Punjabi Migrants In United States – An Over 130 Years Old Legacy
Punjabi Americans, are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in Punjab, a region in northern South Asia in India and Pakistan. There are over 250,000 Punjabi Americans, many of whom were Sikhs who first settled in California’s Central Valley to do agricultural work.
Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years. At the turn of the 19th century, the state of Punjab of British India was hit hard by British practices of mercantilism. Many Sikhs emigrated to the United States and began arriving to work on farms in California. They traveled via Hong Kong to Angel Island, California, the western counterpart to Ellis Island in New York.
“Some Sikhs worked in lumber mills of Oregon or in railroad construction and for some Sikhs, it was on a railway line, which allowed other Sikhs who were working as migrant laborers to come into the town on festival days”.
Due to discrimination from Anglo Americans many early Punjabi immigrants in California married Mexican Americans, forming a sizeable Punjabi Mexican American community. Punjabi farmers were also able to circumvent laws prohibiting their ownership of property by operating through American bankers.
Role in America
Most Sikhs started life in America as farm laborers, with many eventually becoming landowners and successful farmers. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian-American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. At present Amarjit, Singh Buttar is perhaps the only turbaned Sikh who holds elected public office. He was elected in December 2001 to the Vernon, Connecticut Board of Education for a four-year term. He has also been recently selected as the Chairman of the Board. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana is also of Punjabi descent, as well as Nikki Haley, the current United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and previously the 116th Governor of South Carolina. Many Punjabi Americans have become successful in technology-related fields. Vinod Dham helped to develop the Pentium processor while Vinod Khosla and Sabeer Bhatia co-founded Sun Microsystems and Hotmail respectively. Aneesh Chopra served as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO), appointed by President Barack Obama.