Sorting Out the Backgrounds of Three Children of Indian Immigrants Running for National Office: Haley, Harris, and Ramaswamy

By David North on December 8, 2023

Unusually, there are three children of Indian immigrants running for the nation’s top offices next year and it may be useful to sketch what they have in common, and what they don’t.

We are referring to, in alphabetical order: Nikki Haley, Kamala Harris, and Vivek Ramaswamy; the first and the third are seeking the Republican nomination for president, and the one in the middle is the incumbent vice president, presumably a Democratic candidate for re-election.

Haley is the former governor of South Carolina and once served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; Harris was California’s attorney general and, later, a U.S. senator before becoming Joe Biden’s vice president in 2021; Ramaswamy is a high-tech entrepreneur and has not held public office in the past. He lives in Ohio.

Harris’ parents include an Indian mother and a Jamaican father, both immigrants; both the parents of the other two are immigrants from India. Two of the three have Tamil ancestry (from the south of the country) and the same two have high caste (Brahmin) and Hindu backgrounds, these are Harris and Ramaswamy. Haley’s parents are Sikhs, a religious group; this is a population that is usually regarded as being outside the caste system. (Male Sikhs are the ones with turbans.)

What all three have in common are immigrant parents, mostly with advanced degrees, and all three of the candidates have (so far) largely stayed away from the controversy about caste discrimination, in which upper caste Indians are charged with mistreating the Dalits (formerly Untouchables), which we have discussed before.

Both Haley and Harris have won five elections; Haley was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives three times prior to being elected governor twice. Harris was elected district attorney of San Francisco twice and attorney general twice before being elected to the Senate. Ramaswamy is running for the first time.

In terms of the geographic background of the parents, Haley’s people came from Punjab in India’s north; Harris’ from Chennai (once Madras) in the southeast, and Ramaswamy’s from Kerala in the southwest. Oddly he, probably the most conservative of the three, has ancestors from the state in India that continues to be run by the Communist Party.

Both Harris’ and Ramaswamy’s people are from that part of nation that provides most of the H-1B workers coming to this country. The latter, as we reported earlier, runs a company that uses H-1B foreign workers, though he now says that he is opposed to the program.

One or two of the three may be on the national ballot in 2024 — or may not.

Topics: Politics