Huffington Post: New Jersey’s First South Asian Woman Mayor Is Breaking Boundaries

Happy to be part of this great story on the historical election of Sadaf Jaffar as the first Muslim South Asian woman mayor in the U.S. Here is a selection from the story and you can check out the full piece here!

“Jaffer is part of a new wave of politically active South Asian Americans in her state. As New Jersey’s South Asian American population increases, many U.S.-born young professionals from immigrant families have started campaigning ― and winning ― positions as mayorsstate legislators and township council members.

Jaffer’s appointment as mayor is particularly is significant against the backdrop of South Asian women’s history in the U.S., according to Amy Bhatt, a University of Maryland, Baltimore County, professor whose research focuses on immigration, gender and South Asian American communities. Bhatt is also a key leader at the South Asian American Digital Archive, which strives to document South Asian American history.

Beginning in the 1870s, Congress passed several laws aimed at restricting immigration from Asia. One of the ways politicians tried to block newcomers from staying in the U.S. was to make laws targeting the migration of women in particular. Simultaneously, anti-miscegenation laws prevented Asian workers from marrying people outside their own communities. Ultimately, these restrictions made it difficult for people of Asian descent to permanently settle in the country. 

These discriminatory laws largely stayed in place until 1965, when national-origin quotas were abolished and Asian-Americans started immigrating to the U.S. in larger numbers.

Despite their increasing population, South Asian immigrants have historically been reluctant to become politically active in the U.S., Bhatt said, preferring instead to try to “blend in.”