Here's why India can't continue to stay MUM on Donald Trump's immigration ban

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has up until now been really vocal about protecting the interests of Indians overseas. However, the Indian government has been stunningly quiet over Donald Trump's immigration policy, which as it unfolds, will directly and indirectly affect hundreds of thousands of Indians.

Donald Trump’s executive order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering America is just the beginning. More than just a week into his presidency, the new American president has uprooted thousands of individuals who used to call America home. There were heart-rending stories of Muslims who were taken off US-bound flights, most of them having lived in the US for years.

Trump’s executive order on immigration affects nearly 3.3 million Muslims living in the US, who will now be subjected to increased scrutiny by law enforcement in a dangerously polarised America. Mosque arsons and spike in hate crimes against those who look like Muslim are just a few symptoms of Trump’s rise to the highest office.

(Source: Facebook/Social Trends)

India and Indian-Americans can’t afford to be all cheery about Donald Trump anymore. “Extreme vetting” of immigrants, one of Donald Trump’s proposed policy ideas to bolster America’s internal security risk putting Indians in the line of fire, much like other non-White communities.

(Source: Twitter/Donald Trump)

Trump’s crackdown on foreign workers

The issue of Indian workers on H-1B visas has long been a contentious one in the America-India relations.

Donald Trump is considering four separate executive orders, which will radically shake-up rules governing employment for foreign workers in the US. According to an article in news website Vox, “Limiting legal immigration: Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” was the theme of one of the upcoming executive orders that may well become part of America’s official immigration policy soon.

(Source: Youtube/ Fox 10 Phoenix)

The proposed order is expected to affect Indian companies and Indians on H-1B visas for the worse, making it more difficult and expensive to get a visa. In economic terms, Indian IT industry which sends over 60 percent of its total exports to the US will be hit as it heavily relies on H-1B visa workers for sustaining its American operations. Indians have also been awarded the highest number of H-1B visas among all nationalities in the US, all along since the program came into existence in 1990.

Trump’s crackdown of foreign students

America’s universities have long been a magnet for Indian students, who at 165,000-odd strong, form the second largest student group in America after Chinese students. Post-study work visa feature prominently in Indian students’ calculations at the time of choosing their foreign study destination.

As part of Trump’s broader policy on immigration, reducing the length of post-study work visa is under serious consideration, according to Vox. Option Practical Training (OPT) program allow graduates of Science, Technology, Engineering and Management (STEM) programs to stay in the US for upto three years after completing graduation. This period may well be reviewed in coming days, according to the draft of an executive order that was accessed by Vox.

“Improved monitoring” of foreign students is also being mooted by the Trump administration, which will have a bearing on prospective Indian students hoping to study and work in the US.

“Walking while Brown” in Trump’s America

And then there is the fate of people with Indian-background already living in Donald Trump’s America. There are enough examples to back the claim that a crackdown on radical Islam in America is accompanied by spike in hate crimes against Indians, including Sikhs, as they are often confused for Muslim because of similar features.

Aravinda Pillalamarri, a 47-year old resident of the Maryland state, was reportedly stopped by a cop while she was taking a walk in her neighbourhood on Dec 21 last year, in the heady days following Trump’s election victory.

An American citizen of 30 years, she was “aggressively” questioned and asked to carry an ID before being let off, as per a report in local daily The Baltimore Sun. Another local resident had reportedly called the police on her.

“Walking while brown?” Ms Pillalamarri reportedly asked the police officer.

(Source: Facebook/Aravinda Pillalamarri)

It was also reported on Sunday that a Baroda-based businessman on a week-long trip to the US was detained at an airport in North Dakota, after being accused of carrying a “bomb in his bag”. He is slated to be produced in the court this week, though the English-daily The Hindu highlighted that there was official reaction from India’s foreign affairs minister or the Gujarat government on his arrest.

America’s Sikh community has also find itself as victim of ignorance, often being confused for Muslims for wearing a beard and turban. A news article reporting Trump’s comments on Islamic radicalism recently carried a picture of a Sikh man, and was re-tweeted more than a thousand times. After protests from several Sikh organisations, the picture was taken down by USA Today.

A study by Washington DC-based think tank Pew Research Center in 2014 found that more than three million among the total population of America had an Indian background.

Indian government’s attitude towards Donald Trump’s immigration policies

The Indian diaspora across the world has been one of Narendra Modi’s loudest cheerleaders over the years. The current Indian government has been seen pretty active in advocating the interests of Indians stuck in difficult situations, be it foreign affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s Twitter diplomacy or Modi’s recent meeting with UK Prime Minister Theresa May in which he urged for a better deal for Indians in the UK in the wake of Brexit.

(Source: Youtube/DD News)

However, the government has maintained a stunning quiet over the disruptive immigration policy of Donald Trump, even as leaders from other powers from Germany, France to Canada have come out strongly against it.

A report published in Chennai-based The New Indian Express quoted an external affairs ministry official as saying that India wasn’t concerned about Trump’s travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries for now.

However, India may start taking a more aggressive line in coming days as interests of its people, mainly students and workers, are threatened. There was a widespread perception both in India and the US that both democracies would get along really well under a Trump presidency. The unfolding reality is however delivering a rude shock to India.

A commentator, writing in the The Economic Times, remarked that Trump won’t spare India in his “neo-protectionist, new-isolationist” avatar.

“How does one handle a superpower that has become a raging bull?”