With the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and rise in cases of racially motivated crimes following Donald Trump’s presidency, Indians abroad are understandably nervous. Trump’s presidential campaign was one that was marked by xenophobia and racism. One of his main campaign promises was the border wall which would prevent Mexicans from coming into the country and stealing American jobs.
In keeping with this tone, as soon as Trump took office, he wasted no time in issuing an executive order effectively banning entry of nationals from seven muslim majority countries. Receiving much flak for the “muslim ban”, the order was eventually struck down by the court and has now been replaced with another executive order. According to this one - Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States – entry of foreign nationals from six countries, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria and Sudan will be temporarily suspended. Iraq has been removed from the list as a special case given their commitment to fighting the Islamic State terrorist group.
According to The First Post, the order does take some softer positions. The Refugee Program through which the government believes that several terrorists enter the U.S has not been suspended but opened up for review allowing the grant waivers on a case-by-case basis.
EO 13769 had articulated Trump's demand to "prioritise refugee claims made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual's country of nationality". Taken in context of the six countries on the travel ban list, it means that non-Muslims would be prioritised. However, in the second iteration, this clause disappears.
While India does not feature anywhere on this list, the worry is that the rhetoric of the Trump government including statements like this one as justification for the order, will breed fear and hate-
Recent history shows that some of those who have entered the United States through our immigration system have proved to be threats to our national security. Since 2001, hundreds of persons born abroad have been convicted of terrorism-related crimes in the United States. They have included not just persons who came here legally on visas but also individuals who first entered the country as refugees.
Indian-American legislators are not happy. Several of them have criticised the new order as un-American. Kamla Harris, Senator from California was quoted as saying –
Make no mistake: this ban does not keep us safe. It puts American lives at risk while isolating the Muslim community at a time when we need to address the threat of home grown extremism. No matter the changes, this executive action remains immoral and fundamentally un-American,
Anirvan Chaterjee writes in The Medium that the recent spate of hate crimes against Indians is not new. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, there were several attacks against sikhs and muslims. Referring to a millions of dollars spent on PR by hate groups Chatterjee says –
But the brutal murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla wasn’t just a spontaneous act of hate. It comes after a decade of dangerous propaganda aimed at convincing people that brown immigrants are out to destroy America.
He points out in the article that republican’s direct mail campaign in Kansas a few months before focused on terrorism.
In July 2016, Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas mailed a postcard to Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s neighbors implying that dark-skinned foreigners were poised to attack rural Kansas. In November, he won the election with 51% of the vote. By February, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was dead.
And since Kuchibhotla there have been other incidents. Deep Rai, a sikh man was shot at outside his home just outside of Washington and just two days before that, an Indian store owner was shot dead in South Carolina.
In her column in The First Post Padmini Parthasarathy talks about how Indians in America should no longer remain apolitical given the current climate of hatred and racism and warns that apathy could be an ‘existential threat.’
More often than not, we are perceived as some sort of vague brown in America. To some eyes, we’re biracial. To others, we present as Latino. To others, we look like Saudi Arabians or Egyptians or Yemeni or Iranian. Racial profiling is not nuanced. It is the institutionalising of a base and simplistic hatred. It is a wall built brick by brick in the fog of fear.
According to her the travel ban has motivated border patrol and security officials to ‘go rogue’ leading to a lot of chaos in airports.
I now have the protection of my US passport but I am still brown in America. When travelling, I have experienced the indignity of being pulled out of a line and searched again. This is the most diluted experience of institutional racism and profiling. Implicit in this form of profiling, however, is the threat of state violence and coercion that undergirds interactions between oppressed groups and authorities on a day-to-day basis. Being brown in Arizona means being stopped and asked for papers.
CBC news reported the growing concerns of being harassed during travel. According to this report a Canadian woman born to Indian parents was held at the border for more than 6 hours and was eventually denied entry.
India Today also reported that there are several sites such as SaveAmericanITJobs.com which peddle hatred against Indians. The article has a video which shows a man filming Indian families in a park in Ohio. The man is heard saying in the video-
The number of people from foreign countries blows my mind out here. You see this whole area is all Indian, amazing. It's an amazing number of jobs have been taken away from Americans. The Indian crowd has ravished the Midwest. It's a takeover.
One of Trump’s own senior counsellors, Steve Bannon, who is thought to be the architect of the anti-immigration stance, holds views which are not very different. The Huffington Post reported that Bannon has, on several occasions, referred to a ‘Camp of the Saints-type invasion’ when talking about immigrants and refugees. This phrase is the title of a French novel which is widely criticised for its racist plot. The book has been described as a call to arms for the white Christian West.
The plot of The Camp of the Saints follows a poor Indian demagogue, named “the turd-eater” because he literally eats shit, and the deformed, apparently psychic child who sits on his shoulders. Together, they lead an “armada” of 800,000 impoverished Indians sailing to France. Dithering European politician bureaucrats and religious leaders, including a liberal pope from Latin America, debate whether to let the ships land and accept the Indian or to do the right thing-in the book’s vision-by recognising the threats the migrants pose and killing them all.
The government of course acknowledged Kuchibhotla’s murder as a hate crime but did not think that their actions empowered this hate. Given this kind of ideological commitment within the policy making establishment, one cannot expect anything different.
JUST IN: White House, speaking about Kansas shooting, says any loss of life is tragic but absurd to link to president's rhetoric— Reuters U.S. News (@ReutersUS) February 24, 2017
I am sorry to know about the attack on Deep Rai a US national of Indian origin. I have spoken to Sardar Harpal Singh father of the victim./1— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 5, 2017
He told me that his son had a bullet injury on his arm. He is out of danger and is recovering in a private hospital. /2— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 5, 2017
Our Consulate in New York has spoken to the father of the deceased in Massachusetts. He says this is a personal family tragedy. https://t.co/6XVXcGMZTX— Sushma Swaraj (@SushmaSwaraj) March 5, 2017
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