Why Bangladeshi Americans Should Vote for the Biden-Harris Ticket
By Tahmina Watson
As a Bangladeshi British American living in my adopted country for 15 years, this is the first time any major political party in the U.S. has given a second look at Bangladeshis as an important voting bloc.
We are a proud and vibrant subgroup of the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. There is strength in this incredible coalition, especially when minority groups are not numerically large enough to advocate for their own issues. Over the last few decades, the Bangladeshi diaspora has grown significantly and has consistently made remarkable contributions to America’s economy and to innovation.
For example, a Bangladeshi American, Sal Khan, is the founder of the Khan Academy, a modern-day online education platform that has now become an important education tool, especially as the world finds itself engulfed in a global pandemic. Khan produces free resources for educators and students, including short lessons in the form of videos, and provides supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.
Architect Fazlur Rahman Khan is the designer behind the beloved and notable Sears Tower (now called the Willis Tower), that dominates the skyline in Chicago and held claim to the tallest building in the world from 1973 until 1998. Khan was called the “Einstein of structural engineering” for his innovative use of structural systems that remain fundamental to modern skyscraper design and construction.
Bangladeshis are generally an educated, hardworking, conscientious family-oriented, and hospitable group of people. Our values are enshrined in American values.
In my home state of Washington, the Bangladeshi community has made immense strides. We are engineers, doctors, teachers, nurses, architects and more — making significant contributions to the region’s thriving technology industry.
There is a lot at stake for us in this election, just like every other minority community. Bangladesh is a Muslim-majority country, with a significant number of Hindus. The Muslim ban, which the Trump Administration imposed early on in his presidency and which worsened Islamophobia, are of grave concern to the Bangladeshi-American community. As an immigration lawyer at the forefront of immigration fights in the last four years, and documented in my new book, Legal Heroes in the Era of Trump, the adverse immigration policies are concerning and harmful.
Bangladeshi-Americans, like all Americans, want to see a just and equitable society: better health care and education, a modernized immigration system, and policies to address climate change. This is why I am so thankful that the Biden-Harris campaign has recognized our community. South Asians for Biden, a grassroots group mobilizing the broader South Asian community, which is recognized by the Biden-Harris campaign, created the Bangladeshi Americans for Biden National Council.
Neha Dewan, the National Director of SAB, drew on Bangladeshi-American community leaders Anis Ahmed, Anika Rahman, and former Ambassador Osman Siddique in an effort to reach out to Bangladeshi Americans scattered across the country, and engage the community to get out and vote.
Now, with two Bangladeshi-Americans running for high-profile seats — Nina Ahmed for auditor general in Pennsylvania and Donna Imam, running for a Congressional seat in Texas that could help flip that red state blue — 2020 has seen the community engaged and invigorated by this election season.
Even before SAB established the Council, a group of grassroots community leaders including myself, Shams Siddiqi, Ahsan Chowdhury, Radwan Chowdhury, Kawsar Jamal, Anthony Gomes, Sheikh Galib, Anika Rahman, and Nahida Ali collaborated this past summer to create a non-partisan informal nationwide coalition called Bangladeshi Americans for Political Action. BAPA’s goal is to enhance Bangladeshi-American political awareness, participation, and representation at local, state, and national levels by providing a platform promoting candidates.
I believe that under a Biden-Harris administration we are likely to see policies that will energize the Bangladeshi-American community; in turn, these policies will uplift all Americans and help rebuild this country.
Tahmina Watson is an immigration attorney based in Seattle, Washington.