Sanjiv is the quintessential 40-year-old – an engineer, working as a marketing professional with an FMCG company. Full of dreams and full of life, always smiling, super intelligent, the center of attraction of any gathering, the best son to his parents, the most caring brother to her sisters, and a doting father to my 11-year-old boy. He is a young heart wanting to achieve something big and also enjoy it to the fullest. His friends would describe him as an absolute gem.
We met at our MBA school and became best friends instantaneously. While I tried to keep finding the best girlfriend for him, we both fell in love ourselves. We got married a few years later in 2007 and now we have a son who is 11-year-old and three of us were leading a small happy life.
Last year our lives turned upside down. Sanjiv was diagnosed with high-risk blood cancer – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia B – in May 2020. We were absolutely shocked, as there is no family history of cancer. We were informed that the cure was few rounds of Chemotherapy ultimately followed by Bone Marrow Transplant. We had one day’s notice to decide and commence the Chemo as his case was very acute.
Post his first chemo, Sanjiv developed an extremely rare and troublesome fungal infection while he was immunocompromised. This got us into a vicious cycle as the fungal infection prohibited further chemo treatment without which cancer would not go away into remission. By early November, cancer showed up on his skin as leukemia deposits. His condition worsened with leukemia in the blood, leukemia in the skin, and fungal infection in the body. That’s when doctors in India raised their hands and told us that MD Anderson Hospital in Houston, USA was our best hope. By mid-November, I moved to Houston, temporarily, along with Sanjiv and my son.
Treatment is definitely possible, but prohibitively expensive.
Doctors here are trying to balance out the chemo and infection treatment to get him ready for a Bone Marrow transplant. We are done with 2 rounds of Chemotherapy and there have been lots of complications post Chemo, and now we await BMT as a final step. BMT is a very intensive process where the body’s immune system is being rebooted and can be complicated as well. The positives news is that the leukemia in the bone marrow is under control, skin leukemia is being treated with Radiation and the bone marrow transplant is now being discussed with the best doctors here.
The last 8 months have been extremely draining for us as a family- physically, emotionally, and financially. All our life’s savings have been used up in the treatment in Mumbai and America.
Houston may already be the third most populous city in the United States, elbowing aside broad-shouldered Chicago and trailing New York and Los Angeles as first and second, respectively. We won’t know until the 2020 census is concluded.
“In most parts of the country, there has been little or very modest growth, but not in Texas,” said Dr. Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston speaking to a convening of census advocates and experts co-hosted by Houston in Action, the Leadership Conference Education Fund and Ethnic Media Services. “By far, we’ve added more people, according to the [Census Bureau’s] Community Survey, than any other state.”
Texas may have gained as many as 4 million people since 2010, Murray said.
The convening represented the first formal briefing about the 2020 census for and with news outlets representing a broad spectrum of audiences from Hispanic, African American, Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean to Nepalese, Asian Indian, and African diaspora communities.
Echoing the sense of pride in Houston’s growth, many speakers called the census an opportunity for the city’s increasingly diverse communities to stand up and be counted. A large percentage of the state’s growth stemmed from Latino births and immigration, but its fastest growing demographic is the Asian American community, according to Nabila Mansour of the Empowering Communities Initiative.
“We’ve had about 128% growth from the year 2000,” Mansour reported. “Asian Americans in Texas, we’re about 1.5 million, and 27% of Asian Americans live in Harris County or Fort Bend.” Houston is the county seat of Harris County, Richmond, Fort Bend’s County’s seat, is less than 40 miles away.
Mansour said her organization’s staff spend a lot of time going into East and South Asian communities to educate them about the importance of the census, especially since residents who arrived in the United States after 2010 may have had no experience with a census in their country of origin.
Numbers matter. The aggregate per person count is used to calculate the annual federal dollar allotments Texas counties and cities will receive to fund many state and local programs, from Medicaid to hospital and school construction and road building. One estimate is that Houston alone would lose $3.78 billion in federal funding between now and the 2030 census if the city’s population is undercounted by 10%.
Within the 254 Texas counties, 25% of Texans live in Hard to Count (HTC) communities or neighborhoods, regions or populations with historically low response rates during previous censuses, said Katie Lightfoot of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. “Kids under five, immigrants, people of color, families that move frequently, non-English speaking communities, low-income households, people in rural areas, renters, complex households – the list goes on and on,” Lightfoot said of HTC tract characteristics.
HTC communities are fairly ubiquitous in Texas. For example, the Vietnamese who rely on fishing or other economic activities linked to coastlines, often reside in rural areas more difficult for census-takers to canvas, noted Jannette Diep of Boat People SOS, and they are less likely to have access to computers or the Internet to avail themselves of the Census Bureau’s highly touted online census survey.
The number of HTC communities in Harris County is eye-opening. “Harris County has the highest number of Hard to Count people in the state of Texas,” Lightfoot explained. “That’s over one million people in Harris County who are hard to count.”
Changes in funding programs is just one result of an undercount. Population also determines reapportionment. If the census captures the state’s growth, experts project, Texas could add another two or three congressional seats to its delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives, Murray noted, and likely one more seat in the state legislature as well. And, there is redistricting, redrawing the boundaries of congressional districts so the numerical representation in each is roughly proportionate.
Panelists cited cross-cutting issues they think make this census particularly challenging and that could depress the response rate. Foremost, they said, has been negative reactions to the Department of Commerce Secretary’s attempt to include a census question on citizenship. Despite the 2019 judicial ruling that prohibited that action, participants across the ethnic groups they represented said “the damage has been done.”
A.J. Durani, of Emgage-USA, said President Trump’s remarks on his first presidential campaign trail and his subsequent actions since in office, particularly the Muslim travel ban, have had a chilling effect on his organization’s membership.
“These actions,” Durani stated, “have resulted in fear, apprehension, and trepidation among the Muslim community for any initiative of the current government, especially those whereby information or data are collected on individuals, that is, by the census.”
Durani said Emgage-USA, a multi-state organization, with chapters or a presence in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia, seeks to promote civic education and engagement. He noted that although approximately a quarter of the Muslims in the greater Houston area are non-immigrant African Americans, the majority are immigrants from Asia, including Bangladesh and Indonesia, the Middle East, North Africa, and other countries in Africa with predominantly Muslim populations, like Somalia and Sudan.
Throughout the convening, trust — or rather mistrust — was a pervasive theme and one not solely relegated to immigrant communities. Ray Shackleford, representing the Houston chapter of the National Urban League, and national president of the Urban League’s Young Professionals, said mistrust of government is prevalent within the city’s African American community as well. “I think there is general mistrust when you’re talking about the government, and it’s a challenge because it’s something that’s well founded when you look at the history of government’s interaction with black people and, honestly, its communities of color overall.”
Shackleford, who has worked with Houston’s homeless population, outlined a scenario of a renter who has two people on the lease but shelters six in the apartment. “You don’t want to put that down on the census if you think it’s going to get into the hands of the landlord and they’re going to try to evict you.”
The lack of state funding to support census outreach was another issue raised at the convening. Shackleford said he recently attended a Houston meeting of professionals of Caribbean descent where he polled attendees informally on how much money they thought the Lone Star State had committed to outreach. Because of Texas pride, “they threw out big numbers,” Shackleford said, but were dumbfounded to learn the answer is zero.
In 2019, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner wrote to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requesting funds for census outreach. Past Texas governors invested in census public education, but Abbott has declined to do so. With less federal revenue committed to the 2020 census than many longtime census observers deem necessary for a truly successful count, Turner, as have some other big city Texas mayors, is spending city revenue to raise the visibility of the census.
One compelling narrative that overrides distrust, speakers agreed, is the high stakes for kids if they are undercounted. Approximately 105,000 Texas children were not counted in the last census, said Elizabeth Bille, Texas State Director for NALEO, “and 75,000 of those are Latinos. So you can imagine what is at stake for our community and all communities of color.”
Bille spoke of her concerns, not only as an advocate, but as a mother, knowing and watching young children being deprived of health or educational resources that could be readily available were the census count accurate and communities received the appropriate funding. She also echoed Emgage-USA’s A.J. Durani in advocating for robust cooperation between census advocates and the ethnic media as trusted messengers.
Angelica Razo, State Director for Mia Familia Vota, said everyone already knows why people are fearful but “we need to empower them and tell them why need to fill out the census.” Razo agreed that ethnic media as trusted messengers are vital to educating communities but said there is another imperative needing emphasis. “Put some ownership on community members, they too are trusted messengers.”
Hyunja Norman, director of the Korean Voters Association, brought to the meeting promotional material she had developed and financed in order to reach Korean Americans. She struck an emotional chord with attendees about what is driving her engagement with her community around the census. “I am participating in the census because I am part of this great nation. We are part of this nation. We contribute to this nation. Make your community exist in this country.”
Ebony Fleming, of the children’s service organization BakerRipley, summed up the shared sense of pride of place through the census: “In the space you’re in, you matter.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Houston, Texas to attend an Indian-American community summit hosted by the Texas India Forum (TIF) on Sunday September 22. According to a TIF statement released on August 20, over 50,000 people are expected to attend the sold-out ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event at Houston’s NRG stadium. Prime Minister Modi will arrive in Houston to meet leading business, political and community leaders as well as members of the IndianAmerican community, before traveling to New York to address the UN General Assembly on September 28.
“I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Modi to Houston, home to one of the biggest and most vibrant Indian communities in the U.S.” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “I know how much his visit means to not only the Indian diaspora in our city but throughout the region. This historic visit will strengthen the already robust bonds between Houston and India on trade, culture, and tourism – all of which benefit every Houstonian.”
The ‘Howdy, Modi’ event which is themed Shared Dreams, Bright Futures will feature a cultural program produced by MELA Arts Connect (New York), that showcases talented Indian-American performers. Jugal Malani, who chairs the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ organizing committee described the cultural program as “…a unique view on the Indian-American experience” that “promises to show the diversity of our community while being an engaging and entertaining performance”.
The program also will highlight contributions made by Indian-Americans across various industries, including technology, education, medicine, petroleum and energy. One key contributor is Dr. Durga Agarwal, the founding President of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Houston and the President and CEO of Piping Technology & Products Inc. Dr. Agarwal has sponsored a major award to the University of Houston that will increase the annual budget of the Engineering and Research division by $ 36 million.
“Indian-Americans today are not just educated, wealthy, and powerful individuals,” said Dr. Agarwal, “but a public service-driven community that is giving back to America, our adopted country, while keeping close ties with our homeland, India, serving both and contributing to both.” This is reflected in the growing trade between India and Houston which according to TIF, averaged $4.8 billion annually from 2009 to 2018and was valued at $7.2 billion in 2018. In 2019 (to date), India is Houston’s fourth-largest trading partner, behind Brazil, China, and Mexico*.
Bhavesh (Bob) Patel, CEO of LyondellBasell calls Houston “…one of the most diverse cities in America.” He highlighted its many advantages, including its central location and access to global trade routes, a trained and talented workforce, and a business-friendly regulatory environment which makes the region an ideal partner for business and commerce. “I’m personally proud of the vibrant and welcoming Indian community here and the work they do to strengthen the ties between our two great countries,” said Mr. Patel, “and we are honored to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for this historic event.”
More than 1,000 volunteers and 650 Texas-based Welcome Partners helped organize the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event which is focused on celebrating and strengthening the ties between India and America.
Texas Senator John Cornyn, Co-chair of the Senate India Caucus, welcomed PM Modi to Houston on behalf of all Indian-Americans in Texas. “India continues to be key security and economic partner of the United States,” he said, “and I look forward to seeing that relationship strengthen with his visit to Texas.”
Texas India Forum (TIF) is a not-for-profit promoting cooperation between the United States and India.
For more information, please visit www.howdymodi.org Texas India Forum 12600 Cardinal Meadow Dr. Sugar Land, Texas 77478 832.356.MODI email@example.com www.howdymodi.org
*Source: WISERTrade, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Foreign Trade Division