and 3 year old daughters.
Dixit sometimes calls her children for hours a day, trying to keep them busy reading books and singing songs so that her husband can work. However, she fears that the separation will cause psychological damage in the long term, especially for her younger daughter, who is frustrated by the phone calls. Her older daughter wrote about a family portrait on the fridge and "lived sadly to the end".
The White House said the visa measure is necessary to provide jobs to Americans when millions are unemployed due to the pandemic. But six Indians, including Dixit, from the telegram group told Reuters that they had kept their jobs in the US during the pandemic.
Vinod Albuquerque, a 41-year-old business consultant, has continued to work for his company in Atlanta since he had to go on an emergency trip to Mangalore on the west coast of southern India when his father had a stroke in February.
He left his pregnant wife, who was expected in September, and his 6-year-old son in the United States. He was also unable to arrange a visa date before the consulate closed and is now stranded.
"It feels so unfair," Albuquerque told Reuters. "We may understand something like this for new H-1Bs that have never been to the US, but people like us are collateral damage."
"I'm still contributing to the economy, I'm still taxed in the US," he said.
(Reporting by Mica Rosenberg in New York; additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in Los Angeles; editing by Ross Colvin and Leslie Adler)
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