Seeking the Sikh truck drivers

Many people assume that their family immigrated to the United States legally, or did it ‘the right way.’

Sikh-TruckdriverOver Thanksgiving weekend, CBS News ran a story, at least twice, about a nationwide shortage of truck drivers. To my surprise, more than 30,000 Indian-American Sikhs have entered the trucking industry just in the past two years.

“More than 50,000 drivers are needed to meet the demand. One group of drivers, Indian-Americans who practice the Sikh faith, may well be a big part of the solution…

“‘For Sikhs, they want to keep their articles of faith, turban, unshaven hair, beard, moustache — it’s a safety hazard for a lot of jobs that require it. So in trucking, they can keep everything, and still make a decent living,'” trucker Mintu Pandher indicated.

“Pandher bought a used tractor-trailer 13 years ago. Now he owns nine rigs, plus a truck stop in Laramie. With so many Sikh truck drivers, he even added a Sikh temple to his truck stop. And his kitchen offers Indian specials that attract new fans as well.

“But it’s more than a friendly truck stop that’s drawing Sikhs to a career behind the wheel. Recruiting videos that look like something straight from Bollywood promise a glamorous future…”

Overdrive magazine notes “Sikhs have been a growing part of America’s professional driver force for three decades.” The Economist indicates the Sihks have an “outsize part of Canadian trucking.”

This got me to thinking how desirable a reasonable immigration policy looks like. The idea that we should let in only those with specific skills seems limited, not just for them but for us. After all, those Sikhs didn’t know they were going to become truckers whey started coming to the US in the 1980s.

From the American Immigration Council: “Many people assume that their family immigrated to the United States legally, or did it ‘the right way.’ In most cases, this statement does not reflect the fact that the U.S. immigration system was very different in the past and that their families might not have been allowed to enter had today’s laws been in effect.”

But some things haven’t changed much. Read of the process immigrants went through when they arrived at Ellis Island in the late 1800s. It included waiting and long lines, a barrage of questions, detention, and hearings

“The definition of who is ‘legal’ — and who is not — changes with the evolution of immigration laws. In some cases, claiming that a family came ‘legally’ is simply inaccurate — unauthorized immigration has been a reality for generations.”

Listen to Immigration Man – Graham Nash

Won’t you let me in, immigration man
Can I cross the line and pray
I can stay another day

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