Washington, DC – Today, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), along with four other Iranian American organizations, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) supporting the inclusion of a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region category for the purposes of recording data on ethnicity on the U.S. Census and other federal forms. This category will include a designated option for “Iranian.”
Iranian Americans are not currently counted in federal data. Instead, they must choose to identify themselves based on OMB’s five categories for data on race (White, Black or African American, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian, and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander) and two categories on ethnicity (Hispanic or Latino and Not Hispanic or Latino).
The creation of a new MENA region category will allow Iranian Americans to identify along ethnic terms, specifying which subgroup or nationality to which they belong.
Benefits of the inclusion of a MENA category include but are not limited to:
- Enforcing the Voting Rights Act
- Influencing the drawing of Congressional and state legislative district boundaries
- Establishing federal affirmative action plans and evaluating discrimination in the private sector
- Monitoring of discrimination in housing, mortgage lending, and credit
- Understanding trends in employment, education, and vital health statistics
In addition to highlighting the benefits of the MENA category, the letter calls for the protection and confidentiality of the MENA population, stating that “We request assurances that all laws protecting confidentiality be strictly enforced with significant penalties on breaching confidentiality.”
Laws that are set by Congress and the Constitution, which cannot be repealed by any executive order, consider any violation of confidentiality as a federal crime with serious penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $250,000.
Take Action Now! The OMB is making its final decision about the MENA category soon and needs your feedback. Have a voice and be counted in the 2020 census.