Bhikaji Balsara: There was a period of apartheid in America during the 20th century. In this environment, Bhikaji Balsara became the first Indian to obtain American citizenship. However, the Bombay cotton merchant, Balsara, had to fight a long battle for this. He fought this battle fearlessly and without bowing down and achieved success. In America in the early 1900s, only free whites received American citizenship. People used to obtain American citizenship under the Naturalization Act of 1790. To take American citizenship, people had to prove that they were free and white.
Bhikaji Balsara fought the first battle under this law in the New York Circuit Court in 1906. Balsara argued that Aryans were white, including Caucasians and Indo-Europeans. Later, this Balsara argument was also used in court by Indians who wanted to be naturalized Americans. On Balsara’s request, the court said that if he were granted US citizenship on this basis, it would also pave the way for the naturalization of Arabs, Hindus and Afghans. The court rejected his request. However, the court said Balsara could appeal to the higher court to obtain US citizenship.
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How Balsara got US citizenship
As a Parsi, Balsara was considered a pure member of the Persian sect. This is why he was also considered a free white man. Balsara was granted American citizenship in 1910 by Judge Emile Henry Lacombe of the Southern District of New York in hopes that the American attorney would challenge his decision. Also appeal to the official interpretation of the law. The U.S. Attorney followed Lacombe’s wishes and took the case to the Circuit Court of Appeals in 1910. The Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the Parsis were classified as white. Later, based on this ruling, another federal court granted US citizenship to AK Mazumdar.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1923 that Indians were ineligible for U.S. citizenship because they were not free whites.
…then Punjabi immigrants started entering illegally
This decision came in favor of Balsara, US Attorney General Charles J. Contrary to Bonaparte’s statement of 1907. In this he had said that under no law the natives of British India cannot be considered white. After the Immigration Act of 1917, Indian immigration to America declined. However, Punjabi immigrants continued to enter the United States through the Mexican border. California’s Imperial Valley had a large population of Punjabis, who aided these immigrants. Sikh immigrants easily mixed with the Punjabi population. The Ghadar Party, a California-based group that campaigns for Indian independence, helped people illegally enter the United States through the Mexican border.
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Why did the Supreme Court tell Indians to be ineligible
The Gadar party used the money received to help people enter America illegally, to run party activities. An estimated 2,000 Indian immigrants entered the United States illegally between 1920 and 1935. In 1920, the population of Americans of Indian descent was approximately 6,400. The United States Supreme Court ruled in the United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind case in 1923 that Indians were not eligible for citizenship because they were not free white men. The court also argued that the great mass of our people would not be ready to mingle with the Indians.
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What did the Supreme Court say about the meaning of the white person
The Supreme Court held that the technical meaning of the term white person, based on popular understanding of race, is people of Northern or Western European descent rather than Caucasians. After this decision, the pending citizenship applications of more than 50 Indians were cancelled. After that, an Indian Sakharam Ganesh Pandit fought against naturalization. He was a lawyer by profession and married a white American. He regained his citizenship in 1927. However, no further naturalizations were allowed after the ruling, leading to around 3,000 Indians leaving the United States between 1920 and 1940.
After World War II, America opened the door to Indian immigration.
Indians reaching America continually climbing the ranks
By obtaining higher education, Indian youth began to climb the social ladder. Dhan Gopal Mukherjee came to UC Berkeley in 1910. At that time, he was only 20 years old. He was the author of many children’s books. He was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1928 for “Gay-Neck: The Story of a Pigeon”. Yellapragada Subba Rao came to America in 1922 and became a biochemist at Harvard University. He discovered the function of adenosine triphosphate as an energy source in cells and developed methotrexate for the treatment of cancer. Gobind Bihari Lal reached the University of California in 1912. He became scientific editor of the San Francisco Examiner. He became the first American Indian to win the Pulitzer Prize for Journalism.
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The evolution of the situation of American Indians
After World War II, America again opened the door to Indian immigration. Under the Luce-Sailor Act of 1946, 100 Indians were allowed to immigrate to America each year. This effectively reversed the 1923 Supreme Court decision in United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind. The Naturalization Act of 1952 repealed the Restricted Areas Act of 1917. It is also known as the McCarran-Walter Act. However, even then, only 2,000 Indians were barred from giving US citizenship each year. Things changed, and by 1955, 14 of San Francisco’s 21 hotel businesses were run by Gujarati Hindus. Meanwhile, in the 1980s, Indians owned about 15,000 motels, or about 28% of all hotels and motels in America.
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Dramatic change in immigration again
Long-term immigration from India averaged 40,000 people per year from 1965 to the mid-1990s. Indian immigration has increased significantly since 1995, peaking at around 90,000 immigrants in l 2000. At the beginning of the 21st century, a significant change was observed in the trend of migration from India to America. A huge development has taken place in the IT sector in Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Hyderabad. After that, a large number of people from Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu went to America. Indians obtain more than 80% of all H-1B visas issued by the United States.
Indian-American Kamala Harris made history by becoming America’s first female vice president.
Indians dominate average household income
American Indians have become the wealthiest ethnicity in the United States with a median household income of $1,26,891, almost double the US average of $65,316. After the year 2000, a large number of Indian students started going to America for higher education. Estimates suggest that more than 500,000 American Indians attend institutions of higher learning in any given year. Indian-American Kamala Harris made history on January 20, 2021 by becoming America’s first female vice president. She was elected vice president in the 2020 presidential election as a running mate with Joe Biden. Besides him, 20 other American Indians were appointed to key positions in the administration.
Keywords: America, Citizenship, citizenship law, India United States
FIRST POST: June 23, 2023