News of the killing of Indian national Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Kansas has shocked India, and raised fears about the safety of foreigners and immigrants in America. The term “hate crime” is writ large in the minds of the Indian diaspora in the U.S. and their anxious families back home, even as law enforcement officials piece together the tragic events at a bar in Kansas City. That prior to the attack the shooter, U.S. military veteran Adam Purinton, reportedly asked Kuchibhotla and his co-worker and fellow Indian, Alok Madasani, whether they were residing in the U.S. illegally hints at the possible motivation for the violent encounter. Eyewitness reports confirming that the killer yelled, “Get out of my country,” moments before unleashing a hail of bullets on the two Indians, also injuring a white man who sought to intervene on their behalf, suggests a xenophobic racism. While this may be an isolated instance of hate crime, given the political climate in the U.S., it cannot but shine a spotlight on President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant actions. Especially after Mr. Trump’s executive order banning entry into the U.S. of travellers from seven Muslim-majority countries and refugees from Syria and indefinitely putting on hold the country’s refugee asylum programme — even if implementation of the order has been limited, so far.
Fear-mongering about America’s weak borders allowing the unconstrained entry of “illegal aliens” into the country has a much older provenance. Throughout the bruising two-year election campaign that culminated in the November presidential election, Mr. Trump’s provocative arguments about building a wall along the Mexican border and banning Muslims from entering the U.S went largely unchallenged by the Republican Party. Last week, around the same time as the attack in Kansas City, Mr. Trump tweeted about seven people shot dead in Chicago, pointing an unsubtle finger at violence in inner cities associated with African-Americans in poverty. He did not tweet on the Kansas attack. The White House was quick to dismiss as “absurd” any link between the Kansas City shooting and the rhetoric on undocumented immigrants. That may well be, but the selective social media outrage of Mr. Trump on violent acts across the U.S. is disturbing. Why, for instance, did his administration not condemn that act of violence more explicitly? Given Republican obstructionism on enacting common-sense gun control reforms to curb the proliferation of deadly weapons, this intensifying trend of racist xenophobia may make the U.S. a far more dangerous emigration destination than it has been so far. Srinivas Kuchibhotla’s career was the stuff of the American dream. Mr. Trump’s politics risks alienating not just immigrants, but also native-born Americans from that dream.