Rep. John Garamendi joined his fellow lawmakers and members of D.C.’s Sikh community for an early Vaisakhi celebration on April 5.

WASHINGTON (Diya TV) — Vaisakhi celebrations were kicked off earlier than usual this year in the nation’s capital, American lawmakers partook in celebrating the major Sikh festival ahead of its actual date on April 14.

Rep. John Garamendi, Democratic Co-Chair of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, introduced a House Resolution (H.R. 189) on March 10, “recognizing the historic, cultural and religious significance of the festival of Vaisakhi.” The Resolution was read on the House Floor by Rep. Patrick Meehan, co-chair of the Congressional Sikh Caucus.

Later in the evening, lawmakers, their colleagues and members of the Sikh community alike conjoined in the Rayburn House Office Building for a ceremony organized by the Friends of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, spearheaded by Harpreet Singh Sandhu, in conjunction with the Sikh Caucus on Capitol Hill.

Satnam Singh, the first Indian basketball player to be drafted into the NBA was the chief guest at the event titled, “Vaisakhi with Sikhs in Sports.”

Garamendi, whose California district has a heavy Sikh population, spoke of the many challenges affecting American Sikhs, particularly in the wake of the recent U.S. election and the protracted divisive presidential campaign leading up to it.

“The harsh rhetoric of this last campaign is spilling over into all kinds of issues that affect this community in a very negative and harmful way,” he said. He touched on matters of immigration, discrimination and a cut in the State Department’s budget which he said, “would affect each and every one of you because you want your family to get a visa to visit the United States.”

“We need to have continued information from you about what is happening in the community. So make sure that we know that,” he said.

Rep. Jim Costa, a Democrat from California, was also in attendance at the event. He spoke about the immigrant community’s importance in the U.S.

“I represent a rich and diverse District and a significant part of that diversity and mosaic of cultures that come from all around the world is the Sikh community which contributes and makes a difference every day and improves the quality of life,” he said.

“America is a land of immigrants — past and present — and with every generation of immigrants, America becomes a better country, a better place to live because you add energy, you add excitement, you add a sense of strong family values,” he added. “We are all immigrants. I am a second-generation (American). From my heart, I understand the story of the immigrant because it is my story, it’s your story!”

Satnam Singh, a center for the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends, spoke to the crowd in his native Punjabi language. He had a message for America’s up-and-coming youth athletes: “Always respect your parents.”

“Wherever I have reached today, it is because of my parents’ blessings,” he said. “Sports, whether it is basketball, football or any other game, is very important in life.”