When Neel Gonuguntla was appointed president of the U.S. India Chamber of Commerce Dallas/Fort Worth in 2014, her mission was to unite the Indian business community with the area’s non-Indian business community. “We want to make sure that the broader community is aware of the on-goings in the Indian business community and vice versa—the vision, as I see it, is a more integrated society, economically speaking.”
And the contributions of the Indian community are vast—the Chamber alone counts the owners of hundreds of businesses as members. Additionally, there are roughly 150,000 Indians living in North Texas, Gonuguntla says, and the population is growing at an annual rate of 10 percent, making it the fastest-growing ethnic minority in the area. “The Indian community is an integral part of the economic fabric of Dallas in terms of sustaining and helping to grow the city, especially in the technology and healthcare sectors,” she says, and adds that the Indian population has historically come to the United States to fill high-skilled jobs. “After 1965 and the Immigration Reform Act, which put greater emphasis on granting visas to skilled immigrants, there was a great need for research-oriented individuals, engineers, doctors,” she says. “And then in the ‘90s it was a lot of educated, IT professionals.”
They’re not investing in homes, not spending money at home-improvement stores, not paying taxes into the school system, not investing fully in their communities.
And yet the inefficiency of the immigration process hurts many immigrants—especially recent ones. “Some people wait 10 years to get a green card, and if they don’t know when it’s coming, even though they’re earning good money at their job and paying taxes, they’re not going to buy, say, a house,” Gonuguntla says. “And that has a negative impact on the economy because they’re not investing in homes, not spending money at home-improvement stores, not paying taxes into the school system, not investing fully in their communities.” Gonuguntla says Americans are “doing our communities a disservice by not streamlining the immigration process for people who have been here legally for years.”