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More South Asians making Washington DC their home

india Updated: Jul 22, 2009 13:31 IST
Arun Kumar

America's capital city has become home to the nation's fifth largest South Asian population with ethnic restaurants, salons, perfumeries and numerous houses of worship, according to a new survey.

Even as Washington DC's total population decreased by 5.7 per cent between 1990 and 2000, the overall immigrant population actually increased by 25 per cent, with the Asian population demonstrating a 42 per cent growth.

In fact, 2007 census data reveals that the Asian American population in DC has increased by nearly 25 per cent since the year 2000, according to the survey by the South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the Asian Pacific American Legal Resources Centre (APALRC).

Within the Asian community in Washington, DC, the largest groups are the Chinese and Indian populations (at 4,767 and 4,277, respectively).

The survey based on 200 respondents found that the largest South Asian group living or working in Washington, DC is of Indian descent, followed by those of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Nepali, and Sri Lankan descent.

Almost all of the respondents work in Washington, DC. The majority of respondents reside in Virginia, while more than one-third lives in DC, while the rest resides in Maryland.

More than half of the respondents are US citizens by birth or naturalisation. The remainder of the respondents comprises either legal permanent residents (15.2 per cent) or employment/ student visa holders and their dependents.

Respondents identified access to health care, job trainings and legal services as three priority service needs. In terms of legal services, the top three areas of need are taxation and finance, immigration, and criminal defence.

In the last year, 28 per cent of our respondents reported that they had experienced unfair treatment when dealing with law enforcement officials or government authorities.

Of these respondents, 32 per cent were Pakistanis, and 43 per cent were Sikhs, communities that have experienced greater levels of discrimination and profiling since September 11, 2001.

"Through our project, we know that South Asians need access to information and resources related to health care, legal services, financial education and vocational training," said Deepa Iyer, Executive Director of SAALT.

Key recommendations made to city authorities include providing culturally and linguistically accessible information to South Asians, broadening the outreach of government agencies, and developing South Asian community-based infrastructure in the Washington DC metropolitan region.