Kansas Lawmakers Save Widow Of Hate Crime Victim From Deportation

The widow of an Indian engineer who was murdered at a bar in Olathe, Kansas, was almost forced to leave the country, but others stepped in and bought her time.

When Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kansas) discovered that Sunayana Dumala, the widow of murdered Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was to be deported from the United States, he told TIME that he was "apoplectic."

"We are not going to deport the widow of the victim of a hate crime," Yoder stated.

With the support of others, Yoder was able to secure Dumala a one-year visa while he continues to help her win permanent residency.

In February 2017 Kuchibhotla was fatally shot in Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas, in an alleged hate crime. Since he and Dumala had applied for a green card on his work visa, his death meant that his widow would have to start the entire process over.

Dumala, who has lived in the U.S. for 10 years, has built a life for herself in Kansas, and the prospect of being forced to leave compounded the tragedy of her loss. She was concerned that she would not even be allowed back into the country after visiting India to lay her husband to rest.

"On the fateful night of Feb. 22, I not only lost my husband but also my immigration status," Dumala told The Kansas City Star in an email.

TIME noted that Yoder has made some immigrants a key political cause of his. The congressman is behind a bill that would put well-educated immigrants for nations like China and India on the fast track to permanent residency, which can take decades thanks to a 7 percent cap on green cards issued to citizens of any one country in a fiscal year. The goal is to make America more accessible for those with skill sets highly valued in the currently booming markets.

"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," Dumala said.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters photographer Dave Kaup

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