The Nepali-speaking community in New York is one of the newest immigrants from South Asia. Most of community members were born in Nepal, but the community also includes the broader community of Nepali speaking immigrants and refugees from Bhutan, Tibet, India, Burma, and other countries. Therefore, we define our community as the Nepali-speaking community.
While the first Nepalis started coming to U.S. in the 1960s, the community grew exponentially in the last decade with people seeking safety and security away from the decade-long war between the government and the Maoist rebels, as well as better livelihoods. The migration to the U.S. has also been fueled in part by "diversity visa" lottery that allows countries without high rates of immigration to come to the US as permanent residents. The Bhutanese refugees resettled from the refugee camps in Nepal has further increased the pace of growth of our community.
The newer immigrants have not fared as well as those who came earlier. They have limited resources, including less education and limited English skills, and are employed in informal sectors. The increasingly anti-immigrant laws and policies have worsened the situation for the newer immigrants, including those with higher education. As a result, majority of Nepalis in New York are living with exploitation and violations of human rights, including extremely low wages, long hours, hazardous work environments, and in some cases, even abuse by employers. The economic crisis has affected our community members as many lost jobs, had to work longer hours for less pay, and a heightened sense of uncertainty that is being exploited by the employers and the employment agencies. Unfortunately, very few members of our community qualify for any safety net, including unemployment benefits or food stamps.
As a relatively new community, Nepalis have often been overlooked by service providers or researchers working with and studying Asian or South Asian populations. There has been little research done on the Nepalis in any regional or national capacity within the United States. The paucity of data has created challenges to understanding and meeting the needs of this emergent community. Therefore, in 2006, Adhikaar undertook a multi-year participatory research project to help us understand how to best serve the needs of our community, as well as inform other organization, service providers, and decision-makers. In 2010, we published the report based on our findings - Snapshots of the Nepali-Speaking Community in New York: Demographics and Challenges.
Some of the highlights of the findings include:
- 85 percent of the Nepalis in New York City immigrated less than a decade ago.
- Over 90 percent of the community is in the prime working years between ages 18 and 55.
- More than two-thirds of the respondents reported annual household income of $30,000 or less.
- One-third of those who were married were separated from their spouses, and almost half of those with children were separated from them.
- Two-thirds of the respondents and their family members faced challenges in accessing social services and health care.
The report is available for a free download from our website: www.adhikaar.org.