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Twenty-Eight US Congress Members Form Sikh-American Caucus

LALIT K. JHA

 

 

 

A bipartisan group of 28 influential lawmakers have establish the first Sikh-American Congressional Caucus in the US House of Representatives, with the objective of fighting hate crimes against the community and to work towards enlisting them in the army.

Formally launched at the Capitol Hill on Wednesday, April 24, 2013, the first ever Sikh-American Congressional caucus is co-chaired by Congresswoman Judy Chu from the Democratic Party and David G Valadao from the Republican.

Attended by eminent Sikh-American leaders and organisations from across the country, the lawmakers also hosted a reception at the Capitol Hill in the evening.

"Sikh-Americans are suffering because manyeople do not understand or are simply unfamiliar with their religion. The Sikh-American community continues to be disproportionally affected by school bullying and hate crimes. Events like the devastating tragedy in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, should never have taken place," Republican Congresswoman from Florida, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said in her remarks at a Capitol Hill news conference to announce the launch of the Sikh-American Caucus.

The immediate past Chairwoman of the powerful House Committee on Foreign Relations, Ros-Lehtinen, said the Sikh-American Caucus will raise awareness of the Sikh religion while advocating for solutions to end bullying and racial profiling, and to protect religious freedom in the workplace.

"It is time that we embraced our Sikh brothers and sisters as peaceful and productive members of the American society," she said.

Congresswoman Judy Chu, coming from California and the leading lawmaker behind this initiative, said that the Caucus will be the voice for Sikh-Americans in the House of Representatives, working across the aisle to address the unique challenges that this community faces.

"Together, we will preserve religious freedom, protect the safety of all people, and celebrate America's diversity," she said.

"More than a decade after 9/11, too many Sikhs across America face discrimination, bullying, and even bias-motivated violence from misguided individuals associating them with the terrorist attacks," Chu added.

Another Co-Chair, Congressman Valadao, said the Caucus would work on four key issues related to the Sikh community in the US, including military discrimination preventing Sikh-Americans from enlisting due to restrictive appearance regulations that ban turbans, and violence against Sikh-Americans that has increased in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

The Caucus would also work on bullying being experienced by as many as three in every four Sikh boys and racial profiling due to well-intentioned but misguided law enforcement policies.

Addressing the press conference, John Garamendi said the challenges for the Sikh-American community preventing deplorable hate crimes, fighting discrimination, and ending misconceptions in the public - are very real.

"I am confident that through the Sikh-American Caucus, the wide array of Sikh civil rights organizations, and like-minded groups, we can overcome these challenges and create a more just America," he said.

Other members of the Caucus are Karen Bass, Gerry Connolly, John Conyers, Jim Costa, Jeff Denham, Raul Grijalva, Joe Heck, Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Hank Johnson, Doug LaMalfa, Zoe Lofgren, Tom McClintock, Jerry McNerney, Carolyn Maloney, Doris Matsui, George Miller, Devin Nunes, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, Gary Peters, Jan Schakowsky, Jackie Speier and Chris Van Hollen.

Of these, seven are from the Republican Party and 21 from the Democratic Party.

Congressman Valadao said more US lawmakers are expected to join the Caucus.

In a 'dear colleague' letter to members of the US House of Representatives, Valadao said Sikh-Americans have contributed to the strength and diversity of the United States for over 130 years, starting businesses and becoming active leaders in the local communities.

"In the aftermath of September 11, Sikh-Americans have faced experiences a sharp rise in increase in incidents of bias-motivated violence by bullying ... More than 700 such incidents took place over the last decade," he wrote, urging his Congressional colleagues to join the Caucus.

California-based political activist Harpreet Singh Sandhu and Pritpal Singh, from the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (AGPC), played a key role in the formation of the Caucus.

"Our dream of a direct voice to Congress about Sikh related issues has come true. The Caucus' purpose is to educate and allow Members to strategize on how to support the Sikh-American community and attack the many issues we face today including bullying, Armed Forces and homeland security," Harpreet Singh said.

The Sikh advocacy group, United Sikhs, welcomed the creation of the Sikh-American Caucus.

"History has been made today some 130 years after our forefathers first arrived on American shores," said Hardayal Singh, Director of United Sikhs.

 

[Courtesy: Outlook. Edited for sikhchic.com]

April 25, 2013

 

 

Conversation about this article

1: Manpreet Singh (Hyderabad, India), April 26, 2013, 3:40 AM.

I am not aware of how the US political system is setup and what authority and power this group has. I just know the meaning of 'Caucus', i.e., a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party especially in the United States. Can someone throw some light on what will be the function of this group, please, of how they will work, how they will actionize on the main points mentioned above?

2: Kanwal Prakash Singh (Indianapolis, Indiana, USA), April 26, 2013, 8:27 AM.

The acknowledgement and spotlight on the concerns of the Sikh community in America at the level of the U.S. Congress is an important symbolic step, and in time may translate into a powerful voice for a minority struggling under the cloud of mistaken identity, unprovoked violence, bullying in schools and harassment in the workplace, far too many hate crimes and several murders since 9/11. The burden of the relevance and effectiveness of the Sikh-American Congressional Caucus rests with the Sikh-American leaders and Sikh communities across the USA. For 28 U.S. Congressmen to form a Sikh-American Caucus to represent and address Sikh-American legitimate concerns sends a signal to the states and local governments to take steps so that the Sikh-Americans may pursue their American dreams in safety and without fear, without discrimination and being daily victims of assault on their dignity and articles of faith. A vibrant community like the Sikhs has much to contribute to the strengths and promise of the American democracy. When a nation honors a guaranteed assurance to all members of society, celebrates its growing diversity, protects the dignity of all citizens, and recognizes those facets of our individual and collective humanity that best reflect what distinct communities like the Sikhs and others hold sacred, we let loose an awesome creative energy, pioneering spirit, daring commitments that can make a great difference to a nation and our world. For the Sikh-American Congressional Caucus to be a force for good and an instrument for real change, we need many hands, a lasting resolve, innovative ideas and imaginative initiatives originating from within the Sikh communities. Sikh-Americans need to network at multiple levels to bring about change to the unfounded stereotype perceptions and entrenched attitudes to harness the full power of the intentions and vision of the Congressional Sikh-American Congressional Caucus. For me, it all begins with educating ourselves about our own responsibility in this journey and learning from other communities that came before us, fully engaging and mainstreaming our talents, experiences, and brilliant ideas where they reflect unity and solidarity with all Americans. Congratulations to all national Sikh organizations, the Sikh media, and the individuals who have been tirelessly working for the past five decades for breakthroughs, acceptance, and advancement of Sikh-American concerns and contributions. By Satguru's grace and the kindness of thoughtful fellow Americans, we have turned the corner, we have the beginnings of the Nation's attention. Our tomorrows look far more promising, but we have work to do, and "miles to go" before we can reach the beckoning destination.

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