January 21, 2020
American Hindus played a key role in the battleground states during the 2021 Presidential elections with an estimated 60 percent of American Hindus voting for candidates on the Democratic ticket. HinduPACT, one of the key organizations representing Hindus in the US, urges the Biden administration to take action on the following issues that are of importance to the Hindu community in the first 100 days of their administration:
- Ensure legal protection for DALCA (Deferred Action for Legal Childhood Arrivals) kids. DALCA kids are comprised of more than 150,000 hard working Hindu kids who fear the possibility of ageing out at 21 through no fault of their own or of their parents. Unfortunately, the DACA regulations do not apply to DALCA kids since these regulations only help kids who entered the US illegally. The DALCA kids, on the other hand, entered the United States lawfully and legally. We request that the DACLA kids be considered for permanent residency within first 100 days.
- Expedite green cards for high-skilled professionals. The high-tech economy of today has enormous need for scientific and technical talent. US has been able to attract exceptional scientists and technologists from around the world, a vast majority of whom are Hindus from India who come to the US on H1B work visa. The path to legal permanent residence for these legal residents is torturous and can take up to two decades. We request that that in the first 100 days the Biden administration expedite the permanent residency process for H1B visa holders
- Support the human rights of persecuted religious minorities in authoritative theocracies. Certain vulnerable religious communities are facing organized and brutal pogroms like Yezidis in Iraq and Syria and Hindu Rohingyas in Muslim majority Rohingya refugee camps. As one of the world’s super powers, the United States has a moral duty to help those who are suffering on a regular basis in their home countries, especially in cases in which the home country does not follow the democratic ideals that allow and ensure that all citizens have a voice. The Biden administration must immediately grant prioritized asylum to these persecuted minorities as part of its first 100-day agenda.
- Facilitate strong policy reform on religious-based bullying on both state and federal levels. Bullying has been linked to many negative ills found among our youth in society, including extreme impacts on mental health, substance abuse, and suicide. According to a recent Hindu American Foundation study, one third of the Hindu youth surveyed said they had been bullied simply because of their religion, while half of those surveyed expressed feeling social isolation and awkwardness simply because they practiced a faith with a different mode of worship. The Biden administration must launch a study on reforming federal and state bullying laws to ensure the mental health and safety of all youth.
- Prohibit state-funding of universities to suppress free speech on college campuses. In recent years, there have been numerous vicious attempts to target courses and instructors of Hindu Studies as well as publicly admonish Hindu students from expressing their views on topics related to Hinduism. University campuses should allow for the free expression and exploration of thoughts and ideas. Within first 100 days, the Biden administration must issue a directive to make the federal grants to the universities contingent up on them honoring and protecting the rights afforded under the First Amendment.
- Balance Merit and Equal Opportunity in Academics. American Hindus fully embrace the allocation of resources to ensure that every child and youth in America has fair and equal access to the best educational institutions in America. We endorse the idea of early childhood education and special supplemental educational facilities for those who need. We, however, do not believe that the importance of merit should be diminished. The de-emphasis of merit in academics adversely impacts Asian American students, including Hindu students. The Biden administration must form a commission within first 100 days to reimagine federal government’s role in promoting merit and equal opportunities to all deserving youth.
- Ensure equal healthcare access to all and inclusive clinical trials. It is appalling that in one of the most highly developed and civilized countries in the world almost 30 million Americans did not have health insurance at one point. It is imperative that the reduction of health care disparities in the country, which include clinical trials, be a focal point of this new administration. It is well understood that people of different races and ethnicities are not uniformly affected by a given disease and the drugs work differently among patients of diverse background. The federally funded clinical trials and the criterial for approval of drugs must ensure that the clinical trials include diverse populations.
- Provide greater capital access for faith-based communities, including American Hindus.
Faith-based communities play a critical role in providing social capital and community resilience in our society. Unlike other faith communities, the Hindu community has had little access to capital because of which the Hindu organizations have remained under-resourced in their community revitalization and disaster relief capabilities. The Biden administration must ask FEMA to actively work with the Hindu community organizations to ensure their inclusion in all future relief efforts.
- Promote a carbon neutral American economy. Hindu ethos prescribes theological impetus to a worldview that allows humanity to pursue universal wellbeing in harmony with the Nature. We hope that these ethos become integral to the new administration’s framework to rework and further strengthen the American economy. Within the first 100 days, the Biden administration must create a plan to set measurable environmental goals leading to a carbon neutral American economy that balances protection of the environment with the creation of more American jobs.
- Respect the sovereign rights of India, a democratic ally, to govern and manage its own laws for the benefit of its people. America and India are two of the most prominent democracies in the world. For all Hindus, regardless of their race and nationality, India is a dharmabhoomi (sacred land). As the people of India have always been respectful to the United States and to its democracy, Hindu Americans ask the Biden administration to also respect India and its democracy and to not interfere in the domestic affairs of India at the behest of extremist groups in America.
- Finally, refer to Indian Americans as “Indian Americans”. As Americans would likely not wish to be labeled as North Americans, Indian Americans do not wish to be referred to as South Asians. South Asian label robs Indian American of their unique Indian identity.
As one of the most successful communities in America, the Hindu American community stands as a testament to the success of the American dream. Undoubtedly, Hindus in America are strong and positive contributors to the American economy and to the societies in which they live. We hope that the Biden administration will recognize the success and contributions of our community and further engage with HinduPACT to address the concerns of our community as listed above.
We wish the Biden administration a very successful and fruitful term in office.
About HinduPACT USA
Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective, USA – HinduPACT USA is an initiative of the World Hindu Council of America (VHPA). HinduPACT (hindupact.org) aims to bring Hindu ethos and dharmic values of unity in diversity, plurality, compassion and, mutual respect amongst religions to policy and advocacy for human rights, environmental protection, racial and gender equality, and, interfaith dialog. HinduPACT activities include voter education (hinduvote.org), and weekly live show on contemporary American Hindu issues HinduLounge (hindulounge.com).
HinduVote.Org, a project of HinduPACT USA is dedicated to engagement of voters in American electoral process at local, state and federal levels. HinduVote promotes voter education, voter registration, and, get-out-the-vote efforts. HinduVote engages legislators at all levels to ensure that issues important to American Hindus are addressed.
About World Hindu Council of America (VHPA)
World Hindu Council of America (VHPA) is the most prominent organization of Hindus in the USA. Founded in 1970, it has chapters across the country. VHPA runs educational programs for Hindu children and youth in addition to community service (Seva) activities, and initiatives such as Hindu Mandir Executives’ Conference (HMEC), Hindu Womens’ Network, American Hindus Against Defamation (AHAD), Hindu Policy Research and Advocacy Collective USA (HinduPACT).