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Indian American lawmakers strongly criticize Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric

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Photo credit: WhiteHouse.gov

President Trump’s State of the Union address to the joint session of US Congress was unusually long and it highlighted the performance of the administration and its upcoming initiatives. But the speech didn’t go well with his critics, especially the president’s statements on immigrants and Dreamers.

All Indian Americans in Congress, much like their Democratic congressional colleagues, strongly criticized Trump’s speech.

Reiterating his position on immigration and young Dreamers, Trump said the $25 billion border wall that he proposed in the immigration framework released last week will be the only solution for ending the DACA crisis.

DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allows individuals who entered the United States as minors and remained undocumented to get a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation. Those participating in the DACA program are called Dreamers.

Forty-five minutes into his highly stretched first State of the Union address, Trump said the open borders have resulted in the inflow of “drugs and gangs” into the country.

Trump said that slaying of Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens, two teen girls in Long Island by MS-13 gang members, is the result of unchecked illegal immigrants crossing the national border. The parents of the victims were also present during the event.

Ironically, Sunayana Dumala, the wife of Srinivas Kochibotla, an Indian American tech professional who was shot and killed by a white supremacist in Kansas, was present during the State of the Union address as the guest of Rep. Kevin Yoder when Trump said immigrants were spreading violence in the United States.

Sen. Kamala Harris, who has been a strong advocate of Dreamers and immigrant, reacted strongly to the speech. “As the attorney general of California, my main areas of focus was going after transnational criminal organizations involved in trafficking guns, drugs, and human beings,” speaking to MSNBC, she said. “MS 13 is one of the worst examples of criminal behavior. To equate that with dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible and it was scapegoating and it was fear mongering and it was wrong. It was wrong technically in terms of the nature and character of this populations and in terms of who they are and how they love their lives and that is wrong also because it not how leaders are supposed to do. We are not supposed to convince the American population a policy because   we make them afraid and that is exactly what this president is doing.”

During the President’s speech, Harris tweeted, “Dreamers should not be used as a bargaining chip or held hostage in exchange for anti-immigrant policies.”

Indian American Rep Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington, who boycotted the State of the Union, also ridiculed Trump’s rhetoric on immigrants and hosted their alternative State of Our Union address at the National Press Club on Tuesday night.

Reacting to the president’s comments on the immigrants Jayapal tweeted, “the president’s rhetoric was absurd and more of the same. He wants to slash legal immigration and conflate immigrant families with terrorists and criminals and drains on our economy.”

Speaking to MSNBC she said, “I came to this country as a 16-year-old and now I’m a United States Congresswoman, one among a dozen members of the Congress. But it is so insulting to see him (Trump) continually scapegoating immigrants, trying to make us the division, when we know that all of our ancestors have come here and helped build this county. For him to start with the MS 13 gang and that story, and use that story in a way to say everybody is a criminal and therefore, we should cut family immigration to half and even safe family immigration. Even though he didn’t say family migration and said chain migration, what he really means is family reunification – the corner of immigration in this country for the last fifty years. It was outrageous and I’m so glad that I was not there.”

The Democrat also said that, by holding Dreamers in a hostage-like situation, Trump is asking for ransom, which is to end the legal immigration by half. She also pointed that Dreamers were enjoying legal status and were not deportable until Trump ended the program.

Another Indian American Democrat, Rep, Ro Khanna of California, after listening to Trump’s State of the Union address tweeted, “Tonight, Trump talked about immigration. His perception is flawed. Real lives are at stake, and I will not stop fighting for the 800,000 DREAMERs who deserve nothing less than a clean DREAM Act.”

“I will continue to be a voice for jobs and equality, full funding for CHIP, a clean DREAM Act, and necessary disaster relief funding, as well as long-term economic solutions for working families,” he wrote in another tweet.

A press release issued Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi said: “I wish President Trump governed with the same tone of promise and cooperation that he used at times during his speech tonight. If only the first year of his presidency had focused on infrastructure, investments in workforce development, and career and technical education, what a different political moment we would all be living in today.”

Voicing his support for the immigrants, Rep. Ami Bera invited a special guest for the State of the Union,  Dr. Bennet Omalu, a Nigerian immigrant who has made groundbreaking discoveries in caring for brain injuries. “We are a nation of immigrants and that should be celebrated,” Bera tweeted before leaving for the address.  “I’m honored to have him join me at the State of the Union to reaffirm our American values,” he said in another tweet.