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Donald Trump indicates 60-day immigration ban may not apply to H1-B

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US President Donald Trump has said that his immigration ban will be for only 60 days and indicated that workers on temporary visas like H1-B for professionals could continue to come in.

“This order will apply only to individuals seeking a permanent residency, in other words, those receiving green cards; big factor, will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis,” Trump said on Tuesday while clarifying that it is for only 60 days.

He said that there would also be some exemptions to the temporary ban on immigrants.

“Some people will have to come in; obviously we have to do that, obviously even from a humane standpoint,” he said.

Trump had tweeted the immigration ban on Monday night. He said that the executive order was being drafted and will probably be issued on Wednesday.

Trump said that after 60 days he and a group will evaluate the need for any extension or modification “based on economic conditions at that time.”

An immigration lawyer, Mark Davies, said that based upon the president’s comments H1-B visas for professionals, and temporary visas known as E-2 for a category of investors and L-1 visas for employees of foreign companies transferred to work in the US are not affected. But he added, “This may change as more information emerges.”

These categories of visas are temporary and do not of themselves confer permanent residence or path to citizenship.

But Davies said that the immigration ban would affect another category of visas for investors known as EB-5 because it “is a fast route to a Green Card for families and individuals able to invest $900,000.”

Trump said that he was solely motivated by the plight of American workers rendered jobless by the COVID-19 epidemic.

He said, “By pausing immigration we will help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs as America re-opens — so important. Would wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant about flown in from abroad.”

Another reason he said was to help “conserve vital medical resources for American citizens” and “protect the solvency of our health care system.”

Although he denied a reporter’s suggestion that he was using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to push his agenda of limiting immigration, that appeared to be what the ban was set to accomplish to a degree.

Trump has said that he wanted to end the immigration of extended family members and has imposed a requirement for immigrants to get health insurance and prove that they won’t utilise public benefits.

Many of those in the pipeline to receive green cards, especially Indians, are already legally in the US on other visas waiting their turn.

So the ban will have a greater impact on potential immigrants in categories like relatives of citizens, especially if exemptions are carved out for those coming in on the basis of some employment categories. His mention of conserving health resources is in line with the earlier mandate he had issued for immigrants to have health insurance.

He has said that he wanted to change the existing immigration system to give preference based on merit to immigrants coming for jobs at the expense of other categories like relatives, which he wants to end.

While he said that he was suspending immigration in order to protect American workers, the ban does not extend to non-immigrant workers who would be taking up jobs.

He specifically said that the tens of thousands of agricultural workers who are the backbone of US farming will continue to be allowed to come in.

There is a category of visas known as H2-A to enable workers to come in every year for agricultural and similar work which Americans won’t take up in sufficient numbers.

“If anything we are going to make it easier and we are doing a process that will make it better for those worker to come into the farm,” Trump said.

Especially at this time there is a demand for healthcare workers and Ian Brownlee, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs, has said that where routine visa services were suspended visas would be processed for medical personnel already accepted in US programmes.

The immigration ban appears to be more of a sop to a section of Trump’s base rather than making a big material difference in terms of limiting workers coming in as Democrat Representative Don Beyer pointed out in a tweet: “Immigration has nearly stopped and the US has far more (coronavirus) cases than any other country.”

While workers on non-immigrant visas can in theory come in, in reality there is a ban on travellers from 28 European countries, China and Iran, and air services have been severely curtailed from most parts of the world under a clampdown.

At the same time, farm workers would be allowed in through Mexico.

The US diplomatic missions in several countries have stopped holding immigrant visa interviews, although according to the New Delhi embassy website it appeared that interviews were continuing while for some categories it was done only at the Mumbai consulate.

The immigration service has also temporarily stopped immigration interviews within the US because of the social distancing rules.

Trump had already barred asylum-seekers from coming through the Mexican border and the immigration authorities have been returning to Mexico anyone caught crossing over illegally.

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Acting Afghan PM Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund calls on former officials to return home

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Afghanistan’s new Acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund has called on former officials who fled when the Taliban seized power last month to return to the country, saying the group “will guarantee their security and safety”, Al Jazeera reported.

In an interview with Al Jazeera on Wednesday, Akhund also said that the caretaker government would guarantee the security of diplomats, embassies and humanitarian relief institutions, stressing that the group wanted to establish positive and strong relations with countries in the region and beyond.

Akhund, a close associate and political adviser to the late Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban and its first supreme leader, said the movement’s leaders faced “a great responsibility and test” towards the Afghan people.

“We have suffered huge losses in money and lives for this historical moment in the history of Afghanistan,” Akhund added.

“The stage of bloodshed, killing and contempt for people in Afghanistan has ended, and we have paid dearly for this.”

Akhund also reiterated the Taliban’s promise of amnesty for anyone who has worked alongside the US and the administration it backed following its 2001 invasion, the report said.

“No one will be able to prove that he was subjected to revenge. And in such tense circumstances, it is easy to do what you want. But the movement is disciplined and controls its gunmen. And, we have not harmed anyone because of his previous actions,” he said.

On Tuesday night, the Taliban announced the formation of Afghanistan’s caretaker government, with Akhund appointed as Acting Prime Minister.

In a statement following the announcement, the Taliban’s supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, said the urgent task would be to carry out reconstruction and rehabilitation, and the country would seek “strong and healthy relations” with its neighbours and all other countries.

Besides the appointment of Akhund, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Abdul Salam Hanafi were named acting Deputy Prime Ministers, while Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, son of Mullah Omar, was appointed as Acting Defense Minister.

Amir Khan Muttaqi was appointed as Acting Foreign Minister, and Sarajuddin Haqqani, son of the founder of the Haqqani Network terror group, was named Acting Interior Minister.

According to the Taliban, the appointments were not final as these were acting positions, and the remaining posts would be announced later.

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Beware of anti-liberation forces’ conspiracy against nation: Sheikh Hasina

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Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday urged the people to remain alert as “anti-liberation forces”, along with their associates, are still conspiring against the country, “taking assistance from abroad”.

“War criminals, defeated forces, August 15 killers, and their children are still conspiring against Bangladesh. They’re plotting against the country,” she said in her address at a programme of Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL), the student wing of her Awami League, at Krishibid Institution, Bangladesh (KIB) to mark the National Mourning Day.

“Evil forces are pampered by some international forces which had acted against Bangladesh’s Liberation War. The nation must remain alert about it,” she said, joining the programme virtually from her official residence Ganobhaban.

At the beginning of the programme, a one-minute silence was observed to show respect to the martyrs of the August 15, 1975 massacre, where her father, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and most of the family were killed.

Hasina, the chief patron of BCL, asked its members and ruling party activists and leaders to work for the country being imbued with patriotism and follow the ideals of Bangabandhu, the Father of the Nation.

Referring to his hectic nation-building hectic effort, she said the defeated forces staged the August 15 massacre when they saw Bangladesh cannot be stopped from its economic march forward. “We’ve to move forward keeping that in our mind.”

She said the defeated forces of 1971 took their revenge with the August 15 carnage and distorted the history of Bangladesh after that, including its liberation struggle.

About Ziaur Rahman, who seized power after Sheikh Mujib’s assassination, and his engagement in the Liberation War in 1971, Hasina said there is no instance that he fired a single shot at the Pakistani forces. “No one can prove that.”

She mentioned that Mustaq, Rashid and Farooq, proclaimed killers of Sheikh Mujib, in their interviews with the BBC, admitted that Ziaur Rahman was always with them. “Zia was the source of all power (for them), he betrayed Sheikh Mujib,” she stressed.

The PM said she is surprised that these people, who had always visited Bangabandhu’s house for various purposes, including personal matters, killed him. “How could they do that!”

She also highlighted the sacrifice of her mother Bangamata Fazilatunnesa Mujib.

“My father could fully engage in the service of the country as he got such a companion beside him… this is a rare instance,” she said.

The Prime Minister stressed all that Bangladesh has many enemies and massive hurdles in every step of its development journey

“Our path of progress is not smooth. It is rather full of hurdles, but we’ve to move forward overcoming all the odds and obstacles, and we’re doing that,” she said, adding Bangladesh has stood out on the world stage in the last 12 years.

The Prime Minister earlier unveiled a book titled “Matribhumi” and the “Joy Bangla Magazine”.

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IAF plane with 35 evacuees from Kabul lands at Hindon

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The Indian Air Force (IAF) plane, C-17 Globemaster carrying 35 evacuees from Kabul, landed at the Hindon Air Force Station in Ghaziabad on Thursday.

The 35 evacuees comprised 24 Indian and 11 Nepali nationals.

All the evacuees will be taken by ITBP buses from the airport to a quarantine centre at Chhawala.

India has continued the air rescue operation, named as Ops Devi Shakti, from Kabul, as well as from other countries like Qatar and Tajikistan. Indian officials are making all round efforts to evacuate not only Indians but Afghan nationals too.

The operation was announced by the External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on August 24.

A Special Afghan Cell was set up on August 16 to coordinate repatriation and other requests from Afghanistan in a streamlined manner, Jaishankar in an all party meet held on Thursday.

As per evacuation data shared by Jaishankar, a total of 175 embassy personnel 263 other Indian nationals, 112 Afghan nationals including Hindus and Sikhs, 15 third country nationals have been evacuated so far.

He said that a total of 565 persons have been evacuated so far.

The Central government has also facilitated the evacuation of Indians by other agencies.

These evacuees have been brought to New Delhi from various routes such as Doha in Qatar, Dushanbe in Tajikistan and other neighbouring countries in special flights of Air India and some private carrier too.

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