Almost seven months after her husband was shot dead in an apparent hate crime in the US, Sunayana Dumala, the widow of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla, was almost deported from the country.
Srinivas was on an H1B visa, while Sunayana was on an H4 dependent visa.
However, a US lawmaker stepped in to ensure that she was granted a one-year visa to resume work at a marketing agency in Overland Park.
Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder heard of Sunayana's case when she said that she planned to return to the US to 'fulfill his dream' in a Facebook post, after she had travelled to Hyderabad for her husband's funeral.
“We are not going to deport the widow of the victim of a hate crime,” Yoder was quoted as saying.
Srinivas (32) was killed and his friend Alok Madasani was injured when Adam Purinton, a white man who earlier served in the US Navy, shot them at the Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, Kansas State on February 22.
Purinton reportedly got into a row with the victims and hurled racial slurs. He yelled "Get out of my country" and "terrorist" before shooting them. American Ian Grillot was also injured in the attack when he tried to intervene.
Taking to Facebook earlier this week, Yoder wrote, "As the nation begins to debate the future of the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] program and how to deal with the status of immigrants who were brought to America illegally as children, I want to highlight another injustice in our broken immigration system. Right now, there are more than one million immigrants who have come to the United States the right way — through the legal process — who are pursuing the American Dream, raising their families, and working hard to make our country more prosperous."
"These people are trying to get the legal permanent residence they deserve, but are stuck in a massive backlog up to as much as 70 years due to arbitrary caps on how many green cards immigrants from specific countries can receive. The result is many people here from India and China are often faced with the impossible choice of keeping their job and legal status in the United States or attending a loved one’s funeral back home," he added.
Stating that he was the sponsor of a bill that could speed up permanent resident status of well-educated and skilled immigrants, Yoder highlighted Sunayana's case.
"Right here in the Third District, Sunayana Dumala lost her husband Srinivas in the tragic shooting at Austin’s Bar and Grill in Olathe — a senseless murder no one should ever have to endure. But, because of these unfair backlogs, Sunayana was faced with the prospect of having to return home to India because of her visa status. Thankfully, we were able to help her stay for now and are working towards a permanent fix, but if our bill had already been signed into law she would likely have already gained permanent residence and would not have faced the threat of deportation on top of the horrific loss of her loving husband," the Congressman said in his Facebook post.
Taking to Facebook shortly after Srinivas' funeral, Sunayana wrote a touching post.
Recalling their meeting in 2006, their long friendship and marriage in 2012, Sunayana wrote that Srinivas gave her the courage to pursue her dream of coming to the US and studying, and this made her an independent, self-sufficient and strong woman.
"I started working only recently, May 2016. He'd played a major role in me attaining a job," said Sunayana, who worked at Intouch Solutions in Kansas at the time.
She recalled that they moved from small town Cedar Rapids, Iowa to a big city so that she could get a job and be able to pursue her dreams.
"Kansas was our instant choice, and we moved here with a lot of dreams. We built our dream home, which he painted, and installed the garage door," she wrote.
Srinivas would have turned 33 on March 9 and the couple were planning to fly to New Jersey for his cousin's engagement. "He was excited and eagerly waiting for the event, and we had plans to shop this past weekend for the trip. Things turned out differently, I was on my way to India with him in a coffin."
She wanted to know what the US government will do answer the questions that are in every immigrant's mind: "Do we belong here? Is this the same country we dreamed of and is it still secure to raise our families and children here?”
In March this year, the Governor of Kansas declared March 16 as "Indian American Appreciation Day" to honour Srinivas Kuchibhotla.
Meanwhile, Purinton was charged with first-degree murder and two counts of attempted first-degree murder.
In June, The Kansas City Star reported that the jury indicted him for allegedly targeting the Indian men "because of their actual and perceived race, color, religion and national origin."
It also said that Purinton committed the crime after "substantial planning and premeditation" and "attempted to kill more than one person in a single criminal episode, and knowingly created a grave risk of death to others on the scene."