Map of the Middle East North Africa area

PAAIA Joins Coalition Letter in Support of a MENA Ethnic Category 

Washington, DC — The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has requested public comments on the possibility of including a Middle East North Africa (MENA) category on federal documents like the census. In response, PAAIA directly submitted a comment to the OMB and signed on to a coalition letter led by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and their Census Task Force in support of such a category. 

The coalition letter underscores the need for a MENA ethnic category that allows respondents to choose any race they identify with. It demonstrates support for a combined race and ethnicity question that allows respondents to select both the ethnicity (or ethnicities) and the race (or races) that they most identify with while not conflating the two.  

The coalition letter also urges the OMB to require, rather than encourage, agencies to collect and publish more detailed data for all minimum race and ethnicity categories wherever possible.  

“We believe the designation of an “All Other Races” category is no longer appropriate, as it renders many people “invisible” for important policy and programmatic purposes,” the letter reads. 

Due to the reporting standards in existence throughout the years, Iranian American have remained historically undercounted in the census and other federal documents. These documents provide critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, research, and support for their communities.  

Census data alone determines the distribution of billions of dollars in federal funding each year. By specifying our ethnicity underneath the MENA category umbrella, we’ll be able to ensure that Iranian Americans are accurately counted and that our communities receive the services and resources they need. 

In addition to highlighting the need for a MENA ethnic category, the coalition letter also offers up suggestions for other important changes the government can make to ethnicity and race reporting guidelines in order to ensure a more inclusive and more accurate count of our communities. You can read the letter in detail here

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