With the Donald Trump government in the US enforcing immigration laws in the recent months, many Indian-origin engineers in Silicon Valley are staring at a gloomy future. One of these is Sri Ponnada, a young software engineer working with Microsoft. With her stay in the US set to expire in February 2019 and with little hope for a visa extension for her, Sri has written an emotional Facebook posts in which she says that soon she may not have any home or country.
"Where should I go? Jamaica -- where I came from? Or to India where I was born but haven't lived in since I was 3 years old," Sri questions in her post, asking lawmakers to pass a legislation to protect the status of kids who were legally brought into the country by their parents.
Sri Ponnada, who hails from India, moved to the USA from Jamaica at the age of 14 years when her mother started her Internal Medicine residency in New York back in 2008. After finishing her high-school education in New York, she moved to a small town in Iowa where everyone needed doctors, with her family.
Soon after she enrolled at the Iowa University where she took up numerous jobs which included writing for the Daily Iowan, tutoring students in Computer Science, volunteering at the public library to teach kids how to code for free, volunteering at the Women's Resource and Action Center. Besides this, she served as News Director at University of Iowa's campus radio station. She was also elected by her student body to represent them in their student government as a student Senator.
"But while I was doing all this stuff, I was still struggling with major anxiety and depression because I was scared about whether or not me and my family would get our green cards...Normally USCIS sees National Interest Waiver cases like hers in 6 months to a year, so we thought we'd be okay but because of the decades long wait times, we found out that once I turned 21, I could no longer stay here as her dependent," she wrote in a post on her Facebook support page.
She graduated early at the age of 20 years with a Bachelor's degree in English and Computer Science and got a permanent job as a software engineer with Microsoft. She lost her dependent visa-status at the age of 21 and had to convert to a F1 visa in order to complete her education and graduate.
"Everything I've learned, I learned in America. My family is here, my friends are here, my life is here. I think of myself as an American and contribute not only to my communities but also to the greater American economy, and I hope you see me as an American, too," she added.
After joining Microsoft, she applied for a H1B visa, which is a "lottery" she lost. So now, when her visa expires in February 2019, she will be forced to leave her parents, who are lawful permanent residents of the country, her family and friends and migrate to another country.
I'm proud to call Sri a Microsoft colleague. Thank you @RepKevinYoder for taking the time to hear our employees stories, and for your commitment to eliminating #percountry limits. #HR392 https://t.co/FlFWbwzGI6Jack Chen (@jakchen) June 21, 2018
Meanwhile, Sri has found support in Microsoft's Assistant General Counsel Jack Chen and US Rep Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) who met her back in June.
They're facing the same problem as dreamers, but aren't getting nearly the attention. Sri's plight is one of the reasons I'm fighting to pass my bill, HR 392, that puts an end to this injustice.Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) June 21, 2018
Sri is the face of the green card backlog.
In the past couple of months, the US government has been criticised severely for its immigration policy which has resulted in the separation of tens of thousands of children from their parents. But that's just a part of the problem as the US policies are also forcing the children of the people who legally migrated to the country years ago to leave the country.