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Death Threats Beg Question of Why Vivek Wadhwa Is a Lightning Rod for Hate

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Earlier this month, when I wrote the post, “Vivek Wadhwa’s Seven Fixes to the Problems Underlying the Immigrant Exodus,” I was prepared to take some flak for having the nerve to communicate with Wadhwa, and the gall to share some of his views.

“So now you are hitching yourself up to Wadhwa's dirty little bandwagon of lies,” wrote a reader who identified himself only as “unemployed in detroit.” “You will always be nothing more than a shill, Don.”

Wadhwa, a Silicon Valley-based advocate for entrepreneurship, innovation and immigration reform, and author of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent,” for years has been a lightning rod for hate in this country. In his book, he wrote about how the speakers at the Sept. 2010 ImmigrationWorks conference in Seattle received death threats prior to the event. I asked Wadhwa if he considered not attending, and he said he was indeed worried, because while he was used to receiving hateful emails, this went a step further, and resulted in an FBI investigation. He said his wife was “worried to death about it,” and tried to convince him not to attend.

“She also tried to get me to not be so vocal because of all the threats we were getting and so on,” Wadhwa said. “But I have to do what I have to do. I have to speak my mind and say what’s right.”

I went on to ask Wadhwa if there had been other occasions when he had received death threats. His response:

Yeah, but what happens is, they don’t use the words, “We’re going to kill you.” It’s like, “Your days are numbered” and “We are watching you.” Any reasonable person reading them would take them as pretty extreme and scary. Every time I write an article, very often the editors have to weed out the [threatening comments]. BusinessWeek, in one case, got the FBI involved. They deleted the comments—these were threats posted on BusinessWeek’s website.

I asked Wadhwa if he ever fears for his safety, and he replied by recounting a near-death experience he had written about in the book:

I had a massive heart attack when I was 45. When you’ve been through all that, you become a little more thick-skinned. I could just as easily get hit by a truck. You never know. So I’m not worried about these things. This is why I’m so fearless in my writings on several topics. It’s not only the anti-immigrant groups — I’ve been taking on everyone on a whole host of topics. I’ve been taking on Silicon Valley for not being a meritocracy, because it leaves out women, Hispanics and Blacks. So I’m vocal on a number of topics, and I’m used to speaking my mind. I mean, taking on some of the people I’ve taken on in Silicon Valley, I’ll tell you, no one else does it, because you’re taking on the establishment, the most powerful people in the Valley.

But from what I’ve seen, it’s the immigration debate that really triggers the hatred and the death threats. Personally, I’m just glad that people from other countries still want to come here despite the mindless incivility that is so often displayed in this country.

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