AAPI Heritage Month: The Indian American Origin Story...Part I

AAPI Heritage Month: The Indian American Origin Story...Part I

Chandana Rao

May is not just about blooming flowers and warmer weather; it's also a time to celebrate and honor Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage! This month holds a special place in recognizing the rich cultural diversity and contributions of Asian-American communities to the larger American fabric. Among these remarkable groups are Indian Americans.  But do you know their history  in the United States?


During the early 19th century, Indian immigrants to the United States were mostly men from the state of Punjab in India, many who were Sikh.  They arrived in California seeking economic opportunities. Many worked on farms or railroad construction.  Unfortunately, these early Indian immigrants faced blatant discrimination. The US was strongly opposed to this migration because the 1917 Immigration Act which, among other restrictions, barred immigration from Asia, including India.   Indians were not allowed to immigrate to the US until 1965.

Inspired by the Civil Rights Movement led by African-Americans, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 abolished racial and national barriers to immigration. The new law created a preference for immigrants with professional skills and with family ties to citizens or U. S. residents. At the same time in India, while it expanded educational access to its people, its economy and political climate wasn't equipped with handling this growing population of educated people. So, Indian professionals such as doctors and engineers looked to a more tolerant, and economically open, US for economic opportunities. 




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