South Asians by the Numbers: Population in the U.S. has grown by 40% since 2010

May 15, 2019

SAALT released its latest South Asian demographic snapshot today, revealing a community in the U.S. that’s growing almost as fast as it is changing.

By 2065, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S. The South Asian population in the U.S. grew a staggering 40% in seven years, from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

Key demographic facts:

  • The Nepali community grew by 206.6% since 2010, followed by Indian (38%), Bhutanese (38%), Pakistani (33%), Bangladeshi (26%), and Sri Lankan populations (15%).
  • There are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72% increase since 2010.
  • There are currently at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA recipients.
  • Income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Nearly 10% 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 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.

The South Asian community in the United States includes individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 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.

SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran said, “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. 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. An accurate Census 2020 population count is essential to distributing critical federal funding to our communities. 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. And, this means even fewer resources to the communities who need it the most.”

SAALT’s demographic snapshot is based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey. We encourage community leaders, government entities, policymakers, and journalists  to use this data to better understand South Asian Americans and help inform their engagement with this community.

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

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NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Washington, D.C.: Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over 2 million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMERs and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, states:

We welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act, sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.

Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with NAKASEC, states:

We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”