- A Joe Biden administration will give us the kind of America where our arrival stories are something to celebrate.
Everyone in the immigrant community has an arrival story. I have two. I have vague memories of the first, which took place in 1970. I was barely 5 years old when my mother and I joined my father in New York. More than a decade later, we returned to India, with my baby brother in tow. Returning back to America felt inevitable to me: America was my home, India would always be my parents’ country. So seven years later, I arrived again, but alone. This time, I came with a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering, $250 in my pocket, two suitcases, and a foreign student visa.
Over the last 30+ years, I got married, raised two children, and pursued an exciting career in the automotive and auto finance industries. Through the difficult years in India and the years where I built my life in America, my faith and family anchored me.
My Hindu faith inspired me to serve my community: I volunteered on the PTA and drove to the State Capitol to fight education funding cuts, founded an interfaith organization to build relationships and find common ground across metro-Detroit’s diverse religious communities, and was appointed to the city’s planning commission. On the Commission, one of my achievements was the introduction of a tree-protection ordinance. These causes were particularly important to me because dharma is at the root of my activism: I believe that every child should receive a good education, that we are all responsible for the vulnerable, and that we should believe science when we make decisions, whether on coronavirus or climate change.
Family is my safe space. My baby brother followed in my footsteps and returned to the U.S. after college. I bonded with my cousins in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, and made friends who are like family, including the uncles and aunties who provided me guidance while my parents remained in India. We gathered for baby showers, graduations, engagements, weddings, naming ceremonies, arangetrams — the usual list of Indian immigrant activities.
Family and faith have been crucial aspects of my journey to public office. My brother, my cousins, and the family I’ve created over two decades here in Michigan have been supportive on the campaign trail and while I’ve been in office. Faith is what pushed me to run for office, as knocking doors is about loving and listening to one’s neighbors, and leads me to engage across the aisle, pushing for pluralism in the binary world of partisan politics. Faith gives me hope for the 2020 Biden-Harris ticket.
Vice President Biden’s storied career of public service is rooted, like mine, in faith and family. His sense of fairness is rooted in the Catholic teachings from his parents, including the principles of social justice and fairness inculcated by his mother. He worked as a public defender and served on city council before being elected to the U.S. Senate. When faced with personal tragedy soon after and he became a single father, he took the train home from D.C. daily to parent his young sons, and raised them with the help of his family.
Vice President Biden supports policies that protect faith communities, which have become increasingly vulnerable to attacks. He supports abolishing the green card backlog, which disproportionately hurts Indian families. Biden has also championed stronger relations between the U.S. and India, whether it’s advocating for the India Nuclear Deal when he was Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or his call for India to have a seat on the United Nations Security Council.
It is particularly meaningful to me that Biden supported the junior Senator from Illinois who became the first person of color to be elected the president of the United States. Vice President Biden will continue President Barack Obama’s legacy: a strong partnership between my parents’ country and mine. This month, he’s helped immigrants and women make history, in selecting his running mate: the junior Senator from California, who is the child of a woman from India, like me.
Vice President Biden presents a vision that my generation, my children’s generation, and the ones coming after can embrace. As a part of the Big Tent party, I know that we work to ensure that all voices are heard, so that everyone has a sense of belonging. President Biden’s America would also be one where every child gets an equitable education that opens the doors to opportunity, where we work with partners across the globe and lead the efforts in combating the climate crisis. And most importantly: the Biden-Harris ticket gives us the kind of America where our arrival stories are something to celebrate.
Padma Kuppa is a Michigan State Representative from the 41st District, which includes the cities of Troy and Clawson. She is the first Indian immigrant and Hindu in the Michigan Legislature.