Punjabi Americans

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Punjabi American
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Philadelphia, Sacramento, New York City, Metro Detroit, Atlanta, Raleigh-Durham, Baltimore-Washington, Boston, Chicago, Dallas–Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New Jersey, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle
English, Punjabi and its dialects, Urdu, Hindi
Sikhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Unaffiliated
Related ethnic groups
Indian Americans, Pakistani Americans, Punjabi Mexican Americans
Punjabis in the US by State
A Punjabi-Mexican American couple, Valentina Alarez and Rullia Singh, posing for their wedding photo in 1917.

Punjabi Americans, are Americans whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in the Punjab, a region in northern South Asia in India and Pakistan. There are over 250,000 Punjabi Americans, many of whom were Sikhs who first settled in California's Central Valley to do agricultural work.


Sikhs have been a part of the American populace for more than 130 years. At the turn of the 19th century, the state of Punjab of British India was hit hard by British practices of mercantilism. Many Sikhs emigrated to the United States and began arriving to work on farms in California. They traveled via Hong Kong to Angel Island, California, the western counterpart to Ellis Island in New York.

"Some Sikhs worked in lumber mills of Oregon or in railroad construction and for some Sikhs, it was on a railway line, which allowed other Sikhs who were working as migrant laborers to come into the town on festival days".

Due to discrimination from Anglo Americans many early Punjabi immigrants in California married Mexican Americans, forming a sizable Punjabi Mexican American community. Punjabi farmers were also able to circumvent laws prohibiting their ownership of property by operating through American bankers.

Role in America

Most Sikhs started life in America as farm labourers, with many eventually becoming landowners and successful farmers. In 1956, Dalip Singh Saund became the first Asian American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. At present Amarjit Singh Buttar is perhaps the only turbaned Sikh who holds elected public office. He was elected in December 2001 to the Vernon, Connecticut Board of Education for a four-year term. He has also been recently selected as the Chairman of the Board. Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana is also of Punjabi descent, as well as Nikki Haley, the former United States Ambassador to the United Nations and the 116th governor of South Carolina.

Many Punjabi Americans have become successful in technology-related fields. Vinod Dham helped to develop the Pentium processor while Vinod Khosla and Sabeer Bhatia co-founded Sun Microsystems and Hotmail respectively. Aneesh Chopra served as the first Chief Technology Officer of the United States (CTO), appointed by President Barack Obama.

Notable Punjabi Americans



  • Uday Singh, soldier of Indian descent who died in Operation Iraqi Freedom


  • Heems, rap artist and former member of alternative hip-hop group Das Racist


  • Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana
  • Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina and former United States Ambassador to the United Nations
  • Kashmir "Kash" Gill, former mayor of Yuba City, California
  • Ravinder "Ravi" Bhalla, mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey and first turban-wearing Sikh mayor of a U.S. city
  • Dalip Singh Saund, first Asian American and first member of a non-Abrahamic faith elected to the House of Representatives
  • Ro Khanna, U.S. Representative for California's 17th District