Sunayana Dumala of Olathe became a symbol of hope and positivity for fellow immigrants and immigration advocates while attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday.
Minutes before Trump’s speech began, the widow of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was killed nearly a year ago in a suspected hate crime at Austins Bar & Grill in Olathe, was recognized by Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Twitter.
“Despite the darkness and hatred that took her husband’s life, Sunayana continues to be a shining light for immigrants by sharing her powerful story w/ love, positivity, & Aloha,” Gabbard wrote. “I’m looking forward to continuing to support her, & elevate her voice as we work toward long overdue immigration reform.”
Gabbard posted a photo standing next to Dumala and Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder, an Overland Park Republican. Yoder has become an advocate for high-skilled immigrants like Dumala, who faced an uncertain future in the U.S. after she lost her husband.
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Recently, Dumala told The Star that she feels the U.S. immigration system discriminates against those of Indian decent. She may have to wait years, perhaps even decades, before she is granted full U.S. citizenship.
But Tuesday night was a positive one for Dumala. She attended the State of the Union as Yoder’s guest and enjoyed Trump’s remarks on acceptance and his addressing a “broken immigration system,” according to Ruth Bigus, Dumala’s friend.
And hundreds responded to Gabbard’s tweets about Dumala, with many showing praise of Dumala’s strength and outspokenness following her husband’s killing, and others calling for changes to immigration law.
One person wrote, “Sunayana, you are an inspiration.”
Another thanked Dumala for “representing all ... immigrants.”
Yoder is sponsoring a bill — H.R. 392 — in the U.S. House that would give immigrants like Dumala more freedoms. The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act has earned bipartisan support.
Dumala recently helped launch Forever Welcome, a social media initiative aiming to spread messages of unity, love and acceptance. She is also planning a peace walk in Olathe in March.
Trump did not mention Dumala during his speech, which struck a rare bipartisan tone but angered some for its remarks, or lack thereof, on immigration, human rights and the #MeToo movement.