WASHINGTON -- In the aftermath of her husband's 2017 murder, Olathe, Kan., resident Sunayana Dumala became the face of legislation to help her and other Indian immigrants take a step toward U.S. citizenship.
Her advocacy led to a major victory Wednesday, when the U.S. House passed the measure by a vote of 365-65.
House Resolution 1044 removes a per-country limit on employment-based green cards, a change that will primarily benefit highly skilled immigrants from India and China.
Under the current system, Dumala and other immigrants from these countries live on temporary work visas that are tied to their employer.
Because of the high volume of immigrants from India and China, they can wait for decades to receive a green card, a step they must take in order to become citizens.
Their families are also dependent on their work status. Dumala's own immigration status fell into jeopardy after the murder of her husband Srinivas Kuchibhotla, an Indian-born engineer at Garmin, in a shooting at Austin's Bar and Grill in Olathe. The shooting death was classified as a hate crime.
She eventually obtained a work visa of her own and was able to remain in the United States following the intervention of then-Rep. Kevin Yoder.
"Today is an important day for many of us, a moment we have been waiting for years. Finally, our hard work and tireless efforts have come into fruition," Dumala said in a statement Wednesday.
"After the tragic murder of my husband, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, I lost my status to stay in the country and the immigration struggle took over my grief. And, today with HR 1044 getting passed I can finally find peace and no words can express my happiness."
Dumala has made multiple trips to Washington to advocate for the legislation. Supporters say removing the per-country limit creates a first-come, first-serve system, which will be fair to green-card applicants from all countries.