Cc:The Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503
PETITION TO DISAGGREGATE SIKHS CORRECTLY IN THE 2010 CENSUS AND FUTURE CENSUS DATA PRODUCTS
The United States Census, mandated by the United States Constitution, is used to enumerate the population every 10 years. The results of the Census are the only uniform measure of population, socio-economic, and housing data for the United States. The results are used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives, draw district boundaries, the allocation of large portions of federal funds, and by local governments that use census data to determine many planning decisions. Furthermore, census data is used in a much more fundamental fashion; the data is used by government, leaders, businesses, and researchers to determine the issues of importance for the people. The data is also of prime importance for minority communities to study the trends and patterns of growth and to better understand the needs of the communities, based on numbers rather than estimations. The United States prides itself on its progressiveness and inclusivity, from its foundation of “We the People,” and it is important to have accurate counts of all the people in the country.
Currently, anyone who marks themselves as “Other Asian” and fills in the blank as “Sikh” is automatically coded by the Census Bureau as “Asian Indian.” As we have been informed by the Assistant Division Chief for Special Populations at the Census Bureau, there is no way to then disaggregate the data as to how many Sikhs there are. As a distinctly separate ethnicity, with anywhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Sikhs in the United States, this is firstly incorrect as many Sikhs are not “Asian Indian,” and furthermore, does not serve the function of Census, which is to provide valid data to support many decisions that are made on the basis of the Census. We, the undersigned, are simply asking that Sikhs be assigned a separate code, and disaggregated correctly by the Census Bureau.
Sikhs are a perfect example of a community that has suffered for a lack of recognition by government, and being correctly enumerated by the Census Bureau is one very important step resolving the lack of recognition. Since beginning their immigration into the United States over 130 years ago, Sikhs have faced many different forms of discrimination by both the general public and government. For example, in the early 20th century, Sikhs were unable to go to public establishments and restaurants, were ridiculed publicly, and often subjected to physical harassment. Post 9/11, Sikhs have been targets of hate crimes from the general public, and have been subjected to many instances of unlawful racial profiling and harassment by law enforcement agencies, solely on the basis of appearance. In fact, the first person killed in a hate crime after 9/11 was Balbir Singh, a Sikh man in Arizona. Last year, in Orlando, a SWAT team was called out when a Sikh man visiting from India, Nirvair Singh, entered a bank asking for help, but not speaking English very well. It has been very difficult for the Sikh community to even engage political representatives, agencies, and law enforcement on these issues without being able to accurately state how many Sikhs there are. It is much more difficult to promote awareness of the Sikh community, or to address the problems of the community through assistance from government, without an official enumeration or recognition. Statistics speak for themselves and currently there is no correct enumeration of statistics for Sikhs in the United States. Furthermore, as Sikh Americans, we are concerned that our many economic and social contributions in the past century go unrecognized and will continue to be so if we can not be correctly enumerated, and we will be unable to trace our heritage in America without this disaggregation. Counting Sikhs as a people will only help in getting an accurate head count of a small population who has been undercounted and unrecognized for over 130 years of U.S. history.
The current method used by the US Census Bureau in order to decide whether to assign a separate tabulation code to a group of people is not one that is clearly defined. For example, if one currently marks “Other Asian,” and writes in “Pakistani” they are disaggregated separately, despite Pakistani being a nationality, not a race or ethnicity. There are many other examples like this one. It has been expressed to the Sikh community by the Census Bureau that under Public Law 94-521, the Census cannot ask for religious affiliation on a mandatory basis. This should not be a problem in correctly disaggregating Sikhs. Firstly, a person writing in “Sikh” on the census form is choosing to declare their ethnicity as Sikh, without being asked to declare their religion. Secondly, many other countries, such as the UK, recognize Sikhs as a distinct ethnicity, and not simply a religious group; Sikhs meet all the tests laid down by the commonly accepted definitions of ethnicity. Please refer to the attached memorandum for a more detailed discussion on this point.
Many federal and state laws and international treaties that the United States is party to protect against discrimination. Being correctly identified, counted, and recognized are central to protection and equality. The Sikh American community supports the idea of self-identification for the Census. As exhibited in the attached memorandum, self-identification is a crucial aspect of minority rights; in fact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission endorsed the adoption of self-identification to the Office of Management and Budget in 2005.
As exhibited in the attached memorandum, Sikhs have a right, under international law and the United States' treaty obligations to be correctly identified. Furthermore, Sikhs, as Americans, are guaranteed equal protection under the law by the United States Constitution, and correct enumeration and recognition is inherently necessary in being protected. It is the duty of the United States Census Bureau to accurately enumerate all peoples, including minorities, in the United States.
In conclusion, we the undersigned hereby respectfully request that the United States Census Bureau introduce a separate code for those who write in “Sikh,” to ensure that the Sikh community can be correctly and justly enumerated.
Very truly yours,