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Outside of marital and opinions of premarital sex being influenced by tradition, religion, and western society, Leonard also pulls in marriage legitimacy via laws, divorce beliefs, and polygamy. She then moves into marriage conflict that leads to adultery and murder, no different than what is seen presently on American nightly news. While a common practice in the United States, the newly arriving Punjabi immigrants were offended and shocked by the custom.

It was a nice touch at showing just how different relationships are valued and celebrated while emphasizing that their networks were transnational. Despite being multiethnic, a Mexican identity was formed early on when the children attended schools with a mostly Spanish-speaking student body and entered a society that not only labeled them as Mexican on sight but consider Singh a Mexican surname—which is obviously problematic. Leonard rightfully elaborates on the various religions practiced in the Imperial Valley and how inside and out of it, society labeled and committed violent acts against the immigrants.

Additionally, she addresses things that made the differences in their customs of faith, such as, funerals and diet, which publically showed their differences. At a young age, the female Mexican children were actually discouraged from befriending and interacting with the Indian children. Then, the topic of marriage occurs once more as many arranged marriages occurred at such a young age in India; however, the theme remains constant that fathers needed to approve the marriage and most Punjabis married Mexicans.

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The topic ends in conflict, with this generation eager to maintain their Punjabi values and homeland pride while adapting and finding their place in American society. The tension with arranged marriage and gender roles, where masculinity is defined by the ability to provide for the family, is arguably a conflict between maintaining certain values and habits while trying to adapt to American culture. The shift in the legal system, Leonard clarifies, occurred in with the Luce-Celler bill, which allowed Indians to pursue citizenship.

The bill is discussed in depth, describing who was eligible for citizenship and what the newly established quotas would be. Another shift is that of the influx of immigrants from India and Pakistan, which changed communities as well as social and cultural identities. The Mexicans and Mexican Americans were also farmers which led to significant networking between the two ethnic groups.

This section then closes with the shifts in the meaning of being Hindu and how being multiethnic only further complicated the shifts in the meaning of the term. Her goal here being that the historiography needs to expand and acknowledge both the oppression these immigrants experienced as well as the struggles they overcame, particularly when clarifying the diverse identity of Indians.

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Closing with the discussion in the field, Leonard addresses the differences of opinions on Punjabi immigrant experiences how their culture changed and their values affected their adaptation to American society. Furthermore, these migrants formed a part of a larger migration pattern across the globe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that attracted migrant labor to meet the economic and labor demands of industrializing countries. The first wave of Indian migration was tied to the anticolonial movement in India. This had important consequences in the formulation and enforcement of immigration policies in the United States, and also in Canada.

The immigration policies of the early twentieth century, especially the immigration policy, drew from the American and Canadian response to the anticolonial movement in India. Although a straight line cannot be drawn from the anticolonial movement in India to modern day immigration policies in the U. Migration quotas that were a part of the immigration policy were partly an attempt to isolate undesirables and keep their numbers down.

The anxiety about the national origin of undesirable immigrants, especially from India, was in part due to the anticolonial movement. Due to the length of the U. Indian immigrants who crossed the northern border into the United States were under surveillance by U. One of the reasons the anticolonial movement was important to American border officials was because it questioned white supremacy and demanded independence from colonial rule in India.

Even as radicals came to see the United States as a haven, there was a parallel movement to restrict radicalism in the country. Political radicals, especially those from India who were anti-colonial were increasingly under surveillance. Anti-colonial movements were also caught within larger global forces.

Restrictive immigration laws and cultural similarities brought them together

Before and during the World War I, there was some grain of truth in this fear since the Germans were, in fact, paying Indian radicals in the United States to lead a mass revolution in India. None of these plans worked out. After the war, symptomatic of the growing antiradical imagination, these Indians were put on trial in the United States. During these trials, it became clear that the United States would treat the issue of Indian independence along the same lines as Great Britain, making the United States lesser of a political refuge than it had been.

The lack of American support for the anticolonial movement in India as well as the discrimination that Indians faced created an inclusive Indian identity in the United States. In India, British oppression was a primary catalyst in gluing together disparate people into a cohesive anticolonial movement.

Leonard, Karen Isaksen, 1939-

The second reason the anticolonial movement was important to Americans and Canadians was its transnational nature. As much as discrimination played a seminal part in uniting Indians across caste and religious lines, the presence of Indians united white workers on both sides of the U. White workers from both the United States and Canada were unified in their calls for Asian exclusion across the United States and Canada.

They made their voices heard through rallies, fueling riots that ran through Bellingham and Vancouver over three days in Discrimination against Indians thus further racialized them and created a solidarity, perhaps even an ethnic identity amongst them. The treatment of the Komagata Maru and its passengers most of whom were Punjabis was emblematic of just how deep and intense these feelings of exclusion were. At a time when there were no direct steam ship lines sailing from India to Canada, the law indirectly ensured that Indians could not land in Canada, legally.

Indians did try and get around this in when the Komagata Maru sailed into the Vancouver harbor but was denied entry for two months before being turned back to India. Drawing inspiration from the restrictive policies of Canada, Natal, Australia and New Zealand but unable to exercise a law of their own, American immigration officials began to use a clause in extant immigration law to prevent the entry of Indians.

The only panacea in the eyes of Indians would be the establishment of self-government in India which further made them undesirable immigrants in the eyes of American and Canadian officials.

Keeping the undesirables out was one part of the immigration policy puzzle. The other part, was a more fundamental and persistent question: Who is the right kind of immigrant? Immigration historians have been grappling with this question for a while. Despite their status as undesirables, Indians did make the move to America, even as they struggled to survive. Karen Leonard shows in Making Ethnic Choices , that Indian immigrants became farmers, and some were even successful.

In her book, Leonard counted around couples in the Sacramento Valley and 50 in the Central Valley respectively. Leonard recounts that despite feeling unwelcome, Punjabi immigrants to the western United States were contesting their place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Punjabis worked quickly to lease and own land.

In fact, by , over one-third of all the land in California was leased and owned by Punjabis. However, after World War I cotton bankruptcies hit these farmers hard.

Furthermore, it was used to restrict Punjabis from owning land. Forced to find a means to bypass the land law, or stand to lose their land, some well-educated Punjabis attempted to change professions while others took to violence.

Documentary Feature California's Punjabi Mexican Americans

Enter Punjabi Mexican families. Unable to bring wives and families from India, these Punjabi men began to interact with local women and marry to make use of this loophole. The cotton crop brought a lot of these couples together. For many families displaced by the Mexican Revolution, the cotton fields from Southern California to Texas offered work opportunities. For the Punjabi men, cotton was a familiar crop which was picked by women back in India.

How Sikhs migrated to US, fought prejudice and built a community

Thus, for the Punjabi men, having their Mexican wives pick cotton was not out of the ordinary. Over time, these marriages connected both the men and women to various circuits of familial and social bonds whilst setting up some conflicts. These families were mostly bilingual with the onus of learning Spanish being on the Punjabi men. As the second generation grew older, issues of ethnic identity became important. While second-generation sons could use their double ethnicity and kinship ties to move out of agricultural labor and explore other opportunities, such opportunities were not always open for second-generation Punjabi Mexican women.

The Punjabi-Mexicans today are mostly lost to history. Yet, their presence points to the struggles for survival, in the face changing immigration laws and the persistence of racial immigration policies. More importantly, it points to the existence of a working-class, interracial rural community that survived despite harsh immigration policies. The maturing second-generation of Punjabi-Mexicans were also faced with the second wave of Indian immigrants after For second-generation Punjabi Mexicans, this second wave of migrants was particularly unsettling.

For the Punjabi-Mexicans, this led to a further reassessment of their own ethnic choices. They embraced their being American a lot more.


On a more structural level, different motivations undergirded these two waves. The first wave of immigrants drew upon economic and social repressions as catalysts for emigrating; they were doubly oppressed when they landed in America due to discriminatory immigration laws and therefore had to carve a niche for themselves in the most restricted of circumstances. In a sense, their attempts at assimilation were attempts at survival. The second wave of immigrants, on the other hand, were more educated and had made a choice to move to America.

They entered the economy at a level often much higher than that of the second and third generation Punjabi-Mexicans. Their assimilation was often characterized by a perpetuation of caste and religious differences despite an espousal of cosmopolitanism. Unlike the Punjabis of the first wave, Kuchibhotla was from another part of India, reinforcing the diversity in and of Indian immigrants.

It is a wave that I too perhaps am a part of. For the second wave of immigrants, assimilation was more than survival, it was an active process of becoming American, as uneven and disorienting as it may have been. For IT engineers like Srinivas Kuchibhotla, assimilation did not always involve having to give up their own Indianness, especially when it came to food habits and social circles.