OLATHE, Kan. — The widow of an Indian American engineer who was fatally shot at a suburban Kansas City bar in an alleged hate crime was facing deportation until a Kansas congressman and others stepped in to help her get a one-year visa.
Sunayana Dumala lost her U.S. resident status after the death of her husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in a Feb. 22 shooting at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas. Witnesses said the gunman shouted racial slurs before opening fire. Kuchibhotla’s friend and another man who intervened were wounded.
Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder said he was “apoplectic” when he heard Dumala, who lives in Olathe, faced deportation and was worried she could not return to the U.S. after she traveled to India for her husband’s funeral, The Kansas City Star reported. The visa allows her to continue working at an area marketing agency.
“We are not going to deport the widow of the victim of a hate crime,” Yoder said, adding that he would continue working to help her secure permanent residency.
Dumala, also a native of India, has lived in the U.S. for 10 years. She married Kuchibhotla, a technical engineer, in 2012, and they applied for a green card on his work visa. His death means her efforts to get a green card must start over.
“On the fateful night of Feb. 22, I not only lost my husband but also my immigration status,” Dumala wrote in an email to The Star. She went on to say, “I’m very fortunate that many people came to my rescue to get me back on a temporary status ... and are continuing to work on a permanent fix.”
Adam W. Purinton, 52, of Olathe, is charged with first-degree murder and federal hate crimes in Kuchibhotla’s death. Authorities arrested him hours after the shooting at a restaurant some 70 miles away in Clinton, Missouri.
Yoder is the lead sponsor of a bill that would speed up permanent-residency status for well-educated immigrants from India, China and other highly populated nations. Because of a 7 percent cap, highly-educated immigrants from smaller nations obtain their green cards within months. But hundreds of thousands from large countries such as India and China wait, sometimes for decades, for permanent status and citizenship after establishing careers in the U.S.
Yoder said he hopes the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act will raise awareness for immigration changes, particularly in light of President Donald Trump’s recent decision to ask Congress to pass a law to replace the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.