US lawmakers laud Indian-American community at Senate Luncheon hosted by Indian American Friendship Council

“When you look to the future of America, you look at the Indian community”, says Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, November 1, 2017 – Lauding the Indian-American community for its stellar achievements and myriad contributions, New York’s senior senator has made a strong case for allowing more Indians to migrate to the US.

Addressing a Senate Luncheon as part of the 20th Annual Legislative Conference organized by the Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC), Senator Chuck Schumer said, “When I wrote the immigration bill, there is a special provision to allow more Indians to come to America”.

The Senator was referring to the 2013 immigration reform bill which passed the Senate but never made it to President Obama’s desk as then-Speaker John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) did not bring the bill to a vote in the House.

Schumer led the efforts to write immigration legislation with a view to reform the system in a humane, pragmatic and effective way. “I have worked very hard in allowing more immigrants, particularly South Asians, people from India, to come to America”, he told the IAFC conference, noting the immense achievements and contributions of Indian-Americans in the fields of science, medicine, business, and creativity.

Elaborating on why he worked so hard to allow more Indians to come to America, he said, “It’s not because the Indian community has always supported me”. Schumer has garnered 80-90 percent of the vote in every election he has contested and proclaimed he is “so proud” of the Indian-American community “which is a vibrant part of New York”.

“It’s not even because of the great achievements of the Indian community that have so benefitted America”, he said. “I wrote the law to allow more Indians to come to America because I love America and the more Indians there are in America, the better it is for America”, he declared.

The Democratic Leader from New York was warmly applauded at the Senate Luncheon spearheaded by IAFC founder and chairman Dr. Krishna Reddy of California.

Board members of the Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) following the successful Senate Luncheon held in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill. Seated in the center is IAFC founder and chairman, Dr. Krishna Reddy, and standing third from right is television news anchor Rita Cosby who served as emcee of the event

Looking around the historic Kennedy Caucus Room filled with Indian-American activists on a Tuesday afternoon, Schumer noted, “Some people who came (to America) were very well educated, some weren’t. But, your family structure and your Hindu culture have created just an amazing thing, particularly when it has blended with the American culture which says you can do anything you want, be anyone you want to be. And so, when you look to the future of America, you look at the Indian community”, he said.

“I love America and one of the greatest things in America is that we attract the best and brightest from around the world. Every immigrant is special. They could have come from a very poor background and not have much education, or they could have come from a rich background and a lot of education, or anything in between. But, every immigrant has said that I am going to travel far distances to a new country with new customs to make a life for themselves and their children. That is so true of this great Indian community”, Schumer said.

The lawmaker expressed a strong desire to visit India in the near future. “I have read about the culture. I am so enamored by the country. You can count on me as a friend”, he told the IAFC audience.

Senator Sherrod Brown (Democrat-Ohio) chats with Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) founder and chairman Dr. Krishna Reddy (center) and IAFC program chair Jitendra Tomar (right) at a Senate Luncheon on Capitol Hill

Speaking about the importance of immigration in America, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown lamented, “What this president, this administration doesn’t understand is how much immigrants make our country rich”.

The senior senator from Ohio told the IAFC conference, “One of the things I always tell any group I speak to in the United States is how wonderful it is to go to a naturalization ceremony. For almost every immigrant I’ve met, next to the birth of their child, the naturalization ceremony was the single best day in their lives. If more Americans would go to a naturalization ceremony, I think this hatred sometimes coming out of the White House about immigrants, and the fact that some politicians are demagogues when it comes to talking about immigration, would vanish”, he said.

“Encourage your co-workers to go to a naturalization ceremony because it says so much about the beauty of this country, the richness of this country and the contributions that all of you, as immigrants, have made to this great country”, he emphasized.

Brown is very affable. He recoils at the mention of segregation and racism, and minces no words in denouncing Trump’s hardline immigration principles.

“We have a president of the United States who has attacked immigrants and people of color”, he told the IAFC audience. “This day will pass because the great majority of Americans understand that immigration does in fact make us richer, makes us more diverse, makes us a more understanding country and makes us a better country”.

Brown implored Indian-Americans, “Tell your story. Help us fight back. We have a government that in too many cases has been mean”, he said.

In September, Trump ended the Obama-era DACA program with a six-month delay. Some 800,000 Dreamers, young people brought to the US illegally as children, now face potential deportation.

“Most Americans have the back of Dreamers, and the DACA kids understand the history of this country to know the foundation on which it is built”, Brown said, at the Senate Luncheon.

Speaking of his friendship with the IAFC head, spanning about a quarter of a century, he noted, “Dr. Reddy has been such a good activist and good citizen. A big part of the reason that I was able to move from the House to the Senate is he helped me get there. Some others did too”, he said about Indian-Americans, adding, “I’m very appreciative of that”.

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican – South Carolina) is flanked by Indian-Americans at a Senate Luncheon, part of the 20th Annual Legislative Conference organized by the Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) on Capitol Hill

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina saw “unlimited potential” in the India-US relationship, and “endless opportunities” in the bilateral economic partnership. India is “a very intellectually gifted nation”, he said, pointing out that interactions in the high-tech community have been very beneficial.

Graham is among the president’s supporters on Capitol Hill and he told the IAFC conference that Trump “sees the US-India relationship as one of the defining relationships in his presidency”. On his own part, the lawmaker has been vocal in conveying that this “is a relationship worth nurturing, a partnership worth expanding”.

“I was telling President Trump (there are) a lot of relationships that we don’t talk much about because we get along with them so well. Your job is to make sure that they are not forgotten, that we just can’t give all the attention to squeaky wheels”, he said.

Warning against complacency creeping into India-US ties, Graham told the IAFC audience, “This is the kind of relationship that can be taken for granted. If you are not at war with somebody, you tend to get left behind in the discussion”, he said evoking some chuckles. “What we have going with India should be rewarded, not just assumed”, he stressed. “The one thing we don’t want to do with this relationship is just assume it will continue to be good”.

The senator noted that Indian-Americans are having a say in politics unlike any time that he has seen before. “The best advocate for a strong US-India relationship is American citizens of India heritage, and the people who do business in India”, he said. “Banding together and talking about the benefits of the US-India relationship is best advocated by American citizens. We tend to listen to people who can vote for us, who can help us politically. I’ve seen the relationship grow and one of the reasons it has grown is because of this organization (IAFC)”.

To Dr. Reddy, Graham said, “You need to come up here more (on Capitol Hill), not less”.

Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican-South Carolina) addresses the 20th Annual Legislative Conference organized by the Indian American Friendship Council (IAFC) on Capitol Hill. Seated at right is IAFC founder and chairman Dr. Krishna Reddy

Regarding South Asia, Graham hoped India and Pakistan would “get closer to each other to help stabilize the region”. He saw economic gains and strides in the war on terror resulting from an alliance between the two neighboring countries.

“Pakistan is an ally”, he said somewhat hesitatingly, adding, “We need to improve our relationship with Pakistan, let’s just put it that way”. The senator has made several trips to Afghanistan and was very appreciative of India’s efforts to stabilize the country.

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