U.S. Government regrets ill treatment of Indian programmers

U.S. government regrets ill treatment of Indian

January 27, 2000

The Clinton Administration has expressed “deep
regret” over the treatment meted out to 40 Indian computer programmers
working at a U.S. Air Force base who were handcuffed and paraded like common
criminals after being arrested in an immigration raid.

Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Karl
Inderfurth told India Abroad that he had called Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra
and expressed “my deep regret at the way the Indian nationals had been
treated” by agents of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS).

Inderfurth said his office was in contact with the INS
and, after reading a preliminary report of the incident, believed the Indian
nationals, working at the base in San Antonio, Texas, should not have been
subjected to the shabby and humiliating treatment they received.

He said he had instructed his staff to get in touch with
the INS office in San Antonio and the Texas regional office and prepare a
complete report about the circumstances leading to the incident, so that he
could take it up with top INS officials if it is found that the rights of the
Indians had been violated.

Inderfurth, however, said he did not believe the Indians
were specifically targeted because of their nationality or that there was any
racial profiling involved.

Rahul Reddy, an immigration attorney who represented the
arrested engineers and got them released on bail of $5,000 each, had said
earlier: “It appears that the INS action is a crackdown on Indians.”

He alleged that the INS officials used “national
slurs” and added, “It is not normal procedure for INS agents to enter
a workplace, arrest and handcuff employees.” According to Reddy, the normal
course of action would be for the INS to serve notice asking the engineers to
show cause why their visas should not be withdrawn for the alleged violations.

Ambassador Chandra told India Abroad that India’s Consul
General in Houston, Texas, on his instructions, had been in touch with the local
INS office to ascertain facts of the case and had challenged the agency to show
cause for the action it took.

He said the Consul General had offered to cooperate with
the INS if any laws had been broken by the “body shoppers” who had
contracted the programmers, and to provide the Indian government with any
evidence that would justify their arrest and humiliation.

Chandra acknowledged there have been cases of “body
shoppers” who had been prosecuted in India for perpetrating fraud and
violating the terms of the H1-B temporary visa program and said that was why the
Consul General in Houston said India was ready to cooperate if any illegal
activity had taken place. He agreed with Inderfurth, saying he did not believe
they had been targeted because they were Indians.

Meanwhile, Michael Clark, executive director of the
U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC), which counts among its nearly 100 American
member-companies several Fortune 500 firms doing business in India, said he was
“appalled” when he read about the arrests and humiliation of the
Indian programmers.

Clark said India’s computer programmers, instead of
“being paraded, should be honored for the contributions they have made to
the development of industry in the U.S.,” particularly the information
technology sector.

Earlier, Congressman Frank Pallone promised to look into
the incident while Sam Gejdenson, a member of the House of Representatives
International Relations Committee, passed on the information on the incident to
the House Judiciary Committee that has jurisdiction over the INS.

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