— Domani Spero
On January 9, a grand jury indicted Indian diplomat, Devyani Khobragade for visa fraud and for false statements. Around the same time, Washington granted the Indian diplomat accreditation to the Indian Mission to the United Nations and requested that India waive the immunity that her new status conferred. After India refused, Washington reportedly asked for Ms. Khobragade’s departure from the United States. By Friday evening, the Indian diplomat was back in New Delhi, embraced as a returning hero. Mayur Borkar, the spokesman of the Republican Party of India is quoted by Reuters saying, “We will be meeting her soon. She is an inspiration to the people of our country.”
The State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki says that the charges remain in place and that Ms. Khobragade is not permitted to return to the United States “except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court.”
“[T]he charges against her have not changed. Once she departed – prior to her departure it was conveyed to her and to the Government of India that she is not permitted to return to the United States except to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. Her name would be placed in visa and immigration lookout systems to prevent the routine issuance of any future visa, and upon her departure, a warrant may be issued for her arrest. This does not change the charges. The charges remain in place.”
Ms. Psaki also confirmed the Government of India’s request for the withdrawal of a specific individual from the U.S. Mission in India. Note that both sides are using the polite term “withdrawal” or “expulsion” and did not make a declaration of “persona non grata” for either individual.
“I can confirm that a U.S. official accredited to the Mission India – to Mission India will be leaving post at the request of the Government of India. We deeply regret that the Indian Government felt it was necessary to expel one of our diplomatic personnel. This has clearly been a challenging time in the U.S.-India relationship. We expect and hope that this will now come to closure and the Indians will now take significant steps with us to improve our relationship and return it to a more constructive place. I don’t have any other specific details in terms of the individual and the name of the individual or their specific travel plans at this point.”
Reciprocity also known as equivalent retaliation is the diplomatic version of a stick fight. Nobody dies or the game ends, but no blow goes unreturned, regardless of who is right or wrong.
We‘ve learned yesterday from our State Department sources that the member of US Mission India who was asked to depart within 48 hours according to news report is Regional Security Officer and Supervisory Special Agent Wayne May. His wife who works at the embassy as a Community Liaison Officer will presumably also leave. Mr. May has now departed the country according to the Times of India. On local media, he is alleged as either having issued the visas or alleged to have facilitated the travel to the United States of Sangeeta Richard’s family. The Times of India is reporting a direct connection between RSO Wayne May and the family of the Kohbragade maid.
The parents-in-law of Sangeeta Richard, the domestic help at the centre of the India-US diplomatic spat, worked with US diplomat Wayne May who was expelled by India for his role in the Devyani Khobragade episode. This seems to be the main reason why May is said to have gone out of his way to facilitate the “evacuation” of Sangeeta’s husband Philip and children by arranging T-visas (trafficking) for them.
We don’t know much of the the specifics of this case except through the USDOJ posted documents. We do know this — Mr. May is a member of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the law enforcement arm of the US Department of State. As an RSO, his responsibility includes security, investigations and threat analysis overseas. We estimate that he manage about a quarter of the embassy staff in New Delhi. Since the Khobragade case was a criminal investigation, we doubt very much if Mr. May just woke up one day and decided on his own to piss off the host country by doing whatever he did. Or did not do. As far as we know, Mr. May is not a consular officer who issues visas nor a travel agent who process airline tickets. But apparently, he is the “it” person in this multi-phase diplomatic rat-tat-tat over a diplomat who allegedly underpaid her maid and was strip searched during her arrest.
It is our understanding that Mr. May has been the RSO in New Delhi since 2010. So yeah, he is already due for a regular rotation.
Now, the big question is — who will the GOI demand to leave next, the fingerprint lady on Window #6?
Today, it is widely reported on Indian media that India is also insisting that the US should drop the charges of visa fraud against its diplomat as she was not guilty of any wrongdoing according to External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. That indictment could actually be more problematic for the GOI. Besides its missions in Washington, D.C. and New York, India has consulates general in San Francisco, Chicago, Houston and Atlanta. The minimum wages for those locations are as follows: California-$8.00 per hour; becomes $9.00 on July 1, 2014 (San Francisco minimum wage is higher at $10.55 per hour); Illinois-$8.25 per hour; Texas -$7.25 per hour; Georgia-$5.15 per hour. California’s Domestic Worker Bill of Rights also went into effect on January 1, 2014. Writing for Hindustan Times, former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal (via) said this: “Indian diplomats taking domestic staff to the US accept the minimum wage requirement when all concerned, including the US visa services and the State Department, know this is done pro-forma to have the paper work in order.” NDTV reports that Indian diplomats in the US are worried “since their domestic helps also come on A3 visa like Ms Richards.” The report using unnamed sources says that there are “around 14 such ‘ticking time bombs’ in the US right now.”
A side note on the “T” visas for victims of human trafficking and qualifying family members — that’s not something that one office or one person can just issue because the official feel sorry for the applicant. The “T” visa status is obtained from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). One of the eligibility criteria is for an applicant to “Demonstrate that [he/she] would suffer extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed from the United States.” Victims of trafficking applicants are also strongly encouraged to submit Form I-914, Supplement B, Declaration of Law Enforcement Officer for Victim of Trafficking in Persons, to show law enforcement agency support. That declaration, signed by a law enforcement officer and a supervisory officer serves as primary evidence that the applicant is a victim of trafficking and that he/she has complied with reasonable requests from law enforcement. Once USCIS approves the change of status to a “T” visa, the applicant then had to deal with USCIS Vermont Service Center in St. Albans, VT. to obtain derivative approval for qualifying family members. Family members overseas then have to apply for their visas at their nearest embassy overseas.
To imagine that all this was orchestrated by one officer, including the investigation in the United States, and the actual filing of charges by the Southern District of New York because the escaped maid’s in-laws work for the officer’s family in New Delhi is simply ludicrous.
- US diplomat to leave Delhi embassy (bbc.co.uk)
- US could have avoided ‘mini crisis’ in Devyani case, India says – Times of India (timesofindia.indiatimes.com)
- Indian visa row diplomat leaves US (bbc.co.uk)
- India insists US drop charges against diplomat (thehindu.com)
- Devyani Khobragade faceoff: Throwback to a 1981 Indo-US diplomatic spat (dnaindia.com)