NIAC Submits Petition to the SBA for Group Inclusion of Iranian Americans to the (8)a Program
Washington, D.C. – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has submitted its petition for group inclusion to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) 8(a) program for disadvantaged minority groups. The 52-page document, which combines quantitative statistics and personal narratives, demonstrates that Iranian Americans suffer from chronic discrimination and cultural bias because of their ethnic and religious backgrounds.
The petition further demonstrates that Iranian Americans have shown a remarkably high level of entrepreneurial potential – nearly twice the national average – which is a prerequisite attribute for group inclusion.
In preparing evidence for its petition, NIAC successfully gathered signatures, as well as detailed data about discrimination from Iranian Americans across the country, through an online questionnaire and phone interviews. NIAC has also gained bi-partisan political support for its petition from several lawmakers, including Congressmen Jim Moran (D-VA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), and Martin Meehan (D-MA), and Senator George Allen (R-VA).
The document concludes that the Iranian-American community deserves government support to pursue business and financial endeavors, in light of widespread discrimination in society, as well as within the business world. The petition requests that Iranian Americans as a group be designated as a socially disadvantaged group for the purposes of the Small Business Act.
NIAC’s SBA Support Program was designed to increase the Iranian-American community’s knowledge of, and access to, the SBA Section 8(a) business development program. These programs offer a variety of services, including government contracts assistance on business planning, and significant financial aid in the form of loans. Currently, many ethnic groups enjoy Section 8(a) status, including African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Sri Lankans, and others.
NIAC Director of Legal Affairs Marjan Ehsassi explains the origin of the program by saying, “NIAC has been approached by many Iranian-American businesses that have lost customers and contracts as a result of ethnic discrimination, and are suffering from their exclusion from the 8(a) program. In response to these requests, we have conducted careful and extensive research in order to develop the 8(a) petition with a clear strategy toward gaining recognition and opportunities for the community and its businesses.”
The petition documents evidence of discrimination against Iranian Americans from the beginnings of Iranian immigration to the United States – decades before the events of September 11. Many groups, however, were designated as disadvantaged minority status without providing any evidence. Asian Pacific Americans gained 8(a) status after the Japanese American Citizens League submitted a letter merely stating that Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos have been subject to past discrimination, and were underrepresented in business.
The petition concludes that “The Iranian-American community is extremely entrepreneurial and has made significant contributions to the American economy. However, many of our businesses continue to face obstacles stemming from ethnic prejudice, discrimination and other forms of social disadvantage similar to that experienced by other ethnic groups. Therefore, in order for Iranian-American businesses to properly prosper in the United States, the government needs to provide more flexible government secured credit funding and direct contracts to the community.”
NIAC’s petition on behalf of the Iranian-American community is expected to be put on the Federal Register for public comment. While the SBA is not obliged to respond within a specific timeline, NIAC will work to ensure the application is given due consideration. In case of rejection, there is an appeal process that NIAC will consider depending on prospects of success and availability of resources.
The generous contributions made by several businesses and individuals, and specifically the Iranian American Technology Council (IATC), provided NIAC with the means to pursue this initiative on behalf of the Iranian-American community.