Lost amid the sturm und drang of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade’s arrest and strip-search in New York City is the person who set the huge scandal ball rolling – Sangeeta Richard.
Presumably in her 30s, Sangeeta Richard is the Indian maid Devyani brought to the U.S. in November 2012 to help with babysitting her two young daughters and other household chores.
It’s not in the least surprising that Devyani, an Indian Foreign Service officer, should bring a maid along with her.
Middle class and upper class Indians are addicted to having maids for washing, cooking, looking after children, performing odd jobs and, in some instances like Bollywood actor Shiney Ahuja, for sexual gratification too.
An ambitious and bold woman, Sangeeta left behind her husband Philip and two young children in India and came to the U.S. to improve her family’s prospects. Her husband was a driver with the Mozambique Embassy in Delhi until he joined her in the U.S. recently.
By March 2013, Sangeeta wanted to earn more money by working outside Devyani’s house in NYC but was denied permission to do so by her boss Devyani on the ground that her visa did not allow it.
If the charges submitted by U.S. authorities against Devyani in court are true, Sangeeta was not being paid the legal minimum wages but a slave wage of $3.31 per hour although documents submitted to the U.S. embassy in India for getting her a Visa showed she would be paid $4,500 a month, and at least $9.50 per hour.
Given previous problems with Indian maids, the NYC Indian Consulate should have been careful when Sangeeta was brought into the U.S. but they do not seem to have paid much attention.
Fast Track Green Card
There seems little doubt that Sangeeta is cooperating fully with the U.S. law enforcement authorities in assisting the investigation and providing evidence to support her charges of being abused by Devyani Khobragade by way of not being paid the U.S. legal minimum wages.
In exchange for her cooperation, Sangeeta and her family have been provided T Non-immigrant Visas as the first step toward issuing them U.S. Green Cards.
U.S. Congress created T Visas in October 2000 to help law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute human trafficking, and offer protection to alleged victims like Sangeeta.
What to me seems weird is that Sangeeta Richard is seen by U.S. authorities as a victim of human trafficking although she willingly came to the U.S. knowing that she would be paid a lower wage, if the charges against Devyani filed in court by U.S. authorities are correct.
Usually T Visa holders must wait for three years to file for a Green Card.
But if the U.S. Attorney General certifies that the investigation is complete then the Green Card application may be filed early.
In Sangeeta’s case, the investigation into Devyani’s alleged crimes is likely to be completed soon and she should be able to quickly file a Green Card petition after getting clearance from the U.S. Attorney General’s office.
Expect Sangeeta and her family to be U.S. Permanent Residents (correct name for Green Card holders) in two years or less. This is pretty fast considering it can take 5-10 years for Indian software programmers before they can get Green Cards.
Sangeeta Richard, her husband Philip and two children are appropriate recipients for the Green Cards.
U.S. – Right Move
U.S. has done the right thing by issuing T Visas to Sangeeta and her family.
Indian bureaucrats have already harassed Sangeeta’s family members by arresting them in retaliation for her complaint against Devyani. A case was filed against Sangeeta in the Delhi High Court last year.
Leaving Sangeeta’s family in India or deporting Sangeeta to India would be tantamount to leaving them at the mercy of wolves.
Indian judiciary and bureaucracy are extremely biased against the lower classes, who often fall victim to oppressive state action on specious and merit-less grounds.
U.S. must be applauded in quietly getting Sangeeta’s family to the U.S. before initiating action against Devyani Khobragade for her alleged crimes.