Sunayana Dumala’s advocacy for faster Green Card gets traction

Sunayana Dumala with husband Srinivas Kuchibhotla (Facebook photo)

It was the initiative of Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla – the Indian engineer at Garmin who was shot dead at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe, Kansas, on February 22, 2017 – which kick started the resolution titled ‘Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019’ or ‘HR 1044’, which was finally passed on Wednesday In the US House of Representatives, by an overwhelming margin of 365-65 votes.

The resolution, if enacted into law, would remove the per-country cap restrictions on the annual issue of Green Card. It would hugely benefit Indian citizens who are in the pipeline for permanent residency.

Olathe resident Dumala, who is on a work visa at present, became the face of legislation to help her and other Indian immigrants take a step toward U.S. citizenship, after the death of her husband, reported the Kansas City Star.

Dumala’s own immigration status fell into jeopardy after the murder of Kuchibhotla, classified as a hate crime.

She eventually obtained a work visa of her own and was able to remain in the United States following the intervention of then-Rep. Kevin Yoder, the Star reported.

“Today is an important day for many of us, a moment we have been waiting for years. Finally, our hard work and tireless efforts have come into fruition,” Dumala said in a statement Wednesday, after the House vote. “After the tragic murder of my husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, I lost my status to stay in the country and the immigration struggle took over my grief. And, today with HR 1044 getting passed I can finally find peace and no words can express my happiness.”

Dumala has made multiple trips to Washington to advocate for the legislation. Supporters say removing the per-country limit creates a first-come, first-serve system, which will be fair to green card applicants from all countries.

The legislation was originally sponsored by Yoder, a Johnson County Republican, during the previous Congress. Dumala had been a fixture on the campaign trail as he faced a difficult re-election battle.

The bill never came up for a vote on the full House floor during that time and Yoder’s efforts to include the legislation as part of a border wall deal fell short before his time in Congress ended, the Star reported.

But his Democratic successor, Rep. Sharice Davids, joined on as a co-sponsor when the measure was re-introduced this year.

The Johnson County Democrat noted her predecessor’s work on the issue and touted the economic benefits of fixing the green card process for high-skilled tech workers from India and other countries.

“Kansas businesses depend on high-skilled workers to be competitive and to contribute to the local economy. This bipartisan bill will allow our businesses to focus on retaining these workers, while also reducing the backlogs for people facing the longest waiting times,” Davids said in a statement.




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