I discuss the uptick in South Asian women’s political leadership in this piece by Laila Kazmi: “In Washington State, South Asian American Women Are Ushering in a New Era of Political Engagement” (November 2, 2017).
The article notes:
“Compared to previous elections, the tally of female South-Asian candidates is significant, according to Dr. Amy Bhatt, co-author of “Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest” and associate professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at University of Maryland.
“[South Asian Americans] have had such a low historic presence in elected offices at all levels across the United States,” Bhatt says.
But Jayapal’s election last November to U.S. Congress may represent a turning point. Her victory and the fact that Washington State is home to one of the oldest South Asian immigrant communities in the country — dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, when Sikhs first arrived here to work in timber and farming — might explain why we’re seeing such an interest in running for office.
Early South-Asian immigrants came mostly as laborers and those who arrived in the mid-20th century generally came either for higher education opportunities or to join family members already here. They tended to not be very political, according to Bhatt.
“But, now we are seeing first- and second-generation immigrants [running for offices], in part because the community today is more complex and multigenerational,” says Bhatt, herself a second-generation Indian American. “There is also the awareness that with rising Islamophobia and rising xenophobia in the country, if we don’t start taking a stronger stance, politically, we are also going to be victimized.”
In case you missed it, check out Sareeta Amrute and my article about why Huffington Post about the need for cross-immigrant group solidarity in the face of the Trump administration’s increasing restrictions on immigration. Here is an excerpt and you can read the full article here:
Whether addressing asylum seekers or knowledge workers, these immigration restrictions make one thing clear: all immigrants are vulnerable, regardless of education level, background, country of origin, or religion. For years, the United States, European countries and Australia have prioritized “skilled” professionals over “unskilled” workers. These divisions obscure the underlying commonality that immigrants face as outsiders, regardless of their status. Now, these pretensions have fallen away.
Beyond joining the groundswell of outrage condemning the administration’s attack on immigration, tech workers and the companies that employ them need to recognize and make common cause with all immigrants, as well as with the movement for black lives, and the movement to protect indigenous sovereignty. This means thinking historically, standing up when low-income immigrants are attacked and finding solidarity across immigration status.
I was interviewed for a piece on South Asian philanthropy in the Pacific Northwest for December’s issue of Seattle Magazine. Check it out!
Stutevill, Sarah. “South Asians are Becoming More Visible in the Philanthropic Community.” Seattle Magazine, December 2015, print edition.
From the article:
“There is a propensity for the Indian community to give to orgs that are doing work in India,” says Badshah. The contributions helped establish a culture of global giving at the burgeoning tech giant, and came at a time when the region as a whole was re-envisioning itself as an international economic player. “The economic explosion and upward mobility of the tech sector and of Seattle has been paralleled in certain communities…. South Asians are an example,” says Amy Bhatt, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Bhatt, who earned her doctorate at the University of Washington, studies South Asian migration trends in the tech industry. “There’s a lot of wealth that has accumulated here.”As a result, that first generation of international tech workers helped incubate a number of nonprofits and foundations. For Srilata Remala’s father, Rao Remala, Microsoft’s first Indian hire, giving back was a way to stay connected to his home country.“He really struggled to get an education,” says Remala of her father, who wrote the original code for Microsoft Windows. “The village that he [grew up] in didn’t have a hospital…. He decided he wanted to give back so that children can have a better chance to succeed, like he did.”
That giving back took the form of a family foundation, now primarily run by Remala, 31, and her sister Srilakshmi Remala Kamdar, 36. Both women donate the family’s charitable funds locally and abroad. The foundation made a recent $500,000 donation to the United Way of King County for youth programming and a $15,000 donation to the Seattle-based Infectious Disease Research Institute to help combat chikungunya—a mosquito-borne disease that has infected members of Remala’s own family back in southern India.
In this short documentary about the landmark 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, I talk about the role that early South Asians played in transforming American immigration.
Check out the documentary, “Immigration Reform, A Work in Progress” on KCTS’s website!
In this special feature in The Seattle Times’s Pacific NW Magazine, I discuss the issues that H-4 visa holders face when living in the United States.
Thompson, Lynn. “Identity Crisis: Wives of Tech Workers Struggle to Find Purpose.” The Seattle Times, August 28, 2015.
I published a chapter in the 2015 edited collection Transnational Migration and Asia: The Question of Return, (editor Michiel Baas, Amsterdam University Press) discussing the experience migrants have when they return to India after living abroad.
In this piece celebrating Women’s History Month, I discuss the important roles that South Asian women played in American history for the South Asian American Digital Archive’s (SAADA) Tides Magazine.
Fifty Years of the Immigration and Nationality Act: Guest Post by Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also referred to as the Hart-Cellar Act). This landmark legislation was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson and abolished country based quotas as the basis for immigration. It prioritized instead skills and family reunification, opening the doors to new waves of immigrants from Asia, Africa, and other parts of the world that had been previously restricted. In this guest post, Nalini Iyer and Amy Bhatt, authors of Roots and Reflections: South Asians in the Pacific Northwest reflect on that change and preview some of the celebrations and commemorations that will take place in the coming year.
Fifty years ago, the Immigration and Nationality Act was a major source of contention in Congress as many feared that too many foreigners would change the fabric of the American nation and create too much competition for jobs. As a way to assuage these fears, several prominent politicians of the day (including Robert Kennedy) predicted that there would be minimal impact on immigration from the Asia Pacific triangle and suggested that we might see about 5,000 immigrants from the region in the first year and not much after that.
However, the legislators of the time were way off the mark in their demographic predictions. After the bill was passed, the numbers of immigrations from South Asia rose immensely. Between 1961-1970, India only sent 31,200 immigrants to the United States and Pakistan sent 4,900, but through the 1970s, the numbers increased to 176,800 immigrants from India and 157,000 from Pakistan/Bangladesh. By the 2000s, 157,000 Pakistanis and 106,700 Bangladeshis arrived and between 2001 and 2010, 662,500 Indians acquired legal permanent resident status. Without a doubt, the Immigration and Nationality Act and the waves of immigration from South Asia that followed, have transformed the racial, economic, social, and political fabric of this country….Read the full post here: http://uwpressblog.com/2015/01/07/fifty-years-of-the-immigration-and-nationality-act-guest-post-by-nalini-iyer-and-amy-bhatt/.
Photo credit: © 2013 Carina A. del Rosario
On March 1, 2013, Nalini and I had the pleasure of launching Roots and Reflections at a fabulous event hosted by the University of Washington Libraries and the University of Washington Press. We did a reading from the book and the Libraries honored each of the narrators who participated in the South Asian Oral History Project with a copy of the book. Over 100 people attended the event!