Indians In US Cut Impressive Profile
OPINION
OPINION

Indian Immigrants Cut an Impressive Profile in USA

Indians In US Cut Impressive Profile

It all depends how one will consider the United Nations’ 2022 World Migration Report that says with 18 million individuals of Indian origin living abroad, India features as the single largest source of the world’s emigrant population. The report estimated that around 281 million migrants were living in different parts of the globe in 2020 with Indian origin population making home in some other parts of the world embracing new citizenships and passports being the most striking.

A recent report of Indian ministry of external affairs has found 18.69 million people of Indian origin (PIO) and also 13.46 million non-resident Indians (NRIs) spread across almost every country of the world. This country has also a long, but often sad, history of people leaving for foreign destinations. Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy – Sea of Poppies, River of Smoke and Flood of Fire – resulting from years of excellent research on opium trade between India and China and trafficking of indentured Indian labourers (Girmityas) to Mauritius is a painful reminder of their harrowing journey experiences in a schooner slave ship (Ibis).

Mauritius besides, Indian Girmityas, mainly from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal were taken by sea to far off places like Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago. Slave trade practised on a large scale in the US and in the British empire has always been seen as one of the greatest atrocities in human history.  Even while the year 2007 marked the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade in the British empire, that country’s heads of state and prime ministers have only ever expressed deep regret or sorrow for slavery stopping short of tendering an apology to the victims and their descendants or making any commitments to pay reparations for the crime.

Don’t expect the incumbent UK prime minister Rishi Sunak to be any different from his predecessors because of his Indian origin and belief in Hinduism. Speaking recently in the Commons, he too refused to apologise or say anything about reparation payments.

Sunak said “our focus should now be on… understanding our history… and not running away from it…  but making sure we have a society which is inclusive and tolerant of people from all backgrounds… trying to unpick our history is not the right way forward, and it’s not something that we will focus our energies on.” But mind you, the Heirs of Slavery campaigning group in the UK remains focussed on forcing the British government to atone for the sins committed in the long past in transporting 3.1 million enslaved African people across the Atlantic. Compared to the large contingent of Africans enslaved by the colonialists, Girmityas were fewer in numbers. But their sufferings were no less. Whether or not apologies are ever given or reparations paid, the sins inherent in practice of slavery will not be washed.

The world has changed beyond recognition since the abolition of slavery in the US through the 13th amendment to the Constitution in 1865. Moving people from Africa or India by force and use them as indentured labourers remain a blot on human history. Author and playwright Israel Zangwill described America as “God’s Crucible, the great Melting-Pot where all the races of Europe are melting and re-forming.” The Zangwill play ‘The Melting Pot’ that made its debut in Washington, D.C. in October 1908 coinciding with the height of European immigration to the US shows through the experience of a Russian Jewish family how foreigners arriving there to live permanently become good American citizens.

This American melting pot has since continued to become larger with Asians, particularly Chinese and Indians and Africans coming in large numbers. The loosening of the US borders in the mid-twentieth century worked to the advantage of immigration of non-Europeans. Asian arrivals in the US got a boost following enactment of the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965.  Similarly, the diversity lottery programme launched in 1990 created opportunities for the Africans to immigrate to the land of opportunity that is, the US.

ALSO READ: The Rise of Indian Americans

However, the growing ranks of emigrant aspirants find to their disappointment that at any point the number of available visas falls short of demand. However dispiriting that may be, the queues for seeking different kinds of visas, particularly to get entry into the US keep on becoming longer and longer. The US visa processing machinery virtually stopped functioning during the Covid-19 epidemic and it’s still not back to normal.

Immigration involves philosophical, moral, humanitarian and economic issues, not necessarily in that order. People in hordes seek asylum when they are exposed to wars within their own borders taking the shape of genocide or ethnic cleansing as was seen during Bangladesh liberation (1971) and Sri Lankan civil war (1983-90) and still happening in some places in Africa. Expectedly, refugees from all these places like earlier in Vietnam and Cambodia sought permanent residences in the US, Canada and European countries. Space and resources may be there with potential host countries in the West, but their authorities are required to consider demographic, security and capacity to facilitate newcomers melt with local culture and behaviour as they open their controlled borders.

There is of course a cost involved for host countries in extending social welfare and a Medicare benefit, which is, however, more than recompensed as the refugees settle down to a new life, acquire citizenship and join a variety of professions. Remember some of the host countries have an ageing population (specially those who work with their arms) and relief in this area could be found in immigration. Two examples may be cited to illustrate the point. The US will not have a highly prosperous wine industry unless it has the benefit of temporary guest workers from across Mexico.

The opposite is the case with Britain where farms and construction companies are facing shortages of workers following the country leaving the European Union on January 31, 2020, stopping free movement of people from among EU members. Incidentally, Britain is the only country to leave the Union. The sweep of liberal education in host countries has made the majority of native population favourably disposed to immigration with governments expected to manage “controlled borders and open doors” with care and compassion. Studies have shown that thoughtfully designed policies for assimilation of immigrants emanating from a kind of Samaritan responsibilities to extend help to the ones in need allow avoiding social and political conflicts, thereby restricting investment in security setup.

There is wide acceptance of the fact that immigration has worked to the advantage of migrants and host nations, in terms of better living and much higher income than would be available in their own countries for the former and support of economic activities at different levels for the latter. It will be recalled President Biden signed more than a year ago sweeping legislation to invest over $50 billion for production of semiconductors in the US aimed at freeing the country from a very high dependence on China for a critical component used in computers to electric vehicles (EVs). The ambition to become largely self-reliant in semiconductor backed up by government manufacturing incentive is big. But the bigger worry is the US does not have the supply of enough workers with required skills for manning the new factories. As the US Administration is to finalise programmes that will impart skills to young Americans to make them suitable for jobs in semiconductor factories, it is also likely to let in foreigners at management and shop-floor levels to take care of shortages of human resources.

Even while the reality is like this, the US and every other country with migrant population have fringe groups which remain suspicious of foreigners competing with local population for jobs. Writing in The New Yorker recently Idrees Kahloon said: “Mass migration and nativist backlash have stalked one another for more than a century. However enthusiastic the American dogma may be about immigrants past, rising migration levels invariably trigger the fear that immigrants present and future may be something different – a drag on the welfare state, a threat to native labourers, a pox on the culture.”

Look at the large 4.4 million Indian Americans constituting 1.35 per cent of the US population. Not only are people of Indian origin in leadership position of the biggest and brightest corporate giants such as Microsoft (Satya Nadella), Google (Sundar Pichai) and IBM (Arvind Krishna), any number of them will be found in American universities and research organisations. In politics too, Americans of Indian descent have made remarkable progress in the past one decade.

The New York Times, which took note of it, wrote recently: “The Congress sworn in… includes five Indian Americans. Nearly 50 are in state legislatures. The Vice President is Indian American. Nikki Haley’s campaign announcement… makes 2024 the third consecutive cycle in which an Indian American has run for president, and Vivek Ramaswamy’s newly announced candidacy makes it the first cycle with two.” What distinguishes the second/third generation of Indian Americans are their high levels of upward mobility and they along with their peers from other Asian countries are among the strongest economic contributors in the total US population.

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krishna rupam
krishna rupam
9 months ago

POIs and NRIs are an important resource for India. To our pride, people of Indian origin are found in large numbers holding important positions in leading foreign universities, research organisations, banks and corporates. Bose would have done well to mention huge remittances that routinely come to India from NRIs to boost the current account. We learn from the finance ministry that NRI remittances rose 26 per cent on year to nearly $112.5 billion during 2022-23 financial year. The country remains the world’s top recipient of remittances for the last several years. According to a survey by Reserve Bank of India, the US with a share of 23.4 per cent remains the top source of remittances followed by UAE with 18 per cent and the UK 6.8 per cent. The success of POIs and NRIs in different work and social environments is a recognition of the esteem in which their professionalism is held globally.

Sudipto Roy
Sudipto Roy
9 months ago
Reply to  krishna rupam

It must then also be mentioned that some of the biggest international crooks are also of Indian origin.

Rabindra Nath Sinha
Rabindra Nath Sinha
9 months ago

Very interesting, highly readable Rishi Sunka’s observation speaks of his deep understanding

Mainak De
Mainak De
9 months ago

True. Indians have done well just about everywhere they’ve settled. Quite another story for British transported Indian indentured labourers/slaves especially from Bihar and UP. The biggest tragedy is perhaps Fiji. In the Caribbean there’s been far more integration but in Fiji the Brits really left the Indians in a quandary – landless/powerless/faceless – when they left Fiji.

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