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IT companies file lawsuit against US immigration agency over shorter duration of H1B visas

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Washington | An IT advocacy group representing more than 1,000 small IT companies mostly run by Indian-Americans has filed a lawsuit against the US immigration agency for issuing H-1B visas for shorter than three years duration.

The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China.  These visas are typically issued for three to six years to employers to hire a foreign worker.

Based out of Dallas in Texas, the ITServe Alliance in its 43-page lawsuit filed last week alleged that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services has recently begun a practice of approving H-1B petitions for shorter than three years duration. “These petitions are often valid for only months or days at a time, and some cases are expired by the time the approval is received,” it said.

ITServe lawsuit against the USCIS alleges that the agency has no authority to misinterpret the existing regulations and shorten the approval durations.

In fact, the United States Congress has specifically granted power to the Department of Labor and DOL’s regulations grant three-year approvals, the lawsuit said. The lawsuit also alleges that the itinerary requirement put forth by the USCIS is also unlawful.

This is the second lawsuit filed by ITServe against USCIS. In the first lawsuit filed in July 2018, ITServe demanded USCIS to remove language from their website prohibiting F-1 STEM OPT students working at the third part client locations.

“The USCIS has been making arbitrary rules and memos for over eight years, it’s our top priority to set things right and hold USCIS accountable to follow the regulations set by the Unites States Congress,” said ITServe’s national president for 2018, Gopi Kandukuri.

Referring to the recent spate of H-1B denials that ITServe members received, Kandukuri added members of ITServe Alliance are tired of receiving random denials for no reason.

“The new battlefield for us is the federal courthouse and not USCIS service centres, he said.

India International

Kamala Harris jumps into presidential race

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Kamala Harris

Washington | Kamala Harris, a first-term senator and former California attorney general known for her rigorous questioning of President Donald Trump’s nominees, entered the Democratic presidential race on Monday.

Vowing to “bring our voices together,” Harris would be the first woman to hold the presidency and the second African-American if she succeeds.

Harris, a daughter of immigrant parents who grew up in Oakland, California, is one of the earliest high-profile Democrats to join what is expected to be a crowded field.

She made her long anticipated announcement on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I am running for president of the United States,” she said. “And I’m very excited about it.” The 54-year old portrayed herself as a fighter for justice, decency and equality in a video distributed by her campaign as she announced her bid.

“They’re the values we as Americans cherish, and they’re all on the line now,” Harris says in the video. “The future of our country depends on you and millions of others lifting our voices to fight for our American values.”

Harris launched her presidential as the nation observes what would have been the 90th birthday of the slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr The timing was a clear signal that the California senator who has joked that she had a “stroller’s-eye view” of the civil rights movement because her parents wheeled her and her sister Maya to protests sees herself as another leader in that fight.

She abandoned the formality of launching an exploratory committee, instead going all in on a presidential bid.

She plans a formal campaign launch in Oakland on January 27. The campaign will be based in Baltimore, with a second office in Oakland.

Harris joins what is expected to be a wide-open race for the Democratic presidential nomination. There’s no apparent front-runner at this early stage and Harris will face off against several Senate colleagues.

Sens Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York have both launched exploratory committees. Sens Cory Booker of New Jersey, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also looking at the race.

If Booker enters the race, he and Harris could face a fierce competition for support from black voters.

Vermont Sen Bernie Sanders, who unsuccessfully sought the 2016 Democratic nomination, is also considering a campaign. Several other Democrats have already declared their intentions, including former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro.

Harris launches her campaign fresh off of a tour to promote her latest memoir, “The Truths We Hold,” which was widely seen as a stage-setter for a presidential bid.

She is already planning her first trip to an early primary state as a declared candidate.

On Friday, Harris will travel to South Carolina to attend the Pink Ice Gala in Columbia, which is hosted by a South Carolina chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, which Harris pledged as an undergraduate student at Howard University. The sorority, founded more than 100 years ago, is a stronghold in the African-American community.

South Carolina, where black voters make up a large share of the Democratic electorate, is likely to figure heavily into Harris’s prospects. And early voting in Harris’s home state of California will overlap with the traditional early nominating contests, which could give Harris a boost.

Harris’s campaign team is already taking shape and includes several veterans of Democratic politics.

Juan Rodriguez, who ran Harris’s 2016 Senate campaign, will manage her presidential bid. Her sister, Maya Harris, a former top adviser to Hillary Clinton, will be the campaign chair.

The veteran campaign finance lawyer Marc Elias will serve as the Harris campaign’s general counsel, and Angelique Cannon, who worked for Clinton’s 2016 campaign, will serve as national finance director. David Huynh, who was Clinton’s director of delegate operations in 2016, will serve as a senior adviser. Lily Adams, a Clinton campaign alum who has worked as Harris’s spokeswoman, will be communications director.

Her staff says she plans to reject the assistance of a super PAC, as well as corporate PAC money. She’s invested heavily in cultivating a digital, small-dollar donor network before her presidential bid.

Before her 2016 victory in the Senate race, Harris made her career in law enforcement. She served as the district attorney in San Francisco before she was elected to serve as attorney general.

Harris is likely to face questions about her law enforcement record, particularly after the Black Lives Matter movement and activists across the country pushed for a criminal justice overhaul.

Harris’s prosecutorial record has recently come under new scrutiny after a blistering opinion piece in The New York Times criticized her repeated claim that she was a “progressive prosecutor,” focused on changing a broken criminal justice system from within.

Harris addressed her law enforcement background in her book. She argued it was a “false choice” to decide between supporting the police and advocating for greater scrutiny of law enforcement.

She “knew that there was an important role on the inside, sitting at the table where the decisions were being made,” she wrote. “When activists came marching and banging on the doors, I wanted to be on the other side to let them in.” Harris supported legislation that passed the Senate last year that overhauled the criminal justice system, particularly when it comes to sentencing rules.

Harris is framing her campaign through her courtroom experience. The theme of her nascent campaign is “Kamala Harris, for the people,” the same words she spoke as a prosecutor, trying a case in the courtroom. (AP) MRJ

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Israeli bombardment in Syria kills 11: Monitor

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Israel says its jets struck Iranian military sites in Syria

Beirut | Israeli strikes that hit several targets in Syria overnight to Monday killed at least 11 pro-regime fighters including two Syrians, a war monitor said.

Israel’s military said it had targeted a number of Iranian installations in the country early on Monday, hours after intercepting a rocket fired from Syrian territory.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor, said they were the deadliest Israeli strikes in Syria since May last year.

“Israeli strikes targeting Iranian and Syrian military positions near and south of Damascus killed at least 11 fighters including two Syrians,” Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.

The targets included weapons depots belonging to Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah and Iranian fighters, he said.

Air strikes and ground-to-ground missiles hit several targets around the capital including near the Damascus airport, as well as near the Thaala military airport to the south of the capital, the Observatory said.

Israel has pledged to stop its main enemy Iran entrenching itself militarily in neighbouring Syria.

In May, Israeli strikes killed 27 pro-regime fighters including 11 Iranians in strikes on dozens of Iranian targets inside Syria.

Israel said at the time it was responding to a salvo of rockets fired by Iranian forces into the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

More than 360,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since the start of Syria’s civil war with the brutal repression of anti-government protests in 2011.

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Nepal’s central bank announces ban of Indian notes above ₹100

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The central bank of Nepal has banned the use of Indian currency notes of Rs. 2,000, 500 and 200 denominations, a move that could impact tourists from India that are visiting the country where the Indian currency is used widely.

It was on Sunday that Nepal Rastra Bank issued a circular that prohibited the Nepali travelers, banks and financial institutions from carrying, holding and trading Indian bank notes higher than 100 rupees note, reported the Kathmandu Post.

The central bank in its circular said that the denominations of Rs. 200, 500 and 2000 cannot be carried and used for trading.

As per the new regulation, the citizens of Nepal cannot carry these denominations to countries other than India.

In the same manner, the citizens of Nepal, are not permitted to bring these notes from other countries. Indian notes of Rs. 100 or below, however, are permitted for conversion and trading, states the circular of the bank.

It was on the 13th December last year that the Cabinet had called the shots to publish the notification in the Nepal Gazette as to not to permit the notes of the Indian currency above the denominations of Rs. 100 in Nepal.

On the other hand, the ban has not been taken all that well by the entrepreneurs and traders stating it would hurt the growing tourism of the country at a time when the government has declared ‘Visit Nepal’ campaign with a target to attract at least 2 million tourists in the year 2020.

Since a majority of Indians come to Nepal over land from bordering towns, it is difficult for them to convert their currency to Dollar or Euro, they said.

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