Even though Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) has vowed to keep Sunayana Dumala, the widow of the Kansas hate crime victim Srinivas Kuchibhotla, from being deported, her immigration status is still a big question.
Dumala is currently on a 12-month employment authorization document which will expire in March of next year and unless she receives an H-1B visa or other documentation securing her status, she would be at risk of deportation.
Yoder even said he would take his plea, directly to President Donald Trump if he had to and was confident about having the support of many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill.
“Absolutely, I will personally go to the White House, I will get a meeting with the president, I will do anything I can to make sure that anybody who has any power in this situation protects Sunayana to the furthest extent of the law that I can,” he said.
He even told the Kansas City Star earlier this month that when he learned that Dumala had lost her residency status after her husband’s killing, she lost her resident’s status as well.
Kuchibhotla, was an engineer in the U.S. who was on an H-1B visa at the time when he was fatally shot in Olathe, Kansas in a hate crime in which his colleague, Alok Madasani, was injured.
“A couple of days after the shooting, we were working with many people in the Indian government to get the White House to properly condemn the shooting as a hate crime, which we eventually were able to do –we got it into his [Trump’s] speech to Congress. And, in doing so, we began visiting with people who were friends with Sunayana and we became aware that her status in the country was based upon her husband’s H-1B visa and that when he was murdered, under the immigration law, she then lost her legal status in the country,” he said adding that she was enroute to India “and did not know if she was going to be let back into the country after the funeral.”
Yoder said that he was disturbed by the fact that that a hate crime had occurred his district but “then to find out that his widow would be deported after that—no way, no way. We couldn’t allow that to happen.”
So he worked with immigration officials to secure a temporary status for her while she works for some kind of visa ensuring a more lengthy stay adding that an H-1B application is being processed now but if it doesn’t get approved by March, she would have to face deportation.
Dumala is employed by an Overland Park marketing agency and has been living in the United States since she enrolled in a Minnesota college 10 years ago.
In 2012, when she married Kuchibhotla, who was in the country on an H-1B visa, they both applied for a green card for permanent residency, but the application expired with his death.
In an e-mail to the Star newspaper, Dumala wrote: “On the fateful night of Feb. 22, I not only lost my husband but also my immigration status … [but] I’m very fortunate that many people came to my rescue to get me back on a temporary status … and are continuing to work on a permanent fix.”
If the H1-B visa doesn’t work out, her other option is a U visa, “the U visa is for victims of crimes, which would give her a quicker pathway, but [it] is harder to obtain than an H-1B. So we are trying every different avenue possible to us,” said Yoder.
Yoder believes the U.S. needs to “overcompensate” in Dumala’s case, “to show that the Indian immigrants in our country that we do want her. That what happened was an isolated incident and we want to right that wrong and we are going to put that man in jail for the rest of his life and we are going to do everything we can under the law and in our comments and in our community efforts to make sure that everyone feels welcome” exclaiming that “it’s not very welcoming to deport the widow of a murdered citizen.”