‘Big India’ at Howdy Modi in Houston. But really, it’s ‘Adios Indians’

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President Trump and Prime Minister Modi hold their arms aloft before an audience of an estimated 59,000 people according to organizers, at the NRG Stadium HowdyModi! event in Houston, TX, Sept. 22, 2019. (Photo: MEA Facebook)

NEW YORK – The term ‘Little India’, to denote sizeable congregation of desis in urban residential or commercial areas, would have seemed a misnomer to those who took in the awesome sight of 59,000 strong, army-like disciplined crowd that swarmed into the NRG Stadium in Houston last Sunday morning for the ‘Howdy Modi’ event.

It was ‘Big India’ all the way.

The spotlight that was on PM Modi for weeks after the event was announced – to dwarf previous editions of such jamborees in New York and San Jose, and President Trump in the days preceding it after he decided to make it a joint rally, quickly turned around to the Indian American diaspora.

There was effusive praise from all quarters, from Modi to Trump, to External Affairs minister, Jaishankar, for the extraordinary effort of some volunteers in spearheading such a massive mission to fete not only Modi, but to showcase the might, efficiency and creativity of the community and of India itself.

There was genuine respect and admiration from all who participated for the gargantuan effort that rolled out smoothly at the NRG Stadium, from start to finish.

Under the bright lights of the home of the Houston Texans, for some hours at least, as Modi and Trump waltzed through their act, it seemed – even though it was like a chimera of sorts – that the richest diaspora community in America was finally getting the national air time it deserved.

That America could finally see the community for what it really was: dedicated, organized, sincere, happy, enthusiastic, family-and-culture-oriented, who not only love America as much as India, but contribute massively to America’s economy, produce incredibly talented professionals in all fields.

Not to mention the best selfie-taker in the world too, as was demonstrated by Satvik Hegde, who managed with consummate ease to rope in both Trump and Modi under his camera’s arc. The teenager got a handshake from Trump and a pat on his back from Modi, for his bold dexterity. ‘Now, that’s my boy!’, Sunil Chhetri might have screamed in adulation, if in the audience.

For all the wonders of multiculturalism in America, as exemplified by the Indian community last weekend in Houston, there’s a new twist in the tale of immigration: the number of Indians and other immigrant foreigners fell drastically last year.

The New York Times reported today that the United States population gained immigrants at the slowest pace in a decade last year, according to an analysis of new census data.

The net increase of immigrants in the American population dropped to about 200,000 people in 2018, a decline of more than 70 percent from the year before, according to William Frey, chief demographer at the Brookings Institution, who conducted the analysis.

“It’s remarkable,” David Bier, an immigration expert at the Cato Institute, of the 2018 numbers, told the Times. “This is something that really hasn’t happened since the Great Recession. This should be very concerning to the administration that its policies are scaring people away.”

The numbers were released on Thursday as part of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, a kind of annual mini-census it started in 2005. The net immigration figure, made up of all foreign-born people who came to the United States, minus those who left and those who died, gives demographers a picture of how the United States population has changed over the past year, reported the Times.

In all, about 45 million foreign-born people lived in the United States in 2018. About half of those were citizens, nearly a quarter were undocumented and the remaining quarter were legal residents.

The report said the biggest decline was among people from Latin America who were not United States citizens. In all, noncitizens declined by about 478,000 people; more than half were people from Latin America.

Another decline appears to be happening among students from China. The Associated Press reported this week that American universities are reporting steep declines in Chinese students, which is cutting into tuition revenue.

The Brookings analysis pointed out political patterns. Of the 14 states with the lowest concentrations of foreign-born people, 12 voted for Trump. In half of those 12 states, Asians dominated recent immigrant gains. In 10 of those states, immigrants are more likely than native-born residents to hold bachelor’s degrees, the analysis discovered, the Times noted.

Two states – New York and Illinois – had measurable declines in their foreign-born populations, while 11 had increases, including Florida, Texas and Arizona.

A Bloomberg report, on the other hand pointed out that the percentage of foreign-born US residents has reached its highest level in more than a century, based on the same survey.

A record 44.7 million people are foreign-born, or about 13.7% of the US population. That’s the highest rate since 1910. A subset of the foreign-born figure — the number of people in the US but ‘not a US citizen’ held at around 22 million in 2018.

In 1960 and 1970, about one in 20 US residents were foreign born. Today, the ratio is about one in seven and in America’s largest states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — more than 15% of residents are foreign born, Bloomberg reported.

CNBC had earlier this month reported on another data analysis by Brookings which deduced that widening political red-blue economic divide in turn drives the parties’ starkly different policy agendas. It helps explain why Democrats lavish more attention on education, technology and protecting immigrants, for example, while Trump and other Republicans place mining, manufacturing and border control on center stage.

A startling reveal was that the House Democratic majority, which represented 39% of the US land area in 2008, now represents just 20%. In contrast, the House Republican minority represents 80% of US territory.

The analysis found that immigration patterns have produced a similar shift. The foreign-born population in Republican districts has fallen from 10.5% to 8.1%, while it has risen in Democratic districts from 15.4% to 20.1%.

The point is that even as Trump and other Republicans on stage at the NRG Stadium lauded the Indian American community, they have quickly put a choke hold on future immigrants.

Adios Indians, is perhaps the new mantra.

(Sujeet Rajan is Executive Editor, Parikh Worldwide Media. Email him: sujeet@newsindiatimes.com Follow him on Twitter @SujeetRajan1)

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