South Asian population in the U.S. grew by 2 million in 7 years: Survey

WASHINGTON, D.C.—South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) — a national civil rights organization — in its latest South Asian demographic snapshot released on May 15, based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey, has said that the community in the U.S. is growing almost as fast as it is changing.

It predicted that by 2065, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S., driven largely by the South Asian population in that “grew at a staggering 40 percent in seven years — from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

Pointing to some key demographic facts, SAALT said:

The Nepali community grew by 206.6 percent since 2010, followed by Indian, 38 percent; (38%), Bhutanese, also 38 percent; Pakistani, 33 percent; Bangladeshi, 26 percent; and the Sri Lankan population, by 215 percent.

There are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72 percent increase since 2010.

There are currently at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients.

Income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Nearly 10 percent of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S. live in poverty.

There has been a rise in the number of South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. over the last 10 years. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) has detained 3,013 South Asians since 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested 17,119 South Asians between October 2014 and April 2018 through border and interior enforcement.

SAALT described the South Asian community in the United States as including “individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.”

It said, “The community also includes members of the South Asian diaspora – past generations of South Asians who originally settled in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands.”

“South Asian Americans include citizens, legal permanent residents, students, H-1B and H-4 visa holders, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrants,” it added.

A no-brainer in the SAALT South Asian demographic snapshot, was that “Indians comprise the largest segment of the South Asian community, making up over 80 percent of the total population, followed by Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Nepali, Sri Lankans, and Bhutanese.”

It said that data is not readily available for diaspora South Asian communities specifically the Indo-Caribbean, and Indo-African communities.

With regard to the high incidence of undocumented Indians in the U.S., the SAALT snapshot said that as of 2017, the 630,000 undocumented Indians alone in the United States, marked a 72 percent increase in undocumented Indians since 2010.

“The increase can be attributed to Indian immigrants overstaying visas — nearly 250,000 Indians overstayed their visa in 2016 therefore becoming undocumented,” it said.

As of August 2018, in terms of DACA recipients, the report said, “There are approximately 2,550 active Indian DACA recipients,” but that “only 13 percent of the overall 20,000 DACA eligible Indians have applied and received DACA.”

“There are 1,300 active Pakistani DACA recipients, 470 Bangladeshi recipients, 120 Sri Lankan recipients, and 60 Nepali recipients,” it noted.

Quoting from a Migration Policy Institute (MPI) analysis, SAALT said that the top five states in which undocumented Indian immigrants live are: California (47,000), New Jersey (41,000), Texas (32,000), New York (24,000), Illinois (20,000).

Over 9.5 percent of green card recipients in FY(fiscal year) 2017 were from South Asian countries: Bangladesh (14,693); Bhutan (2,940); India (60,394); Nepal (11,610); Pakistan (17,408); and Sri Lanka (1,627), while since 1997, more than 1.7 million dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders have received H-4 visas, and that nearly 86 percent of H-4 visa holders are from South Asian countries.

In 2015, under a directive from then President Obama, the Dept. of Homeland Security, granted work authorization to certain H-4 visa holders, and as of December 2017, approximately 127,000 visa holders (more than 90 percent of whom are Indians)were approved for H-4 EAD.

However, the Trump administration is shortly expected to announce a rule rescinding the 2015 work authorization.

SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran said that “as we witness this unprecedented growth in our communities, it is more important than ever that the needs of the most vulnerable South Asian populations are met.”

She said, “South Asians are impacted by the full spectrum of federal immigration policies—from detention and deportation to H-4 visa work authorization and denaturalization to the assault on public benefits.”

Thus, Sridaran argued, “An accurate Census 2020 population count is essential to distributing critical federal funding to our communities,” and warned that the Trump administration’s introduction of “a citizenship question on the census would chill thousands of community members, resulting in a severe undercount, with at least 600,000 South Asians in the country not being counted and thousands more deterred.”

Consequently, she added, “This means even fewer resources to the communities who need it the most.”

According to the SAALT snapshot on income inequality among South Asian Americans, it noted that this community’s poverty levels were reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans.

It said that 2018 Pew data showed that Asian Americans in the top 10 percent of income distribution earned 10.7 times as much as Asian Americans in the bottom 10 percent and that nearly 472,000 or 10 percent of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S. live in poverty.

Among South Asian Americans, Pakistanis (15.8 percent ), Nepalis (23.9 percent), Bangladeshis (24.2 percent), and Bhutanese (33.3 percent) had the highest poverty rates, with Bangladeshi and Nepali communities having the lowest median household incomes out of all Asian American groups, earning $49,800 and $43,500 respectively.

In terms of DACA and immigration reform, Sophia Qureshi, SAALT’s communications director, pointed India Abroad to SAALT’s strong support of the American Dream and Promise Act, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D.-Calif.), Nydia Velazquez (D.-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D.-NY ) that provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the DACA program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

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