Indian American leaders meet at IMPACT Summit 2020

Ritu Jha-

IMPACT, the leading Indian American advocacy and political action committee, hosted its annual summit, ‘IMPACT Summit 2020’ where it explored the growing political engagement of the Indian American community.

Raj Goyal, the co-founder of IMPACT welcoming the speakers said, “This vision of Indian-American political infrastructure is to elect people from our community and built a political power.”

Started in 2016 with his co-founder Deepak Raj, Goyal shared how earlier there was no infrastructure for Indian Americans running for a public office. They were not aware of how to knock at the door and how to raise a dollar. “The actual business of getting elected and representing constituents and putting yourself on the ballot was still relatively novel,” said Goyal, a former member of Kansas State Assembly

“It is unbelievably exciting now to have the Indian American Impact Project, I am so proud of,” Goyal said. “Impact has become a major political player in a very short time.”

With a record number of Indian American candidates running for office up, and an Indian American on a presidential ticket for the first time in history, bringing together some of the notable members was essential.

Neil Makhija, executive director, IMPACT said they have endorsed 24 candidates in the 2020 general election.

The virtual summit featured a number of speakers including Maya Harris and her daughter Meena Harris, all the Indian American members of the House of Representatives, Hiral Tipirneni, the Democratic nominee for Arizona’s 6th Congressional District, Sri Kulkarni, the Democratic nominee for Texas’ 22nd Congressional District, Vanita Gupta, the President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and U.S. Senator Chris Coons.

Meena Harris

Meena Harris, Kamala Harris’ niece, interviewed Vanita Gupta regarding many the civil activities Gupta has been spearheading during all her public life.

Gupta noted how currently the US is at a “pivotal moment” with Trump and Biden battling for them helm. “I cannot tell you just what a moment we’re on right now, for the future of our country. The last several years, we have seen a systematic dismantling of civil rights, attacks on immigrants, racist policies constant denial and refusal to denounce white supremacy.”

Gupta talked more about how it’s time to move away from the sideline and take more responsibility. “The role that all of us should be playing in making sure we’re not sitting on the sidelines expecting, other people to do this work, but that we have a real role to play in making sure that this country is inclusive that we can fight for justice that we can see ourselves in our leaders, which is why it’s so exciting to have Senator Harris, as the VP nominee.”

Lastly, she insisted on how important it is to cast the vote to make the change.

Maya Harris talked about the crucial role the IMPACT has been making in inspiring and bringing together the influencers of the Indian American community to make a change.

She highlighted the many levels of crisis the US is facing at the moment, how people of the country are morally confused by the leadership from the White House.

“There’s an urgent moral crisis, which has left our nation, really, in anguish and anger over systemic racism, which it continues to hold Americans back in new ways, each and every day. And it’s only been exacerbated and inflamed by the heat and the division and the racism that we’re seeing coming from the current occupant of the White House,” exclaimed Maya.

Maya Harris

Talking about her elder sister Kamala, Maya revealed how her mother instilled a sense of responsibility in Kamala as an ‘akka’. Akka in Tamil language is an affectionate term of respect to elder sister, but it is also used in place of an elder and a protector.

“Kamala took that role very seriously, and growing up, anyone who was unwise enough to tease me soon learned that they have to answer to Kamala first,” said Maya.

She added, “Kamala has always brought to her public service, a sense of integrity, and an ambition to serve all people, no matter who they are or where they come from.”

She noted how the fierce attitude of Kamal was something she was born with and feed by their mother, Shamala Gopalan.

“When I look at how strong, how determined how brilliant my big sister is, I see our mother.”

She added, “Our mother came to this country with a real fire in her belly and an enduring belief in America’s Promise. And she passed that down to both of us.”

Maya highlighted how her mother, although fierce and determined, was a sensible and compassionate human who always considered both sides of the story.

“Our earliest lessons in life that we learned by example, about equality, fairness, justice, and about the dignity of all people. Our mother taught us so many things, but among the responsibility, and the duty that she instilled in us, she would often tell us that to whom much is given, much as expected.”

She went on to talk about how Kamala and Joe have a plan to bring the US back to its lost glory, in the economy and in innovation, unlike the current administration.

Lastly, she noted how the South Asian community can play a decisive role in this election and how there is just too much at stake.

The conference also brought in Indian-American elected representatives all four the first time, also known as “samosa caucus” – Raja Krishnamoorthi(D-IL-08),  Dr Ami Bera(D-CA-07), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07 ), and Ro Khanna (D-CA-17) at the IMPACT Summit. The family-like panel discussion was moderated by former US Ambassador to India, Rich Verma.

Krishnamoorthi said being an immigrant, one issue he deeply cares about is comprehensive Immigration Reform as a whole, whether you are documented or undocumented “we have to make sure that we find a pathway into everybody.”

Krishnamoorthi one of the co-sponsors of the Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants Act, which will remove the per-country quotas presently creating tremendous backlogs on employment-based Green Cards said, “One issue of importance obviously to some people watching the summit is how do we make the H-1B program better…I’m hopeful that under a Joe Biden administration, we’re finally going to be able to get this legislation through the Senate, and then signed into law and of course, as part of a comprehensive immigration reform package as a whole.”

Jayapal shared about the heart disease among South Asians and her sponsored South Asian heart health awareness bill recently passed the house and has to go through the Senator.

Pointing to the Krishnamoorthi, Jayapal, who is vice chairman of the House Immigration subcommittee, said that they have been working on a number of immigration-related issues including making sure that the spouses of H-1B workers are able to work in the US.

Khanna said it’s amazing to see ‘our’ community has come so far, now Kamala Harris, a VP candidate. Khanna said his focus at present is on the November election, “I  really believe that the Indian-American community can be decisive in swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin.”

He urged the community to go out and vote and get as many south Asians elected.

Dr.Bera, the dean of the “samosa caucus’ Indian- American US lawmakers, and chair of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, said the US needs to return to the global stage and work with like-minded allies. Dr.Bera also highlighted issues on domestic violence rise in his state and the entire country during the pandemic said, “I do worry in the midst of this pandemic, we are seeing increased domestic violence something our community really does have to talk about.”