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Why Indian-Americans Flock to the Democratic Party

In the Viewpoint column (How Immigration Reform Could Swing the Indian American Vote, India Currents, June 2013), authors Subramanian and Chougule suggest that Indian-Americans should vote for the Republican Party, in part, because it proactively advocates on behalf of highly-skilled immigrants from India. However, the immigration policies of the GOP and the Democratic Party are a bit more nuanced.

The Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 created two major categories of immigrants, namely, skill-based and family-based immigrants. Over the years, the Democratic Party has generally supported family-based immigration to woo minority voters (especially Latinos), and opposed skill-based immigration to appease labor unions. The GOP, on the other hand, has supported skill-based immigration to help large corporations, and opposed family-based immigration to appease traditional opponents of (non-European) immigration. In the 60s and 70s, most Indians immigrated under the skill category, but since then, Indian immigration under the family category has grown quite rapidly. Thus it is not obvious that most Indian-American citizens today would prefer the immigration policies of the GOP over those of the Democratic Party.

But what about other hot-button issues like abortion, gun control, gay rights, and income tax rates? I think most Indian-Americans are not too concerned about the relatively small differences between the policies of the two parties on such issues. Moreover, most well-off Indian-Americans seem more interested in growing their income than in lowering their tax rates.

Some Indian-Americans do worry about the rising cost of health care. But over the years, the U.S. health care system has been gradually heading towards financial disaster regardless of the party in power. Only a major financial collapse of the system will force some truly radical changes. Until then, occasional tinkering by either party will probably not make much difference.

So, given all this, why do Indian-Americans flock to the Democratic Party? I think the principal reason is that it is the party of the underdog. Most Indian-Americans view themselves as underdogs in the American political space. Therefore, they are attracted to a party that truly embraces and celebrates racial, cultural, and religious diversity. It is perhaps no coincidence that the first black President of America was a Democrat. And it will be no coincidence that the first Indian-American Justice of the Supreme Court will be nominated by a Democratic President.

Vijay Gupta, Cupertino, CA

The Mount Madonna School

I’ve been enjoying, very much, the array of articles and events in India Currents’ June issue. Today I read with interest Ritu Marwah’s article, (Minding the Gap, India Currents, June 2013) about the founding of the India Community Center. Very nice! As I was unfamiliar with some of this background, I appreciated her insights and perspective.

I would like to share a clarification with your readers. Ritu Marwah writes “High schools like Castilleja and Crystal Springs have taken students to India as part of their ethics or business curriculum …” For the record, Mount Madonna School has taken classes of students to India as part of its capstone “Values in World Thought” curriculum since 2007 (in addition, students visit South Africa [we have a group there now], Nigeria, and biannually a behind-the-scenes Washington, D.C. interview tour) It’s worth noting that D.C. initiative has happened for more than two decades!

My point? I’m sure many schools have some aspect of a “study abroad” or travel component. However, Mount Madonna School’s respect for Indian culture and connections with the Sri Ram Ashram in Haridwar and the Pardada Pardadi Vocational School in Uttar Pradesh, have long been noted and respected for going more in-depth and developing long-lasting connections—and it would have been nice to have Mount Madonna School noted alongside the other two schools mentioned in the article.

Leigh Ann Clifton, Watsonville, CA

Book Lover’s Impulse

Jaya Padmanabhan recalls her mixed emotions, surprise and delight, as a child of eight when her father brought home a hoard of books all at once, in her editorial (My Father and His Sixty Books, India Currents, June 2013). He was an impulsive collector of “stuff,” in this case books, just as others collect shoes, jewelry, toys, figurines, hats et. al.

The editorial reminds me of an incident that occurred a few years ago. The Kerala community in Southern California celebrates Onam every year elaborately in traditional style. During the event in 1998, with Princess Gouri Lakshmi Bayi of the Travancore Royal family as the chief guest, a surprising turn came about as the Princess was about to release for the first time in America, her new book, Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple.

A gentleman stood up and respectfully interrupted her to ask whether she would object if he bought all one hundred copies of the book and distributed them to the assembled families as a free Onam gift. The Princess looked surprised, but agreed. I, too, got a copy. It is a well-bound, hard cover volume, running well over four hundred pages, an excellent reference publication. The donor’s (G.A. Menon) impulsive action probably came from respect to the royal family or to the famous temple or plain simple largesse of the heart.

In the correspondence column of the Financial Times, recently, the focus of attention was on a different scenario for book lovers. In the present Google Search era, the Encyclopedia Britannica has become obsolete. Millions of proud owners of the complete set, including me, do not like to get rid of them. In the pre-digital days, the notice, “Out of Print” was all too often seen. Will the eccentrics, aka the “book collectors” disappear altogether as fast as the Out of Print sign?

P. Mahadevan, Fullerton, CA

My Apologies

The article by Nicole Marsh (An Untold Story, India Currents, June 2013) is a very touching piece about exploring one’s roots and the tragedy of the Chinese in India. I had no idea about this part of India’s history and feel quite ashamed after reading this “untold story.”

Don’t know when the Indian government will apologise, if indeed it ever will, but as an Indian, I would certainly like to say a heartfelt sorry to Yin Marsh and her family for all that they had to go through as also to all the other affected Chinese. Thank you for this piece, Nicole.

 Mel Jeeves, online

A Genealogy Story
Sandip Roy’s article is a lovely genealogy story (My Granddad, The Bengali Peddler, India Currents, June 2013). I had known about the Central Valley Punjabis but this was a new angle.

 Jay Shah, online

Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...