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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Does the Stimulus Bill Impact South Asians?

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Nina Bali­ga, Nation­al CAPACD

Check out this blog post from Feb­ru­ary guest­blog­ger, Nina Bali­ga, Devel­op­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er at Nation­al CAPACD. Nina tells us how she thinks the stim­u­lus bill may impact South Asians:

“Know­ing and under­stand­ing the diver­si­ty of our com­mu­ni­ties, it’s hard to say what the final impact of the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act will have on South Asians across the coun­try.  Per­son­al­ly, I think there are enough stip­u­la­tions in the bill that pro­vide hope for our com­mu­ni­ties.

For exam­ple, $1 bil­lion will go towards the 2010 Cen­sus.   Why does this mat­ter?  Well, the cen­sus pro­vides the back­bone of infor­ma­tion that deter­mines how a lot of pub­lic mon­ey and even pri­vate sec­tor mon­ey is spent.  Part of this $1 bil­lion will be used to increase in-lan­guage part­ner­ships and out­reach efforts to minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties and oth­er “hard-to-reach” pop­u­la­tions.  If more South Asians are count­ed in the 2010 Cen­sus, then there will like­ly be more resources for our com­mu­ni­ties.

We do know that there are some pro­vi­sions that will help low-to-mod­er­ate income indi­vid­u­als, and this will def­i­nite­ly help many South Asian fam­i­lies.  For exam­ple, there is the Make Work Pay refund­able tax cred­it which could give $400 to sin­gle fil­ers and $800 to joint fil­ers in 2009 and 2010.  The bill has also expand­ed Pell grants to a max­i­mum of $5,350 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010, hope­ful­ly increas­ing access to a col­lege edu­ca­tion to more young adults.  And for those of you who are look­ing to buy their first home, do it in 2009, because you’ll receive up to an $8000 tax cred­it from the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

The bill is large and mul­ti-faceted, includ­ing tax cuts for indi­vid­u­als and small busi­ness­es, fund­ing for edu­ca­tion and job train­ing, more mon­ey for trans­porta­tion and health cov­er­age, food assis­tance, fund­ing for states and local gov­ern­ments, and so much more. The final impact on our com­mu­ni­ties is yet to be seen.  We can tru­ly hope for the best dur­ing this eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and pray that this mas­sive injec­tion of cap­i­tal into the country’s econ­o­my will prove worth­while.”

So what do you think? How will this stim­u­lus bill impact the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty? What do you like about the bill and what do you wish it did/did not include?

Nina Bali­ga joined the Nation­al CAPACD staff as the Devel­op­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er in 2007.  Nina devel­ops our com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies, and over­sees our out­reach to mem­bers, fun­ders and oth­er stake­hold­ers. Pri­or to Nation­al CAPACD, Nina worked as a Research Ana­lyst for SEIU Local 11, orga­niz­ing con­do­mini­um work­ers in South Flori­da. In 2004, she worked as the Can­vas Direc­tor of the Mia­mi office of Amer­i­ca Com­ing Togeth­er, where she mobi­lized tens of thou­sands of vot­ers in the largest vot­er con­tact pro­gram in his­to­ry.  She began her polit­i­cal career head­ing up Flori­da PIRG’s Clean Water Cam­paigns.  Nina has served on the Board of Direc­tors of SAAVY (South Asian Amer­i­can Vot­ing Youth) as the Fundrais­ing Chair, and men­tored SAAVY fel­lows at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da as part of a larg­er South Asian Youth Vot­er mobi­liza­tion movement.Nina grad­u­at­ed from New York Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Soci­ol­o­gy and Envi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies and recent­ly received her Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da.

What you need to know before you buy a home …

Have you thought about buy­ing a home? Do you know what home equi­ty is? Are you won­der­ing what your cred­it score is? I have to con­fess that I know very lit­tle about the process of buy­ing a home and have been intim­i­dat­ed by it because all that I heard from fam­i­ly mem­bers and friends was about how stress­ful it was!

For­tu­nate­ly, when I was in Queens, NY last week, I was lucky enough to par­tic­i­pate in work­shop pre­sent­ed by Chhaya CDC called “The Road to Home­own­er­ship: Your Rights, Risks, and Rewards.” This very empow­er­ing and acces­si­ble work­shop demys­ti­fied what it means to buy a home and how you go about doing it. Right then and there, my ques­tions were answered and the process was bro­ken down for me. This work­shop is a part of a series that cov­ers var­i­ous relat­ed top­ics such as whether home­own­er­ship is right for you, finan­cial and cred­it basics, ana­lyz­ing whether you can afford a mort­gage, and how to avoid preda­to­ry lenders. These work­shops are par­tic­u­lar­ly time­ly, giv­en the recent fore­clo­sure cri­sis that has affect­ed many Amer­i­cans and has brought up ques­tions about how exact­ly the home­buy­ing process works in the U.S. If you’re in the New York City area and inter­est­ed in attend­ing one of these work­shops, vis­it Chhaya CDC’s web­site or email them at info@chhayacdc.org.

Chhaya CDC is an orga­ni­za­tion based in Queens that address­es and advo­cates for the hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment needs of South Asian Amer­i­cans in New York City. They pro­vide indi­vid­u­al­ized home­own­er­ship and finan­cial coun­sel­ing, work on ten­ants’ rights issues, and engage in com­mu­ni­ty out­reach on hous­ing and com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment issues. They also devel­op “know your rights” brochures for the com­mu­ni­ty, includ­ing fact­sheet on how to avoid fore­clo­sure res­cue scams (avail­able in Eng­lish and Bangla).

The Passage of Proposition 8: Denying Fundamental Rights to LGBTIQ South Asians

A week after the elec­tions, many in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty are look­ing for­ward to a new Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress that will hope­ful­ly bring forth pos­i­tive changes con­cern­ing civ­il rights. The elec­tions, how­ev­er, are bit­ter­sweet for many South Asians who are also grap­pling with dis­ap­point­ment of Propo­si­tion 8’s pas­sage in Cal­i­for­nia. This bal­lot ini­tia­tive amends the state’s Con­sti­tu­tion to ban mar­riage between same-sex part­ners. Its pas­sage is espe­cial­ly sig­nif­i­cant giv­en that it fol­lowed a Cal­i­for­nia Supreme Court rul­ing in The Mar­riage Cas­es that rec­og­nized same-sex cou­ples’ right to mar­ry.

The pas­sage of Propo­si­tion 8 replays a shame­ful chap­ter in our coun­try’s his­to­ry regard­ing inequal­i­ty in mar­riage. Dur­ing the first half of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, anti-mis­ce­gena­tion laws pro­hib­it­ed many immi­grants and indi­vid­u­als of col­or, includ­ing Pun­jabi farm­ers in Cal­i­for­ni­a’s Impe­r­i­al Val­ley, from mar­ry­ing Cau­casians. It was­n’t until the land­mark Supreme Court case of Lov­ing v. Vir­ginia in 1967 that all race-based legal restric­tions on mar­riage were declared uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. With this his­to­ry in mind,
over 60 Asian-Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions joined legal briefs sup­port­ing mar­riage equal­i­ty in The Mar­riage Cas­es in Cal­i­for­nia in 2007.

Mar­riage equal­i­ty, along with oth­er issues affect­ing les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al, trans­gen­der, inter­sex, and queer (LGBTIQ) indi­vid­u­als, is often silenced and ignored in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. Advo­cates and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers in Cal­i­for­nia worked tire­less­ly to raise aware­ness about equal­i­ty among South Asians. For exam­ple,
Trikone-SF devel­oped posters, dis­trib­uted in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Satrang, fea­tur­ing South Asians oppos­ing Propo­si­tion 8. South Asian Net­work (SAN) spoke at a press con­fer­ence express­ing con­cerns about the ini­tia­tive. SAN and Satrang also coor­di­nat­ed a march in Arte­si­a’s “Lit­tle India.” The strug­gle for equal­i­ty con­tin­ues with ral­lies against Propo­si­tion 8 con­tin­u­ing after Elec­tion Day and law­suits filed against the ini­tia­tive for vio­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion.

If you want to learn more about the range of issues affect­ing the South Asian LGBTIQ com­mu­ni­ty, check out SAN and Satrang’s ground­break­ing needs assess­ment report,
No More Denial, and the LGBTIQ sec­tion of A Nation­al Action Agen­da: Pol­i­cy Rec­om­men­da­tions to Empow­er South Asian Com­mu­ni­ties.

South Asians in the 2008 elections

How have South Asians been get­ting involved in the 2008 elec­tions? How have the ways that South Asians been involved in the civic and polit­i­cal process changed or evolved? What kind of vot­er turnout can we expect from the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty on Elec­tion Day? What’s at stake for South Asians in this elec­tion?



Hear the answers to these ques­tions and more in “South Asians in the 2008 elec­tions,” SAALT’s pre-elec­tion webi­nar. We were joined by Vijay Prashad (Trin­i­ty Col­lege Pro­fes­sor of Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies and the author of Kar­ma of Brown Folk among oth­er works), Karthick Ramakr­ish­nan (one of the main col­lab­o­ra­tors in the Nation­al Asian Amer­i­can Sur­vey), Seema Agnani (Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Chhaya CDC, a com­mu­ni­ty devel­op­ment non­prof­it based in Queens, New York), Ali Naj­mi (Co-founder of Desis Vote in New York) and Aparna Shar­ma and Tina Bha­ga Yoko­ta (Mem­bers of South Asian Pro­gres­sive Action Col­lec­tive in Chica­go). The full video of the webi­nar is here<http://www.saalt.org/categories/South-Asians-in-the-2008-Elections-Online-Webinar-/>. Stay tuned for SAALT’s post-elec­tion webi­nar, dur­ing which guests will dis­sect the elec­tion results, report the find­ings of mul­ti­lin­gual exit polling and look for­ward to the tran­si­tion to the new Admin­stra­tion and Con­gress.

Have you seen “Raising Our Voices”?

In Jan­u­ary 2001, SAALT began work on a 26-minute doc­u­men­tary enti­tled “Rais­ing Our Voic­es: South Asian Amer­i­cans Address Hate.” Pro­duced by Omusha Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and guid­ed by SAALT Board mem­bers and vol­un­teers, the doc­u­men­tary set out to raise aware­ness about the increas­ing hate crimes and bias inci­dents affect­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, espe­cial­ly in the late 1990s. In fact, in 1997 and 1998, South Asians were report­ing the high­est inci­dences of bias-moti­vat­ed crimes in the broad­er Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty.

The doc­u­men­tary fea­tures South Asian sur­vivors of hate crimes and their fam­i­lies in Queens, New Jer­sey, Pitts­burgh and Los Ange­les, as well as orga­niz­ers, lawyers and com­mu­ni­ty advo­cates who mobi­lized the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and demand­ed jus­tice.  When the film was com­plet­ed two weeks before Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001, lit­tle did we know how the land­scape of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in the Unit­ed States would change.  With the alarm­ing increase of hate crimes, bias inci­dents, and pro­fil­ing that South Asians, espe­cial­ly those who are Sikh and Mus­lim, endured in the days and months after 9/11, SAALT re-envi­sioned the doc­u­men­tary and shot addi­tion­al footage.

The doc­u­men­tary has been out since 2002, but you may not have seen it in its entire­ty yet. It has been used in class­rooms and town­halls around the coun­try and we encour­age you to engage with it, com­ment on it, and if pos­si­ble, to share it with friends, fam­i­ly, cowork­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers.

You can view it here:

Part 1

Part 2 Please email us at saalt@saalt.org with your feed­back, reac­tions, and com­ments. Feel free to use this doc­u­men­tary in your com­mu­ni­ty, uni­ver­si­ty, or your per­son­al net­work of col­leagues and friends.