Indian-Americans Watch as Bush Visits Their Native Land

When President Johnson signed into law the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, many believe he may have permanently changed the face of America, paving the way for Asian immigrants, as well as other immigrants, to enter the United States.

The new law enabled tens of thousands of Asians to immigrate to the United States on a first-come, first-served basis. Many of the Indians who came West were doctors, scientists and academics, according to Project Impact's research.

"The kinds of South Asians that were coming here were elite in their own countries. They were by no means a class that was deprived in India," Venkateswar said.

Living the American Dream

Mehta, like many in his generation, came to the United States from India hoping to take advantage of the vast economic opportunity. More than 28 years later, he operates his own medical device company in New Jersey and employs more than 80 workers in India.

"I came here with $6 in my pocket," he said. "The economic opportunities were better here than in India."

Mehta settled in the Midwest when he was 24 and got his master's of business administration from Indiana University. Now, he and his Indian-American wife have two college-educated children.

"I think our children have better opportunities. They have mixed very well into the culture and community," Mehta said.

As a businessman who has outsourced his manufacturing to India, Mehta calls Bush's visit to his native land "momentous" and suggests that it "signifies the importance of India in the world."

After the Terror Attacks

While there were a number of reports of racially motivated crimes against South Asians in the weeks following the Sept. 11 attacks, many Indian-Americans -- who are overwhelmingly of the Hindu faith -- remain optimistic about their status in society.

Arora, a tax consultant with a law degree, was born in India but grew up in Georgia. Even though he became a U.S. citizen in 1995, he said that he felt the need to carry his passport with him for over a year after the World Trade Center attacks for fear of being "singled out" because of his "ambiguous Middle Eastern look."

Still, he said he did not think his community had to deal with much of the fallout from the attacks.

"I think the United States had done a fairly good job of educating officers about profiling," Arora said. "I know it happens and occurs, but things could have been a lot worse for our community." 

The Asia Society's Venkateswar believes that South Asians' professional successes may have buffered them from the effects of "daily racism."

More than 60 percent of Asian Indians have careers in management or professional jobs, according to 2004 U.S. Census numbers, compared with 34 percent of the total U.S. population.

"These successes have made them immune to some of the daily racism that some African-Americans face," Venkateswar said. "The working class [of Indian-Americans] was affected most [after Sept. 11] -- the cab drivers, restaurant workers."

Other Side of the Globe

Meanwhile, with news of demonstrators in India chanting "death to America" already hitting the airwaves, Indians in the United States intently watch from afar.

"Most South Asians in the U.S. have capitalized on the American dream," Arora said. "America is the type of place where, if you put in the hard work, obtain the education that is available to you, more often than not, the rewards are there."

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