Top major problems of Nepali immigrants in New York are not on the candidate’s agenda

‘The Nepali community in New York is also a minority community within the minority. Although, most of the problems of the minority immigrant community are similar. Apart from that, the Nepali community also has its specific problems,’ Urgen Sherpa, who has been active in the Nepali community for a long time and is also the former president of the United Sherpa Association(USA), Inc., says.

As the Nepali and Nepali-speaking community in New York grows, so does the Nepali community’s interest and participation in local politics. The interest of the candidates in the Nepali community is also increasing.

‘But in this election, the Nepali community did not get as much attention as the candidates in last year’s city council election. The problems of the Nepali community seemed a bit difficult to put on the agenda of the candidates,’ Writer Rajan Thapaliya, who has been living in New York Queens for more than a decade, says.

Although the problems faced by the minority immigrant community are similar in terms of the domestic workers’ problems, the rights of nail salon workers, language justice, access to local government resources, representation, etc., the problems of the Nepali community have their own uniqueness. However, people from the Nepali community have complained that the people’s representatives or candidates have not shown much interest in the programs targeted at the Nepali community.

Former New York City Council candidate and Nepali social activist Nawaraj KC says, ‘Representatives or candidates have been responding well to the various issues of the Nepali community. But there is a problem of access even to get there.’

Language Barriers

Writer Thapaliya says. ‘Linguistic justice is not only the issue of language translation but also the question of how people in the community understand government services and rights is the main issue.’

He says, ‘First of all, the resources of the local government are very limited in the Nepali language. Secondly, there is a problem because the language used by the government, even in the Nepali language, is not understood by the community members and is complex.’

‘There are language classes for immigrants. The local government is also partnering to run such language classes. But the students are not able to learn the language. As the language classes are conducted entirely in English, such language classes are not useful for many members of the Nepali community. Such classes can be useful if the language instructor also understands Nepali. As far as possible, only a person who speaks Nepali should teach English,’ Thapaliya says.

Nawaraj KC says, ‘Due to the language, many opportunities, rights and facilities provided by the local government are not known. In New York, there is a facility to take the learner’s permit exam for a driver’s license in the Nepali language and also to fill out the DMV form in the Nepali language. However, resources in the Nepali language are scarce or not available in many other bodies. Many hotline facilities are not in the Nepali language.’

‘Since the trainings provided by the local government are also in English language, many such trainings have not been useful,’ says Urgen Sherpa,’ When there are various pieces of training, such trainings are in the English language. Many members of the Nepali community do not understand. For example, if there is any training for nail technicians, it is not in Nepali, it is in English. If there is any training on sanitation, it is not in Nepali, it is in English. Therefore, there is a problem of not understanding even when participating in such classes or trainings.’

‘Even the libraries in the areas where the Nepali community is predominant do not have books and resources in the Nepali language. There are no Nepali speakers anywhere. There are no Nepali language libraries even within the Nepali community. The Nepali community does not have its own community hall for conducting programs on the Nepali language. So the problems are interrelated.’ Thapaliya says.

Lack of access to local government resources

Urgen Sherpa says that language is one of the reasons for the problem in maintaining access to local government resources, but other reasons also come together. He says, ‘Even when there is no representation in the local government, there is less access to resources. When it comes to local government, it seems to look only at elections. But political appointments to local government for representation must also be proportional and inclusive. Even if the person who speaks the voice of the Nepali community is not in the concerned body, even if he understands the language and knows the resources, there will be a problem getting it.’

Rajan Thapaliya says that the Nepali community is compelled to be voiceless due to a lack of a proper platform to express problems. He says – ‘Even those who understand the language lack information about local government or state resources. There is no information on how to take advantage of these resources. Therefore, there is a lack of public awareness programs about local government or state resources.’

‘Rights of undocumented immigrants are very much established at the local level. But due to a lack of public awareness, it is not possible to know. Therefore, there is a need for a comprehensive awareness program on all the resources,’ says Urgen Sherpa.

Nawaraj KC says, ‘Lack of representation is the main reason for not knowing many opportunities and facilities provided by the local government. The community needs to be aware of this. We have to take initiative to represent ourselves. Sometimes there is a problem of falling behind unless you move forward.’

Lack of training for capacity building

Urgen Sherpa says, ‘Various types of vocational trainings are also needed for the capacity building of the Nepali community. If we can provide vocational training, it is possible to raise the level of the Nepali community even more.’

‘Many types of vocational training are needed in the Nepali community. It seems necessary to give trainings on business and office operation, job opportunities and other issues,’ Nawaraj KC says.

Apart from this, there is a need for festivals and cultural recognition of Nepalis. Last year, the New York State Parliament passed the Nepali American Heritage Day Resolution. This year, a resolution has been passed to celebrate International Everest Day. Thapaliya says, ‘It is necessary to recognize the festivals celebrated by Nepalis. There is a problem with looking differently when walking on Tika or wearing cultural attire in Losar because of not being recognized.’

The Nepali community is linguistically and culturally diverse. Even within the Nepali community, the number of speakers of languages ​​other than Nepali is significant. Similarly, there are different types of cultural features.

‘It is necessary to recognize Nepali festivals and culture, including giving leave on festivals like Lhosar and Dashain. Otherwise, the new generation will be embarrassed when they go out to celebrate Nepali festivals,’ Urgen Sherpa says.

On the one hand, undocumented immigrants with any immigration status have problems accessing local resources, while they are not aware of the facilities including free legal facilities and free health facilities. An undocumented Nepali says, “I am bringing medicines from Nepal because I don’t know how to get health services in New York.’