LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 28:  Amrik Sidhu (R) and his wife Harjinder Sidhu, both Sikhs from India, apply for their passports after gaining US citizenship as 18,418 people are sworn in as US citizens during naturalization ceremonies at the Los Angeles Convention Center on August 28, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. Immigrants, especially Latinos, which now make up 15 percent of the US population, play an increasingly important role in US politics. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (D-IL), who could benefit from a strong Hispanic following of former presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who now campaigns for him, has set aside $20 million for Latino outreach. Republican rival John McCain has also stepped up efforts to attract Latinos, focusing particularly on those in the military. The US Department of Homeland Security reports that citizenship applications have jumped by more than 100 percent since 2006, a surge in naturalization that is expected to add to the 17 million existing eligible Latino voters nationwide and lead to an anticipated record of 9.2 million Latinos voting in the November presidential election. Issues of interest to Latinos include the slumping economy, employment, health care, housing, and immigration reform.  (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Biden campaign launches initiative to woo Sikhs in US

The Biden campaign has launched an initiative to reach out to the Sikh community in the US and vowed to address the unique challenges, including xenophobia, being faced by the minority religious group in the country.

The Biden campaign, which launched the ”Sikh Americans for Biden”, said it has plans for protecting Sikh-American youths in schools.

Sikh-Americans experience bullying at rates twice the national average and have reported a spike in these encounters since 2017, the campaign said in a press release on Sunday.

“The Biden campaign plans to highlight the specific plans and policies that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden has outlined in his platform to address the unique challenges that the Sikh American community faces with regards to racism, xenophobia and discrimination,” it said.

Kiran Kaur Gill, a prominent civil rights activist and member of the Sikh American National Leadership Council, alleged that president Donald Trump has not only turned a blind eye to bullying and discrimination, but has also encouraged it.

The Sikh American National Leadership Council is an advisory council to the Sikh Americans for Biden.

With Biden as the US president, Sikh-Americans can feel safer in schools and on the streets, Gill said in a statement.

“(Former) vice president Biden has a track record of taking stances against hate, discrimination and bullying, and his leadership on these issues matter to our community,” she said.

The Biden campaign has said that if voted to power, the Biden administration would allocate additional federal funding for anti-bullying initiatives.

According to civil rights activist Valarie Kaur, “This election is unlike any other. Everything our Sikh ancestors fought for –– a world of dignity, equality, and justice –– is at stake.”

“A Biden presidency would give us a chance –– to save our democracy, heal the earth, and begin to birth a world where we ‘see no stranger”. That’s why I am proud to join Sikhs for Biden –– and do everything in power to get out the vote. Our lives depend on it,” she said in a statement issued by the South Asians for Biden on Sunday.

Japjee Singh, an anti-bullying advocate, detailed the horrific bullying that took place at his high school in Georgia. In 2013, when he was 17-year-old, Singh was repeatedly targeted with verbal and physical harassment because of his Sikh faith. He was called a “terrorist” and fellow students used to target him for wearing turban. Singh”s bullying case led to the first US Department of Justice school bullying settlement on behalf of a Sikh student.

“A lot of the systems in place prevent victims of bullying from being heard and validated. Often these victims are perceived as the aggressors; they are not. Biden is committed to change these systems, so we can provide survivors of bullying with the support that they need,” Singh said.

In a joint statement, Josh Dickson, the National Faith Engagement Director for the Biden campaign, and Seema Sadanandan, a Policy Advisor for the campaign, said Biden has committed to a number of initiatives that garner strong support from the Sikh-American community.

“For example, a Biden administration would allocate additional funding to the Department of Justice and the Department of Education for anti-bullying initiatives. Biden has also cited specific plans to re-establish the Obama-Biden White House AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force, which would partner with community organisations, including Sikh non-profits,” they said.