‘Do we belong here?’


In at least two recent shootings, in Kansas and suburban Seattle, it was motive enough for the gunmen that the victims appeared foreign. “Get out of my country!” yelled the shooter in Kansas, according to witnesses, as he opened fire on a pair of Indian tech workers at a neighborhood bar, after demanding to know their visa status. One was killed and the other injured. “Go back to your country!” shouted the assailant in suburban Seattle who allegedly shot a U.S. citizen – a bearded Sikh man wearing a turban – as he worked on his car beside his own home.

Intolerance seems ascendant, and foreigners are increasingly fretful. White supremacist groups have become more visible on dozens of college campuses. A report from the Anti-Defamation League details incidents in which anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and racist fliers have appeared on more than 60 college campuses in 25 states in the past six months.

Attacks and threats on mosques are on the rise, and headstones are toppled in Jewish cemeteries.

In India, whence tens of thousands of engineers, computer programmers and other skilled workers apply for work visas each year, the shootings in Kansas and Washington state have unleashed tremors of fear. Many younger Indians, who had fervently hoped for jobs and futures as students or professionals in the United States, are relinquishing their American Dream.

On Facebook, the grieving widow of the 32-year-old computer engineer killed in the Kansas bar, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, asked: “Do we belong here? Is this the same country we dreamed of and is it still secure to raise our families and children here?” In India, there was advice issued on social media sites to travelers in the United States to refrain from speaking foreign languages, lest it provoke hostility. The father of the Indian injured in the Kansas shooting, Alok Madasani, appealed “to all the parents in India not to send their children to the United States.”

President Donald Trump, having ridden his AmericaFirst rhetoric to the Oval Office, condemned the Kansas shootings – six days after the fact. Even as he did, his administration was readying an executive order that vilified six mainly Muslim countries by temporarily banning their citizens from travel to the United States, notwithstanding the fact that none had been a particular source of terrorist attacks inside the United States. “Extreme vetting” is his watchword. Germany, France, the United Arab Emirates and other nations regarded as allies have issued travel advisories warning their citizens about the perils of travel in the United States, including rising anti-Muslim sentiment.

The United States has long enjoyed a competitive advantage as a magnet for the world’s most ambitious, promising and productive immigrants. If it sends a message that those promising Indians and others are no longer welcome, the loss will be immeasurable.




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