A while ago, a leading Kolkata newspaper reported a wave of hate crimes by Americans against Indian-origin nationals. The newspaper cited the Press Trust of India, New York as follows: “Amid attacks on Indian-origin people in the US, an anti-immigration website has caused alarm among the community after featuring a video showing a man secretly filming Indian families at an Ohio park and commenting that the `Indian crowd’ has `ravished the mid-west’.” The creator of the video is a computer programmer who draws attentions to the number of jobs local Americans have lost to foreigners, particularly IT jobs, and especially to Indian immigrants. It follows on from the spate of hate crimes levelled at Indian-origin people in the US in recent times.
The Indian-origin community is seriously worried about its safety following ‘the hate crime shooting’ of a 32-year old Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas last month. More recently, Indian-origin Harnish Patel was shot dead while Deep Rai, a Sikh resident of Washington was shot at by a gunman yelling “go back to your own country”. And Ekta Desai was heckled by an African-American on a commuter train in New York.
All of which indicates that the news regarding the current status of Indians from India in the US is going from bad to worse. US President Donald Trump has condemned the incidents and stated that hate and evil are unAmerican ethics. A look back into the history of immigration norms and policy in the US might be interesting.
Hugh Tinker had written in 1977 that the change in the Asian situation in the US was the result through dramatic changes in the immigration policy. A century ago, the few hundred Asians who penetrated America were concentrated on the west coast, forming a continuation of the Canadian Sikh migration. California was known for its cults and sects as well a multiplicity of swamis or custodians of esoteric tidings. However, American immigration policy forbade the entry of all who were ineligible to become citizens, and Asians were in this category. When no less an Indian than Rabindranath Tagore entered the US from Canada in 1929, he was subjected to humiliation which made him cancel his tour and depart at once. After World War II, there was an easing of the ban, and India and Pakistan were allotted an entry quota. Presidents Kennedy and Johnson reorganised the whole system. Instead of the old norms and policies favouring entries from the UK and North-West Europe, new policies meant an annual entry of 120,000 Western immigrants and 170,000 from countries beyond the West. The new rules gained effect from 1968. While 5,205 Indian nationals entered the US in 1969, 15,589 arrived in 1972. Most of the Indians were skilled professionals.
In 2000, the US census listed the top ten countries indicating the birth of immigrants, the number of immigrants from each country living in the US and the projected growth in immigration by 2010. The greatest increase in immigrants or 23.7% was predicted to be from Mexico while India ranked fourth as far as country of origin was concerned with 1,000,000 immigrants living in the US in 2000 which was predicted to increase to 1,600,000 by 2010 or 4%, according to Rayna Bailey writing in 2010.
Bring me your huddled masses: what a shame if a great country born out of immigrant blood, sweat and toil should hate Indian ethnic groups due to their colour and other elements and resentment of the wealth they have lost being accrued by a wealthy immigrant brown community.
Aditi Chatterji is Honorary Associate, Centre for Urban Economic Studies, University of Calcutta
The views expressed are personal