US Lawmakers Launch American Sikh Caucus to Protect Community Interests

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Washington, DC – American Sikhs on April 24, 2013 achieved a milestone as Congressman David G. Valadao and Congresswoman Judy Chu, both from California, announced the formation of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, with the aim to educate members of Congress and the public about Sikh issues and to encourage support of the American Sikh community.

Addressing an audience of Pan-American Sikh community leaders, Members of Congress, and journalists in the Rayburn House on Capitol Hill, Congresswoman Chu said, “Today marks the day when Sikh Americans will finally have a unified voice to advocate for them in the United States House of Representatives. This bipartisan caucus, made up of members from California to Virginia, from New Jersey to Arizona,will stand by your side, and fight for you.”

Chu continued, “More than a decade after 9/11, too many Sikhs across America face discrimination, bullying, and even bias-motivated violence from misguided individuals associating them with the terrorist attacks.” Citing the American founding principles of religious freedom, acceptance and tolerance, Chu hoped that the newly formed Congressional Caucus for American Sikhs, “will finally have a united bipartisan voice in Congress.”

Congressman Valadao noted, “The Central Valley is home to more than 25,000 Sikhs, the largest population in the United States. Just in my district, California’s 21st congressional district, there are at least seven Gurdwaras,” adding, “I am excited and honored that I will be able to represent the Sikh community in Washington and am looking forward to working with my colleagues to address the unique issues this community faces.”

Joining other members of Congress at an earlier US Capitol press conference, Democrat Congressman John Garamendi, whose Northern California district includes the cities of Yuba City, Fairfield, and Davis, said, “The challenges outlined at today’s press conference – preventing deplorable hate crimes, fighting discrimination, and ending misconceptions in the public – are very real. I am confident that through the American Sikh Caucus, the wide array of Sikh civil rights organizations, and like-minded groups, we can overcome these challenges and create a more just America.”

In addition, Congressman Rush Holt from New Jersey, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen from Florida, Congressman Mike Honda from California, and Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren from California, also addressed the press conference.

Simran Kaur of the Sikh Coalition, said, “We are grateful to Congresswoman Chu and Congressman Valadeo’s leadership in creating the first ever American Sikh Congressional Caucus. This work is incredibly meaningful and timely and provides the Sikh community with a platform to address the very real civil rights issues that affect us. This caucus provides an opportunity to raise awareness about issues such as discrimination, violence and profiling that continue to impact the lives of Sikh Americans.”

Speaking on behalf of UNITED SIKHS, Manmeet Singh called it a “historic endeavor,” and promised that UNITED SIKHS, “will continue and increase its commitment of humanitarian and civil rights work and will assist the American Sikh Congressional Caucus in every way possible.”

Yadvinder Singh of the American Gurdwara Prabhandak Committee (American Sikh Temples Management Committee) recalled the massacre of Sikhs in India during the post-Indira Gandhi assassination anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and the recent attack on the Sikh congregation at the Oak Creek Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin. Avtar Singh Panu, who represents Sikhs for Justice, made his remarks in Punjabi and congratulated all for their presence.

Harpreet Singh Sandhu, who spearheaded the campaign to goad members of Congress to act, noted that the Caucus was being formed in “the month of April, the month of Baisakhi,” which bears a great significance for the Sikhs due of the fact that on the Baisakhi Day in the year 1699, the 10th Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh, laid down the foundation of the Panth Khalsa, the Order of the Pure Ones. This day is also observed by Sikh farmers as a thanksgiving day for their abundant harvest, where they pray for future prosperity.

Washington, DC-based Rajwant Singh, Chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, said, “The journey has just begun.” Asking the Sikh community to request their Congressional delegation to join “the caravan” to address issues like immigration reform, gun control and climate change, Rajwant Singh noted that the first Sikh event on Capitol Hill took place three decades previously, in 1983.

Although the only Indian American member of Congress, Ami Bera, was conspicuous by his absence at today’s events, one of his officials told India America Today that Bera would be joining the newly formed Caucus and had been supportive all through the process.

Another noteworthy absence was any representation from the Indian Embassy based in Washington, DC.

According to the list released, the following Members of Congress have joined the American Sikh Congressional Caucus: Rep. Karen Bass (CA-37), Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27), Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11), Rep. John Conyers (MI-13), Rep. Jim Costa (CA-16), Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-10), Rep. John Garamendi (CA-3), Rep. Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Rep. Joe Heck (NV-3), Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), Rep. Mike Honda (CA-12), Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-4), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (CA-1), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (CA-19), Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-4), Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA-9), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Rep. Doris Matsui (CA-6), Rep. George Miller (CA-11), Rep. Devin Nunes (CA-22), Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-6), Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-9), Rep. Gary Peters (MI-14), Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-27), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Rep. Jackie Speier (CA-14), Rep. David Valadao (CA-21), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (MD-8).

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