Nabbed Indian software engineers fear uncertain
CHICAGO: Forty Indian software programmers say they were
"completely shaken" by their arrest and humiliation by US immigration
authorities from an air force base in San Antonio, Texas and apprehend an
uncertain future in the country.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, they also said they
were "apprehensive of being targeted" by the authorities. An attorney
for the programmers said the action against them seemed to be part of a
"crackdown on Indians."
"We are not sure how long the case will go on and
INS (Immigration and Naturalisation Service) has told us that we cannot work
till it is resolved. I do not know how long we can manage without a regular
income," said one US educated engineer. "Now I feel that I would have
been much happier in India," he added.
Narrating their experience, one engineer said: "We
had just started work when we heard from the programme manager that all US
citizens need to go out of the building. We assumed it was a routine military
drill, until we noticed agents of the INS, all toting guns, at the exit
"They asked us to step aside while letting all
Americans go. They then questioned us about our names and name of the employer.
Most of us were told we were under arrest immediately after we gave them our
names. They had arrest warrants already and none of us could fathom what was
happening," he said.
"We felt very humiliated when we were handcuffed
and paraded through the hallways in the presence of our colleagues. They did not
read us our rights nor were we told why we were arrested. Many of us pleaded
with the officials to go to the restrooms. But, these requests were denied and
we had to wait for about four hours. The immigration officials asked us for our
passports and H-1 visa documents. But even those of us who showed them these
documents remained under arrest," said another engineer.
"It was only when we reached the detention centre
that the INS officials read the charges against us. We were told that we had
‘failed to maintain status and comply with conditions of our non-immigrant
status,’ since we were not working in Houston, as stated in our petition, but in
"They took our social security cards and drivers’ licenses
from some of us, and these people are now facing tremendous problems being
unable to drive even for daily necessities like groceries," said one of the
"It appears that the INS action is a crackdown on
Indians," said Rahul Reddy, an immigration attorney who represented the
arrested engineers and got them released on a bail of $5,000 each.
He alleged that the INS officials used "national
slurs," adding, "it is not normal procedure for INS agents to enter
into a workplace, arrest and handcuff employees."
The normal course of action would be for the INS to
serve notice asking the engineers to show cause why their visa should not be
withdrawn for the alleged violations, he said, adding the agency was apparently
applying a recent US Supreme Court verdict which stated that the INS could apply
the law selectively to certain nationalities.
Joe De Mott, attorney for the two Indian-owned Houston
companies that provided the contract computer programmers to the air force base,
said they had broken no laws. The workers need not have been arrested. Instead,
the INS should have written to the two companies, Frontier Consulting Inc and
Softech Consulting Inc., advising that it planned to revoke the workers’ visas,
De Mott said the dispute rests on whether Softech and
Frontier, which helped the workers obtain H-1 visas allowing them to work in the
US, were in fact employing those workers and whether the companies skirted
federal rules requiring Labor Department approval to move from Houston to
"The law says if you come here on an H-1 visa, you
have to work for the employer that brought you here on your H-1B visa.
Immigration is saying they are no longer employed by the people that brought
them here; therefore they are in violation of their visa status. Our argument is
they continue to be employed by the people that brought them here for the H-1B