Indian American candidate for US Congress from Illinois tells why America needs more doctors, scientists, and professors
Nikhil Bhatia, an Indian American maths teacher born and brought up in Illinois, has announced his run for the US congress from Illinois’ 7th District.
A career academic, Bhatia believes that as an urban educator he has seen first-hand the obstacles kids face and he wants to bring in that change.
READ: Nikhil Bhatia to run for US Congress from Illinois (May 29, 2023)
He talks to the American Bazaar on growing up as an immigrant in America and the Indian American political engagement in the country.
AB: As an immigrant gearing up for a political office in the country, what would you say about immigration policies in America?
NB: As a son of immigrants, I know what it’s like growing up as first and second generation. Immigrants add so much to our communities. I believe we need to double legal immigration.
Right now, we have a ridiculous cap on how many highly educated immigrants we allow into the country each year. We need more doctors, scientists, and professors.
If people want to bring their talents here, that’s a great advantage we should be capitalizing on. Lets’ not be afraid of what’s different, let’s embrace what we can gain from diversity.
AB: Let’s talk about your background as an academic and an immigrant. Did it in any way shape your political ambitions?
NB: As a child of immigrants, education has always been close to my heart. My parents grew up with almost nothing. My dad’s family were refugees from Pakistan and my mom’s family lived in Kashmir without heat.
Education gave them a chance at the life they wanted. I want us to give that same chance to all kids – especially black and brown kids who have often been denied that chance.
AB: What would you say about the political engagement of the Indian community in the US? Do you feel we are represented yet?
NB: I think the Indian American community is waking up and becoming politically engaged. When I was a kid during the 90’s, there were no Indian-origin politicians to look up to.
Now we have five Indian members of Congress and a half-Indian Vice President. But we still aren’t fully represented yet. I believe there are only five South Asian members of Congress out of 538.
AB: As an Indian American candidate or let’s say a brown candidate in politics do you feel or see any unique challenges?
NB: As a brown candidate there is a challenge of establishing your right to exist in this space. I have been told by a fellow candidate that this seat should only be held by a black candidate.
But there aren’t any seats reserved for Asian candidates. Anyway, I do not think in binary terms. I am an Asian, I’ve spent my career working in the black community.
I am married to a white woman, and I speak Spanish. That’s America. We have to be able to reach out across communities to build consensus. It’s not about skin color, it’s about what we can do for others.