Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) sent a letter to the Honorable Penny Pritzker, Secretary of Commerce, to formally request that the U.S. Census Bureau act to include the American Sikh community in census reporting data. The Census Bureau, which falls under the Department of Commerce, currently does not collect information on Sikh population numbers in the United States.
Pallone asked that the Bureau introduce a separate code on official forms for those who write in "Sikh" as their ethnicity, which would allow the Bureau to develop a more accurate number as to how many Sikhs are living in the United States. Taking these steps to collect official population information would allow the federal government to better consider the needs of the Sikh community when allocating resources and facilitate proper recognition of the community's contributions to the country.
Below is the full text of the letter:
November 15, 2013
The Honorable Penny Pritzker
Secretary of Commerce
U.S. Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Secretary Pritzker:
I am writing to request that the Department of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau take action to include the Sikh community in the census reporting data. I specifically ask that the Census Bureau introduce a separate code for those who write in "Sikh," on census forms to ensure that the Sikh community can be correctly enumerated.
The census is used to make decisions about what community services to provide, to distribute more than $400 billion in federal funds to local, state and tribal governments each year and to inform a great number of different government decisions. The information provided by the census is vital and can be particularly important for minority communities. The census data allows the government, businesses and researchers to study the trends and patterns of growth and to better understand the needs of the communities.
Currently, Sikhs in the United States need to mark themselves as "Other Asian" and fill in the blank as "Sikh" in order to provide accurate information. However, that response is automatically coded by the Census Bureau as "Asian Indian." There is no way to then disaggregate the data and develop an accurate number as to how many Sikhs there are in the United States.
This leads to a host of problems. Unfortunately, Sikhs are a minority community that has faced a lack of recognition by the government which has contributed to a lack of understanding among the general public. Following 9/11, Sikhs were the target of hate crimes because of this lack of understanding. Today many Sikhs continue to face racial profiling and harassment solely based on their appearance. It is difficult to ensure that the government is promoting awareness, addressing discrimination and providing assistance when we do not have official population information about the community.
Lastly, I understand that federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from asking for religious affiliation on a mandatory basis. However, many Sikhs believe it is important that they are able to list "Sikh" as their ethnicity and would like to do so voluntary while having it counted. There would not need to be any requirement that someone lists their religion.
Sikhs make many important contributions to the United States and to our local communities. It is time that the government acted to ensure that we have the information necessary to promote tolerance and fair treatment under the law.
Thank you for considering my request.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
Cc: John H. Thompson, Director, U.S. Census Bureau