Hate crimes, immigration issues might hurt Indo-US ties: Ami Bera

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Ami Bera

NEW YORK: Rep. Ami Bera (D-California), the three-term Indian American Congressman, has warned that hate crimes against the Indian community and protectionism against work visas, like H-1B visa, could become hurdles in the growth of Indo-US ties, speaking at a round table jointly organized by US India Friendship Council and US India Business Council at the Capitol Visitor Center, in Washington, DC.

“I am very optimistic about the (India-US) relationship. But we have to be very intentional. We can’t take the relationship for granted,” Bera was quoted as saying by PTI. “There will be bumps in the road,” he said, citing hate crimes and immigration as some of those bumps.

Bera gave a long-term picture of Indo-US ties, reiterating what former President Barack Obama had said too: “From our perspective, the relationship can’t be based on one administration and another administration. This can be the defining relationship of the 21st century. We will continue to build the relationship between the members of the Congress and the Indian MPs because those are lasting relationships.”

Bera said India is playing a key role in stabilizing the Indian Ocean region.

“As we look at the partnership between (former) President Obama and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, you can see the chemistry there and the mutual respect,” he said, and added: “The news coming out from the conversation between President Donald Trump and Modi is a positive sign. The fact that the Prime Minister would be visiting the United States again very shortly is a very positive sign.”

Talking of hate crimes against Indians, Bera said, “This is not who we are as a country. What worrisome to me is how it is impacting our reputation around the world.”

The meet was also attended by, among others, Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna (D-California) and Senator Joe Donnelly from Indiana.

Khanna was among a group of Indian American lawmakers in Silicon Valley who had released a joint statement on Wednesday to put an end to hate crimes in the US, especially against the Indian community.

“In the past few months, we have seen a number of hate crimes against Indian Americans in our own backyard,” the statement said. “We, the undersigned, pledge that we will make it a priority to protect all minorities and immigrants from such attacks,” it added.

Apart from Khanna, the statement was signed by California State Assemblyman Ash Kalra, South San Francisco Mayor Pradeep Gupta, Cupertino Mayor Savita Vaidhyanathan, and Councilmembers Aruna Goel of Dublin, Raj Salwan of Fremont, and Rishi Kumar of Saratoga.

The statement also cited some recent incidents in California which indicated growing intolerance against the Indian community.

In San Jose, an Indian man driving a foreign car was questioned about his loyalty to America and told to “go back to [his] own country,” an incident he later described as his “first racial encounter” in his 41 years as living in this country.

In Fremont, an Indian woman was slapped in an incident that was categorized a hate crime, the lawmakers said, adding “There are other minor incidences that have not yet been reported to law enforcement officials.”