tej dhawan's random musings

Month: March 2013

A teaching moment on violence against women

For my friends with whom I’ve sparred over the Violence Against Women’s act, a little bit of background that drives my passionate response might help —-
I was brought up in a loving, strict, religious, traditional Hindu family.  Dad worked long hours to make sure the best available education was available to both my sister and me.  He was (and is) fairly strict in his beliefs and does not shy from scolding us for our transgressions despite our 40+ years of age.  When I was 10ish, we went on vacation from Delhi to southern India. We were to ride the train south, and on the way back, my dad, an employee of the US Embassy, would pickup one of the incoming cars from Bombay consulate and drive us back to Delhi.  Dad’s uniform included US Army style boots and a belt with the massive buckle with a bald eagle and he preferred those two over everyday wear.
The second class seat cars on Indian trains then had three berths facing each other with the middle berth folded down during the day.  People sat on the lower berth with luggage and overflow seating on the top.  My mom, sister and I on the lower berth in the train, and dad up top.  A few other passengers were mulling about, seated where they could or standing.  The train began to move and a gruff looking guy walked up toward us and, with a verbal assault, harshly pushed my sister (then 7ish) aside to try and sit.  Before he could grab the spot, however, I saw the inch or two high heel of dad’s shoe swing from above me and hit the guy squarely in his chest. As the guy tried to recapture his breath, dad jumped down and grabbed him by the collar, dragging him away in anger.
For those who know my dad, know that his life exists through the life of his daughters and granddaughters.  His normal gentle demeanor is a cover, one I saw disappear that day when he dragged the guy to the door of the moving train, opened the door and said – “Madarchod, remember this day when you think about lifting your hand on a female“, and threw him out of the moving train.  He had no fear, no remorse, and certainly no ego as he walked back to the seat, hugged his daughter and sat back down.

Why is Immigration Important to Iowa?

I was asked this question recently on a visit to DC by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS).  Senator Moran is an outspoken supporter of skilled immigration and the author of the Startup Act 2.0 and I met him at the Kauffman Foundation’s State of Entrepreneurship launch event.  Sharing the presence of immigrants at many critical junctures of our State’s launch, and our continued presence and inflow into the State’s economic drivers – our businesses – made the case to him and he shared a few anecdotes from Kansas.  Returning from DC, I had the opportunity to submit an editorial to the Des Moines Register with two leaders of our community – Lori Chesser of Davis Brown Law Firm and Jay Byers of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.  The editorial lays out many of the important items for our cities and State and is duplicated below.
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Seize the day. That is our recommendation to Iowans — including our congressional delegation — regarding immigration reform.
Our outdated system has long hobbled economic growth nationwide, but nowhere more than in Iowa. Immigration reform is a critical element in building a strong economy and a vibrant culture both now and in the future.
Iowa’s economic success depends largely on our ability to enhance international connectivity to compete in the global marketplace. This includes increasing exports, facilitating foreign direct investment, and attracting top talent.
But the current system impedes growth on all fronts.
Potential trading partners cannot visit the U.S. — or establish branch offices — because of restrictive visa policies. Potential investors are stymied by lack of visas or overly restrictive interpretations of the few visas categories available. Talented students educated at Iowa’s universities — including coveted “STEM” graduates — leave because of a random H-1B visa “cap” and painfully long waiting lines for legal residence.
Entrepreneurship is another key element of a healthy economy, and immigrants have proved to be highly entrepreneurial. A recent study by the National Foundation for American Policy found that almost half of the top 50 venture-backed U.S. companies had at least one immigrant founder. An immigrant-founded venture-backed company creates, on average, 150 jobs.
Again, our current immigration system has few options for company founders, leaving this resource largely untapped. Meanwhile, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Chile have all created programs to attract immigrant entrepreneurs.
Iowa is also an agricultural leader, responsible for the safe production of food both in the U.S. and around the globe. Reliable estimates indicate that 75 percent of the agricultural workers in the United States are immigrants — most of which are not authorized to work. The main reason is that the current system does not allow for non-seasonal temporary labor.
This restriction also hampers processing and service industries, which often cannot find reliable workers because of the preference for — and accessibility of — post-secondary education.
But a robust economy is only one measure of success. Surveys of students and young professionals show that quality of life, including diverse cultural, food and entertainment options, are important to their decisions about where to live and raise a family.
Immigrants — including German, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Mexican and Laotian — are Iowa’s cultural heritage. Immigrants — including Burmese, Iraqi, Sudanese, Bosnian, Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani, Guatemalan, Nicaraguan, Liberian and many others — are our cultural future.
Recent announcements by both President Obama and a bipartisan group of senators, along with the bipartisan introduction of the Immigration Innovation (Isquared) Act, and a day of thoughtful hearings on immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives last month encourage the hope that real change could happen.
To secure a bright future for Iowa, we must make it happen. The right immigration reform will spur economic growth, create jobs and foster a cultural richness that has made America what it is today. Iowans particularly will benefit from these changes. Let’s seize the day.
 

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