Archive for the ‘Civil Rights’ Category.

Tri State Gurdwaras Meet at Singh Sabha Gurdwara NJ & Decide to Write Sikh in the Census Form

Port Reading New Jersey, 13th March 2010: In a meeting convened by Joga Singh (member of Glenrock Gurdwara Saheb) the present members unanimously decided that the Sikhs should write “SIKH” in the census form for 2010 under the “Some other race” column Continue reading ‘Tri State Gurdwaras Meet at Singh Sabha Gurdwara NJ & Decide to Write Sikh in the Census Form’ »

USCIS releases list of special benefits available to Chilean Nationals in the light of the natural disaster

Washington DC, 14th March 2010: Following the massive earthquake that destroyed Chile and has affected millions, the USCIS released a list of benefits that are available to Chilean Nationals upon request.

Temporary relief measures available to nationals of Chile may include: Continue reading ‘USCIS releases list of special benefits available to Chilean Nationals in the light of the natural disaster’ »

Census Bureau responds to the Sikh Petition

Washington DC, March 13th, 2010: Finally, after a month of waiting, UNITED SIKHS received the first response  from the Census Bureau to the Petition submitted by them to the Office of Management and Budget and the Census Bureau.

In the response, the Bureau said, “With Census Day less than one month away, it is too late to change our procedure for classifying “Sikh” responses to the 2010 Census question on race, without extreme cost and risk to Census Bureau operations. Beyond the 2010 Census, we will consider changes to the processing of the term “Sikh” when it is provided in response to the question on race.” Continue reading ‘Census Bureau responds to the Sikh Petition’ »

Census Official confirms that Sikhs should write “Sikh” in Other Category on the Census form

On March 3, 2010, the Atlanta area Sangat organized a Sikh Complete Count Committee (SCCC) meeting with the Census Bureau. Nigel Rajadurai answered the questions that every Sikh has been asking. Here is a transcript of the Q&A session with the Census Officer:

1 On question 9 – can we write in the word ‘SIKH’ in the “Some other race” category? Yes

2 Will the computer reject the form? No

Continue reading ‘Census Official confirms that Sikhs should write “Sikh” in Other Category on the Census form’ »

Census 2010 Sikh American Census Campaign FAQ

Census 2010 Sikh American Census Campaign FAQ
This FAQ has been drafted as a result of many questions and concerns that have been expressed by members of the Sikh community in relation 1to the Sikh American Census campaign. We hope that the questions and answers below will provide clarity to any confusion, and you are welcome to contact us at

Q1: What happens if I mark “Other Race” and write in “Sikh” on the Census Form?
A1: Currently, the Census bureau automatically codes all Sikh writeins as “Asian-Indian.” This is a problem because it doesn’t allow Sikhs to counted by the Census Bureau, even though many other nationalities and ethnic groups are coded and counted correctly. In conversation with Karen Humes, Assistant Division Chief for Special populations for the Census Bureau, members of the Sikh community asked how to get a code, and she responded that we should petition the Census Bureau. UNITED SIKHS submitted a petition, with the support Continue reading ‘Census 2010 Sikh American Census Campaign FAQ’ »

Identify yourself as “SIKH” in census 2010

UNITED SIKHS, along with other organizations like Sikh Coalition and the South Asian Coalition of organizations, SAALT (South Asian Americans Leading Together) contacted Karem Humes last year to discuss the coding methodology for Census 2010. The letter sent by Ms. Humes in reply stated that even if a person writes in “Sikh” on the census form, the person would be automatically counted as “Asian Indian.”

However, after receipt of the letter, UNITED SIKHS did not drop the issue. It is important that the Sikh community together join hands to advocate for this cause. And dropping the issue does not help. Continue reading ‘Identify yourself as “SIKH” in census 2010’ »

TPS Resources for Haitians: NYIC

Following is the list of resources available from the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) for Haitians.  This information is being provided here collectively for ease of use and to assist the humanitarian works ongoing in Haiti.


Section I: Upcoming TPS Events
Haitian TPS Hotline: The Legal Aid Society has a TPS Hotline for Haitian nationals. Continue reading ‘TPS Resources for Haitians: NYIC’ »

The Turban Headache in France

France-based Sikhs bring the turban issue to Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, hoping for a larger support from the diaspora, says SUJATHA SAMY

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

Photo: Shailendra Pandey

At the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, this year, there were three men on a mission. Although they came from France, you can think they were just regular Sikhs wearing a turban. In fact, this is notreally the case. Their dastaar (turban) is a major source of headache in their new homeland.

The reason? A French law requiring that all people be “bare-headed” on the photographs submitted for identification documents such as ID cards, passports or even as simple as a public transportation card.

For most Sikhs, removing their turban even for a picture is a sacrilege. Most of the France-based Sikhs I spoke with claimed their headgear is part of the identity and without it they would look completely different. Hence, they could not see the relevance of the requirement.

Unfortunately, in their cases, no exception could be made. Sikhs refusing to submit pictures “bareheaded” end up without papers. Among those cases, the one of Shingara Mann Singh is unique. He is a French citizen but because of the current requirements, he has no valid ID. “I am the only French without papers,” he jokes when asked about it.

He becomes tense when talking about his fate in the coming months. He owns a taxi agency and drives regularly. His driver’s license is about to expire and he knows his turban will bar him from getting its renewal. In his case, it could mean that he will be jobless pretty soon. His bank has also warned him that they would not be able to renew his debit card if he cannot prove his identity.

His friend Ranjit Singh has a legal political refugee status. The man has severe health issues but without valid papers, he is unable to get his social security benefits and has to pay full price for any medical treatment. He is also not able to apply for housing.

So far, the local Sikhs are leaving no stone unturned. They have filed cases in local courts and appealed court decisions, but without much success. They have written to local MPs, ministers and politicians in India. But no one took up their case. They then decided to bring their problem to the European Court of Human Rights. Here again they met with disappointment.

In 2004, a delegation of Sikhs from France was even sent to India. They spent days, meeting as many officials as they could. Sonia Gandhi was also on the list. After speaking with them, she assured that the issue would be taken up through the diplomatic channel. So far, the French Sikhs say, they have not seen any movement.

Even during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the French Bastille Day, last July, Sikhs claimed they were ignored. No Punjabi association was invited to the official reception, whereas 200 other Indian associations were part of the function.

So what about the future? In New Delhi, the delegation brought a memorandum explaining their difficulties to the members of the Diaspora. They also collected 4,000 signatures from other Sikhs here (French law does not allow statistics based on race or gender, but here are an estimated 12,000 Sikhs in France). However, they have no illusions about a positive outcome from the conference but still have the hope that a solution could come out from political intervention.

On the legal front, United Sikh – a UN-affiliated NGO fighting the Sikh cause – had turned to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2008. They are expecting a decision soon.

The turban issue is far from being a simple one – Neither for France nor India.

France has a tradition of “integration”. The country expects its immigrants “to blend” into French society. However, what “integrate” really means remains unclear nowadays. Does it mean that in order to fit in, all individuality or unique community symbols have to be erased? Another question to ponder is: Unlike the burqa – a commission is currently studying the possibility of a legal ban on the burqa in France – one can see the faces of the men wearing a turban. So how is the turban posing an identification problem?

No society can function properly without a fair set of boundaries. However, France has to come to terms with the changing face of its society and opt for more nuanced laws that would not alienate its minorities. This would be a good step to attain the much coveted integration objective.

India is not in a comfortable situation either. What much can the Indian government, even headed by a dastaar-wearing Sikh, can do when those people have become foreign nationals? What could be done beyond basic education and information? The local Sikhs blame the Indian inertia on lucrative business prospects. Could that be the only reason?

In the middle of so many questions, to which answers could never come, the Sikhs in France have no intention of ending their struggle. Love them or hate them but their resolve cannot leave you indifferent.

Sujatha Samy is a Paris-based journalist


Source: Tehelka

Minority Unemployment Rates to Hit Record High This Year

The unemployment rate for African Americans is set to soar to a 25-year high of 17.2 percent by the third quarter of this year, according to a new study by the Economic Policy Institute. The rate for Latinos is also expected to hit a record high of 13.9 percent this year.

Comparatively, the national unemployment rate for Whites is set to hit nine percent.

One reason that the racial disparities are so high is that two of the sectors that traditionally employed high numbers of Blacks and Hispanics, construction and manufacturing, have been hit the hardest in the recession.

Members of the Congressional Black Congress are calling on Congress to create training programs and jobs in low-income communities with the highest unemployment rates. Some civil rights groups are advocating for Congress to pass a job bill that includes three key elements: direct job creation, assistance for struggling families and aid to states and localities.

In an op-ed published today in Politico, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference, and John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, called on the federal government to address racial disparities in employment as part of a commitment to cut poverty in half by 2020.

“Poverty reduction across all races is critically important, but we must also be brutally honest about the racial disparities that continue to separate black and Hispanic Americans from white Americans,” they said. “Such disparities demand serious, committed and prompt action, starting with a strategy to create good jobs that provide decent wages, benefits and pathways out of poverty in the hardest-hit communities … A plan to directly create jobs must balance the need to put people to work right away with a long-term strategy to create living-wage jobs for low-income and minority communities.”


Volunteers Needed: Sikhs commemorating the victims of 9/11, war and terror with Multifaith Leaders

Manhattan, New York:  A traditional Japanese floating lanterns ceremony commemorating the victims of the WTC tragedy will take place on Friday, September 11 at Pier 40 (south side) led by Rev. T.K. Nakagaki of the New York Buddhist Church with the assistance of the Interfaith Center of New York. All are invited to attend.

Friday, September 11, 2009  6pm – 9pm;
South Side of Pier 40 (W. Houston St. & West Street);
Subway: #1 to Houston Street

Continue reading ‘Volunteers Needed: Sikhs commemorating the victims of 9/11, war and terror with Multifaith Leaders’ »