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‘One day we may see an Indian American president,’ says Ami Bera, US Congressman

Bera is the seniormost member of the Indian American caucus

world Updated: May 14, 2017 10:36 IST
Yashwant Raj
Ami Bera, seniormost member of the Samosa Caucus.
Ami Bera, seniormost member of the Samosa Caucus.(Photo: MCT via Getty Images)

Ami Bera, 51, from California, the senior-most Indian American legislator, is into his third term. In his previous two terms, he travelled to India and co-chaired the India Caucus in the House of Representatives. Born to Gujaratis from India, Bera has retained a strong link to India. An interview over email as Bera was travelling.

I am sure you know some of your fellow Indian Americans elected to Congress this time are calling themselves the “Samosa Caucus”.

Among members of our community, ‘the Samosa Caucus’ is a nice name, but I’d prefer calling ourselves the Indian American caucus. As leaders we can serve to inspire the next generation of young Indian Americans, as well as project our contributions as a community to the broader American experience. This leadership is now more important than ever given the new administration’s rhetoric against immigrants.

All of them hold you as their mentor, who helped them settle down in their new roles.

I appreciate the compliment, but really, Pramila, Raja, and Ro are leaders in their own right. I’ve tried to help them navigate the transition to Congress as well as domestic American politics, US-India, and Indian politics. They’re all doing great, with each finding their own unique voice and I expect each of them will make their own unique impact.

Congressman, how does it feel to have so many fellow Indian Americans in the House together? And do you try and coordinate legislative action with them?

This is a great start and hopefully we will continue to see Indian Americans engaging in the political process. With regards to specific policy coordination, unfortunate circumstances have led us to focus on acts of hate violence in America. The tragic murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kansas, and the frequency of other incidents around the country spurred us to join together to fight this hate. Collectively, we are working with other civil rights organisations to push back against the Trump administration’s policies and rhetoric. We have also joined together to co-sponsor legislation, including the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act (HR 392) and the No Religious Registry Act (HR 489).

Do tell us a little about interacting with them.

I remember four years ago, how overwhelming it was when I first got elected. Trying to hire staff, set up an office, select committees and just learn what it means to be a member of the House of Representatives. When Pramila, Raja and Ro were elected, it was my obligation to help them in any way I could. From recommending staff to sharing what I’ve learned. We talk pretty regularly and often speak to Indian American and Asian American groups that visit DC. We’ve discussed working together to help inspire others from our community to consider getting involved in the political process.

Do you think the group can help the community, and if so, how?

The Indian American community has done very well in America. We are now the most affluent and most educated demographic, and one that is key to the economic success of America. Five members of Congress give our community a voice at the political table, and it’s my hope that over the next few years we will be joined by more colleagues. One day we may see an Indian American President - after all, this is the America we believe in.