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Rediff.com  » News » Indo-Americans meet Obama at fundraiser, talk immigration

Indo-Americans meet Obama at fundraiser, talk immigration

May 27, 2012 00:06 IST
A team of Indian Americans met United States President Barack Obama during his fourth fundraising visit to the San Francisco Bay Area May 23-24. The fundraiser was the first involving the Indian American community. 

"We (Asian Indians) in March hosted fundraisers in Washington, DC, for the president," Kamil Hasan, Democratic National Committee member-at-large, told rediff.com.

In March, he said Asian Indians raised $750,000. "We are hoping to raise another $750,000," Hasan said.

California has 30 DNC members, including 19 members elected by the California Democratic Party's executive board. Hasan is the first Indian to be appointed to this position since 2008.

Hasan, who led the team to meet the president, said Asian Indian leaders are working hard to get Obama elected and lauded the president for appointing more Indian Americans to his administration than any other president before him.

"Obama did appoint Indian Americans to good positions, but no one was appointed to a cabinet level position. "So, we are hoping this time we should hopefully get a cabinet-level position," Hasan said, expressing hope of an ambassadorial position, too.

Hasan who also is a general partner at Granite Hill, a Venture Capital firm in California, said the Indian-American group was also pushing the administration to improve US-India ties, an effort that was already on "at a much higher and strategic level."

Hasan said he had also spoken to Obama about the need for support from the Democratic Party for many Indian Americans running for office. Still, he said, immigration was the biggest issue in Silicon Valley.

"It's a huge issue and although President Obama had promised immigration reform, it has (yet) not happened," Hasan said, adding that he has requested Obama to separate the issue of legal and illegal immigration.

"The legal issue is what Asian Indians are concerned about. They are highly qualified people. There should not be any issue with them and so we shouldn't combine both immigration issues," he said, adding that there was concern about the procedures ruling the H1B visa, Green Cards and of many Asian families waiting in India for immigration procedures to be completed. Hasan said when the matter had come up the last time the group spoke to the president it had been assured that the matter would be dealt with.

Hasan said that at a March fundraiser Obama had told him that immigration was his highest priority in his second term and promised to accelerate the H1B visa and Green Card processing.

Hasan said he had told the president that civil rights and social profiling were other issues of importance and a growing concern after September 11, when Asian Indians began being misidentified as being involved with the September 11 attacks.

Hasan who comes from political family back in India said, "I understand how important it is for the ethnic community and immigrants to get involved in the political process. It is very important for our children and grandchildren."

Hasan said that, given the funds the Republican Party is raising through Super PACs (political action committees), he is hoping Indian Americans will reach deep into their pockets to fund the re-election campaign.

Hasan said he thinks the 2012 presidential race will be a very close election though Obama would win, though by a small margin, thanks to his policies.

Prakash Shah, CPA, and chairman of the Pacific Valley Bank, California said this was his fourth meeting with the President. "We want him to reduce unemployment, balance the budget and bring prosperity back to America," said Shah, who said he wanted to ensure the Indian community is well represented and that the relationship between India and the US remained strong.

"Look, he is a son of an immigrant and that is attractive to the Indian community. I am an immigrant and it's like my son standing for election," Shah told rediff.com.

Shah did not disclose the amount he donated to the campaign but said Obama "has done an excellent job in a bad economy. So he should be given another chance." He argued that the Asian Indian community has slowly becoming a force in American politics.

"Until now we were all professionals and wanted to be doctors or engineers (and stay) away from politics. We were shy and timid. But I think as stage goes by Asian American community is becoming a very powerful force in both the Democratic and Republican parties. Asian Indians want to play a very positive and vital role in the future of this country."

"I am his great fan," said Gitanjali Swamy of the president. Swamy, daughter of Subramanian Swamy, president of the Janata Party and her father attended the March fundraiser in California. She said at a time that India is ready for change and looking forward to getting of corruption, "I hope US can support India in solving the problem and create a better future."

 

Ritu Jha