What has Steve Bannon got to do with it?

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Former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon speaks during a campaign event for Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore in Fairhope, Alabama, U.S., December 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman/Files

NEW YORK – Steve Bannon is back in the news. Well, sort of. If one considers being thrown out of the New Yorker festival as being in the news. Or more as being out of the news circuit.

Bannon may be long gone from the White House. And others like him – take Milo Yiannopoulos for instance, who were hung out to dry in public for their antagonistic and racially charged viewpoints. Or for falling out of favor with President Trump, like Bannon did.

Bannon may be out of a premier speaking festival; his stature a bit more eroded. But his legacy remains solid in the Trump Administration. It seems to weigh heavily in decisions on immigration. Or rather, to put it more succinctly, to curb legal immigration, much to the detriment of skilled Indian labor.

For recent developments surrounding the alarming rate of denials in H-1B cases, the sly move underway by immigration authorities to undermine work visas, by creating impediments by asking for more documentation, create a sense of fear and paranoia of uncertainty, one needs to only hark back a couple of years, to see the roots of this drastic clampdown which is working outside the orbit of executive orders or legislature on Capitol Hill.

The Washington Post had ran a piece detailing a curious interview and conversation between the then Breitbart Executive Founder Bannon, and Trump, where the former made no attempt to hide his disgust for the perceived notion that Silicon Valley had a growing number of executive officers of South Asian-origin.

Bannon also wanted that international students in the US should go back to where they came from, not get a chance to stay on to work and then make their way to permanent residency. He shunned diversity.

When Trump raises concern that the US might face a drain of talent, that foreign Ivy League students, might return to their home countries, and the US might lose advantage, Bannon said, with a damning silence for emphasis, “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the C.E.O.s in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think . . .A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

Bannon was wrong, of course, to imply that Silicon Valley, or America, belongs only to White folks.

Vanity Fair had, in a follow-up story, pointed out that Ascend, a nonprofit group for Pan-Asian business leaders, concluded that Asians and Asian-Americans are well represented in lower positions at companies—27 percent of professionals at Silicon Valley tech companies are Asian or Asian-American. But fewer than 19 percent of them are managers, and less than 14 percent of executives at Silicon Valley tech companies are Asian or Asian-American.

“Rather than dominating leadership positions, the data suggests Asians confront systemic bias that prevents them from rising to the highest ranks in the same numbers,” Vanity Fair surmised.

However, make no mistake. It is Bannon’s legacy, as well as the outlook of conservative hawks on skilled immigration, like Attorney General Jeff Sessions, which is what guides America’s immigration policies today.

I asked Cynthia Nixon, who’s running for Governor of New York, in a media interaction yesterday, in Harlem, as to what is her take on skilled legal immigration which seems to face numerous roadblocks now.

Nixon, who’s best known for her role as Miranda in ‘Sex and the City’, and as an avid two-decade long activist for reforming education in New York City, was emphatic that the Trump Administration is distorting the whole nature of immigration that has shaped America into a prosperous nation.

“There are so many horrifying things that Donald Trump is proposing in terms of restricting access to people from certain countries that cannot be described in any other way than being racist, and biased against people coming from poorer countries,” said Nixon.

“You look at immigration, the history of immigration. For hundreds of years, immigration from across the board has caused this country to be so strong, and so prosperous. The direction the Trump Administration is going is absolutely the opposite direction we need to be going in. Targeting certain countries for immigration and for winnowing down is something I firmly reject. We need not only people who have come from other countries, or people whose parents and grandparents came from other countries, but we need to keep a steady flow of immigrants from different countries and from different skill levels, and we need to be encouraging a diverse flow of immigrants and not targeting or excluding them,” said Nixon.

Maybe, the New Yorker needs to consider Nixon to replace Bannon.

The fact of the matter is that the Indian American community is at a crossroads today. There are ample signs that the community is maturing as a major political force on Capitol Hill.

America and American voters realize the value of the work ethics, talent and skills of the Indian American community, and more and more of them are putting up a strong show in local and national polls. There is a chance that the number of Indian Americans on Capitol Hill may double after the mid-term elections.

Yet, the damning aspect is also that there is a strong chance that the numbers of the community takes a big hit from the current restrictive immigration policies of the Trump Administration.

Imagine the scenario of skilled immigration, with cuts and clampdown on work visas and family immigration – as proposed by Trump – comes to fruition. In less than a decade, the Indian community would face a huge decline in numbers.

Bannon’s vision would be realized. It would not matter if he is or not in the New Yorker Festival. He would have done his deed. And relish in it, likely.

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

 

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