Travel Ban: Connecting the Dots between the Death of a KS Man, H1-B Visas, Silicon Valley and an Economic Hit

The Human Toll

It was a Wednesday, when 32-year-old software-engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot to death while enjoying some time off at his local bar. Adam Purinton, 51, the Navy veteran responsible for shooting Kuchibhotla shouted amongst other things, “get out of my country.”

Kuchibhotla’s final sounds–hate.

Both Kuchibhotla and his colleague, Alok Madasani held H1-B Visas. As a matter of fact, the shooter asked about their visa status before firing.  He mistook the two South Asain Indian men as Muslim immigrants.

“He asked us what visa we are currently on and whether we are staying here illegally,” Alok Madasani recounted to a New York Times reporter.

That question?  I place it squarely upon the shoulders of our President. I don’t believe Purinton would have asked about their visa status had it not been the subject of Trump’s thoughtless, out-of-touch tirades.

Trump has remained silent as he has with all of the malicious fallout his rhetoric has towed.

As an South-Asian-Indian woman I am offended. As an immigrant whose father–also an engineer–came to this country with two children and a wife in the middle of a Pittsburg blizzard with $50 in his pocket and thrived, I am offended. As a proud American citizen I am offended.

Kuchibhotla’s grieving mother, Parvatha Vardhini, account to the Hindustan Times, tells the toll:

“‘I had asked him to return to India if he was feeling insecure there. But he used to say he was safe and secure,’ she said as tears rolled down her face.

Vardhini said she would not allow her younger son, also employed in the US, to return to the country.”

Lessons from Silicon Valley, the Implications of Kneecapping the H1-B Visa, & Bannon’s Take vs Trump’s.

Trump wants to kneecap the H1-B Visa program.  An H1-B Visa gives temporary legal status to educated immigrants that add value to U.S. companies. Most of these visas go to Indian IT workers. And as Forbes points out, “Of the 10 largest recipients of the H1-B immigration visa, six of them are Indian owned.”

Remember the Silicon Valley boom in the late ’90s that changed the direction of the world and spawned a wave of creative growth in the IT sector like none other in recent times?

A majority of the companies during the boom were run by Indian engineers. And as for the workforce? Many of them were also Indian. In 1998, Indian CEO’s led approximately 16,600 individuals at 774 Silicon Valley companies. Seven Indian immigrants made Forbes’ list of wealthiest Americans in 2000. And two standouts were the co-founder of Sun Microsystems—Vinod Khosla—and Hotmail cofounder—Sabeer Bhatia.

Most disturbing? Dubbed “Commander in Chief,” Steve Bannon thinks there are too many Asians in Silicon Valley. During an interview with Trump in Nov. 2015 as Editor in Chief of Breitbart News, Bannon insinuated that immigrant workers should stay in their respective countries. Trump was concerned that the Ivy League students would take their educations back home.

Trump: “We have to be careful of that, Steve. You know, we have to keep our talented people in this country.”

Bannon: “When two-thirds or three-quarters of the CEOs in Silicon Valley are from South Asia or from Asia, I think . . .   A country is more than an economy. We’re a civic society.”

(Listen to the full interview here.)

H1-B Visa holders endure longer work hours, less pay and cuts in benefits, all in the name of “The American Dream.”  A bill to address these issues, however, has been introduced by U.S. House Rep. Zoe Lofgren:   High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017.

In December, Trump met with top CEOs of tech companies and seemed to have relaxed his view on the H1B Visa, while continuing calls for an overhaul.

“In our view, the president-elect is not hostile to H-1B visas,” one source told Reuters.

Tech CEO’s lobbied against the travel ban as well in recent weeks.

How is Bannon’s argument augmenting our economic growth via creative talent? And will Trump’s words from the Nov. 2015 interview blow in the wind under Bannon’s stewardship?

An Intellectual and Ultimately a Two-Tiered Economic Hit

The travel ban impacted 23,763 international students studying in the U.S. 

  • International students and parents, in the short-term, will be gun-shy to study stateside. Let’s say they don’t enroll next year. We will see that impact in four to eight years, when another country reaps the benefits of their intellectual prowess.
  • International students pay full tuition, add to the bottom dollar of universities, and off-set costs.
  • Last week a group of America’s leading universities, including Yale, Harvard and Stanford, filed papers in a Brooklyn federal court challenging the travel ban. The 17 institutions explained that as well as affecting current students and staff, including many stranded and unable to re-enter the US in the immediate aftermath, the ban harms colleges’ ability to recruit international talent.” –The Guardian

According to our President, the point of the travel ban is to keep us safer.  He also touts ambitions of improving our economy.  What about the pivotal improvements made by immigrant families like the one Steve Jobs was born into–a man of Syrian blood that forever changed the face of computing?