South Asian Diaspora

The South Asian Immigration Experience in the United States and the United Kingdom

The South Asian immigration experience into the United States and the United Kingdom has parallels and differences, as we have discussed in class through lectures, readings, and movies. This study aims to identify some of the parallels and discrepancies between South Asian migrations to the UK and the US. The similarities are addressed first as a result. The differences in South Asian migration between the two nations are then examined. The debate concludes with a conclusion that enumerates the main themes discussed.

Similarities in South Asian Migration

The use of low-cost labor provided by South Asian refugees is one similarity. Both nations profited from. Moreover, South Asian migrants faced discriminatory experiences and racism in both the United States and the United Kingdom. . In addition, more South Asians were granted entry into the United States because the latter acknowledged the need for technically skilled and knowledgeable individuals in order to achieve economic development.

The Reasons for South Asian Immigration

The similarity between South Asian Immigration to Britain and the United States may also be drawn from the reasons why the South Asians migrated from their original countries. To begin with, history has it that there was a lot of war and skirmishes going on in Southern Part of Asia. In order to escape from the war torn countries, people migrated to Britain and the United States. Secondly, the South Asian migrated to both countries in search of employment and better life. With the ongoing economic depression in their countries, they resorted to migrating to Britain and the United States in search for employment opportunities in order to fend for their families.

Working Conditions and Assimilation

In both countries, the majority of people who migrated from South Asia worked in farms, industries and operated personal businesses. In United Kingdom, South Asian workers came together and formed labor organizations through with their leaders advocated for better working conditions, better pay and removal of discriminatory policies. Such conditions were similarly experienced in the United States by the South Asian workers who migrated there. Just like their counterparts in the United Kingdom, they formed labor organizations that were used to articulate their grievances and advocate for better working conditions. In addition, South Asian immigrants in both the United States and the United Kingdom were assimilated into the culture of the host countries. Owing to the fact that they were a minority, immigrants from South Asians experienced a great deal of influence from the majority white citizens of the United States Prashad (78). A similar case was witnesses in the United Kingdom where the immigrants were subjected to assimilation. They slowly lost their culture and were forced to adopt the culture of the host citizens starting with the language.

The Model Minority Concept

In the United States, the immigration of South Asians took on several manifestations. For South Asians, there was a feeling that they were being used by the Americans as weapons or tools against the blacks, and other minority groups (Prashad 86). This is also known as the model minority concept. The U.S. saw the South Asians as model minority groups because they were able to immigrate to America and succeed. Hence, other minority groups should be able to achieve the same just like South Asians. Moreover, South Asians who migrated to the United States were perceived to be endowed with technical skills, knowledge, and ability.

South Asians as Capital in the United States

The U.S. perceived the South Asians as capital because South Asians migrated from a region of cheap labor and limited job opportunities. For this reason, the United States citizens took advantage of the South Asian situation and used them as cheap labor. The government created room for this exploitation by passing policies and laws, such as the 1996 Welfare Reform Bill, that made it clear that South Asian labor is needed and not their lives (86). As the Nuclear Arms race and Space Race dawned on the US, they saw the desperate need to invite and allow technically skilled immigrants entry into the U.S.

Immigration Policies and Changes

The passing of the 1965 Immigration Act by parliament abolished the previous quota system based on national origins that had been American immigration policy since the 1920s. The new law created preference visa categories that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with U.S. residents. Hence, technically skilled and knowledgeable South Asians were able to immigrate to the U.S and start a new life with their family. This would further promote and provide for high skilled labor, such as scientific jobs (82). Ultimately, this provided the U.S. with necessary tools to stay in the game with Soviet Russia. Besides being used as cheap labor, South Asians faced job discrimination, violent attacks, and hate speech. One example of this we saw in the film Taxi-vala. The later wave of South Asians who came to the Unite States with hopes to make a good earning and live the American dream found themselves working jobs, such as driving a taxi cab. Many faced racist remarks and even attacks by customers.

Differences in Immigration Policies

In both countries, the South Asian immigrants underwent some similar circumstances. The South Asians immigrants in the United Kingdom faced racist sentiments and labor exploitations similar to the South Asians who migrated to the United States. The South Asian entry into the United Kingdom was somehow partly associated with the host country's need for laborers (Brah 36). Following the Second World War, economic expansion was starting to emerge and there was a major shortage of laborers. Some former colony countries of Britain sought employment and Britain needed the cheap labor they could provide. These former colonies were no longer sources of cheap raw materials, but were now sources of cheap labor. Jobs which the British did not want and the conditions they did not want were endured by the South Asians (36).

Assimilation and Discrimination

Similarly, South Asian immigrants in the United States stayed in the run down and poor areas. They were viewed in that same poor light by the British. As these Asians were now intermingling with British society, alike with U.S. society, they became subjects of racial discrimination (37). Many whites called for separate schools for the Asians and Blacks. The whites seemed to believe they were helping the immigrants adjust, but in truth, they were the ones making life difficult for the South Asian migrants. This has some similarity to the discrimination experienced by South Asians in the United States.

The Second Generation and Cultural Identity

The second generation of South Asian immigrants were better acclimated to the western culture which they came to embrace as their own at some point. Nevertheless, these South Asians still experienced discrimination in their work places and social life in the hands of the British (38). The British also believed that Asians were inferior to them, and they viewed them most of the time as the cause of the cultural problems emerging in their society. During the 1960s, there was a greater acceptance among the South Asians of their need to acclimatize to their adopted country. They made more investments in business, practiced their culture more openly, sometimes through festivals. By the 1970s to 1980s, these South Asians accepted that they were in the UK to stay and for good already. This may be likened to the South Asians immigrants in the United States after they settled down and established their business; after discriminatory laws were abolished and everyone was accorded human equal rights.

Colonial Element and Immigration Laws

Differences in immigration may be seen in the fact that there was a greater colonial element in the United Kingdom compared to the United States. In addition, the United States government passed the Immigration and nationality Act in 1965. This act allowed immigrants from Arabic and Asian countries while limiting immigrants from Africa and Europe (Prashad 82). It opened a window for more South Asians to migrate with their families to the United States with a hope of having a good life. The population of Asians in the United States was approximately 491,000 in 1960. The population grew to approximately 12.8 million in 2104 following. This is attributed to the Immigration and Nationality Act. Unlike the United States, Brah (39) outlines that the United Kingdom resorted to closing their borders in a bid to limit the free movement of people from the common wealth countries into the United Kingdom. As such, the South Asian immigrants who had already settled in the country and consider it their new home. After the law was passed, there was limited migration of people from South Asian countries.


It may be argued that there are a lot of similarities and differences between South Asian immigration in the United States and the United Kingdom. Some of the similarities include the fact that in both countries, they offered cheap labor and faced various forms of discrimination. Individuals who migrated to both countries had similar reasons and motivations. The differences include closure of United Kingdom's border to South Asian immigrants in the 1960s while the United States passed a law that encouraged their immigration.

Works Cited

Brah, Avtar, "The Asian in Britain," in Ali, N., Kalra, V. and Sayyid, S. A postcolonial people: South Asians in Britain. London: Hurst Company, 2006.

Prashad, Vijay, "The Karma of Brown Folk". Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

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