Does the Stimulus Bill Impact South Asians?

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Check out this blog post from February guestblogger, Nina Baliga, Development and Communications Manager at National CAPACD. Nina tells us how she thinks the stimulus bill may impact South Asians:

“Knowing and understanding the diversity of our communities, it’s hard to say what the final impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will have on South Asians across the country.  Personally, I think there are enough stipulations in the bill that provide hope for our communities.

For example, $1 billion will go towards the 2010 Census.   Why does this matter?  Well, the census provides the backbone of information that determines how a lot of public money and even private sector money is spent.  Part of this $1 billion will be used to increase in-language partnerships and outreach efforts to minority communities and other “hard-to-reach” populations.  If more South Asians are counted in the 2010 Census, then there will likely be more resources for our communities.

We do know that there are some provisions that will help low-to-moderate income individuals, and this will definitely help many South Asian families.  For example, there is the Make Work Pay refundable tax credit which could give $400 to single filers and $800 to joint filers in 2009 and 2010.  The bill has also expanded Pell grants to a maximum of $5,350 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010, hopefully increasing access to a college education to more young adults.  And for those of you who are looking to buy their first home, do it in 2009, because you’ll receive up to an $8000 tax credit from the federal government.

The bill is large and multi-faceted, including tax cuts for individuals and small businesses, funding for education and job training, more money for transportation and health coverage, food assistance, funding for states and local governments, and so much more. The final impact on our communities is yet to be seen.  We can truly hope for the best during this economic crisis, and pray that this massive injection of capital into the country’s economy will prove worthwhile.”

So what do you think? How will this stimulus bill impact the South Asian community? What do you like about the bill and what do you wish it did/did not include?

Nina Baliga joined the National CAPACD staff as the Development and Communications Manager in 2007.  Nina develops our communications strategies, and oversees our outreach to members, funders and other stakeholders. Prior to National CAPACD, Nina worked as a Research Analyst for SEIU Local 11, organizing condominium workers in South Florida. In 2004, she worked as the Canvas Director of the Miami office of America Coming Together, where she mobilized tens of thousands of voters in the largest voter contact program in history.  She began her political career heading up Florida PIRG’s Clean Water Campaigns.  Nina has served on the Board of Directors of SAAVY (South Asian American Voting Youth) as the Fundraising Chair, and mentored SAAVY fellows at the University of Florida as part of a larger South Asian Youth Voter mobilization movement.Nina graduated from New York University with degrees in Sociology and Environmental Studies and recently received her Masters in Business Administration from the University of Florida.

The Good and the Bad in the Stimulus Bill

After weeks of intense debate and negotiations, Congress passed an economic stimulus package that is headed to President Obama’s desk for his signature today. The final law includes spending for domestic infrastructure projects, funding to state and local governments, and tax relief in the form of cuts and credits. The government knew that it needed to take quick action to pull the economy out of its downward spiral, which has affected everyone’s lives – from immigrants and citizens, to students and seniors, to the wealthy and the working-class.

No one can claim to be unscathed by the recession that we are going through, including H-1B workers. Vast numbers of South Asians rely upon this visa, including lawyers, engineers, artists, and scientists. Yet many fear losing not only their jobs, but also their immigration status, during these rough economic times. Take, for instance, Shalini, whose story was captured by Little India

Shalini (name altered), who came to New York City from Mumbai one year ago to work with Ernst & Young, is coping with just such an eventuality. Within a few months she was promoted from assistant manager to manager in her division. However, in November, the company let her go. Her first thought was, “How am I going to find another job in the next six weeks in this kind of environment?”

Shalini is on an H1-B work permit, which means that if she doesn’t find work within 30 to 60 days, she has to leave the country. Her prospects are bleak. Most companies in the U.S., India and across the world have either frozen hiring or are sacking their workforce. Shalini has realized that there is no safety net in the U.S. without a Green Card or citizenship. So she is following the example of several NRIs [non-resident Indians], who have applied to non-U.S. companies, sent resumes to contacts in corporate India, put up notices to sell their homes and furniture, and postponed plans to get married or start a family.”  [Little India]

These workers help build the vibrant innovation of this country. In fact, Thomas Friedman had a thought-provoking piece in The New York Times recently about how we need more immigrants, not less, because it’s good for the American economy …

“We live in a technological age where every study shows that the more knowledge you have as a worker and the more knowledge workers you have as an economy, the faster your incomes will rise. Therefore, the centerpiece of our stimulus, the core driving principle, should be to stimulate everything that makes us smarter and attracts more smart people to our shores. That is the best way to create good jobs.” [New York Times]

Unfortunately, Congress went the other way on this issue. As part of the stimulus bill, financial institutions receiving funding through the Department of Treasury’s Troubled Assets Relief Program (or TARP) intended to stabilize the financial markets, must jump through extra hoops before they can hire H-1B workers. Given the immense contributions of H-1B workers to help America remain on the cutting-edge, it makes you wonder if this is not only bad news for South Asians, but bad news for the economy.

Daily Buzz 2.16.2009

1.) Pakistani American Charged with Beheading His Wife

2.) India’s Unlikely New Immigrants: Indian Americans Immigrating to India

3.) Hate Crime Charges filed in attack on cab driver

4.) New UC eligibility standards will open college doors, but may change demographics

5.) Rachel Maddow joins the “Consortium of Pub-going, loose, and forward women.”

6.)  Ennis from Sepia Mutiny: Speak Hindi? Join the Army and become a citizen in six months.

Bobby Jindal Responding to President Obama’s Address to the Nation

Ennis over at Sepia Mutiny reflects on the RNC pick of Gov. Bobby Jindal to deliver the party response to President Obama’s Address to the Nation on February 24th. With an African American chair and a South Asian star on the rise, will minority leadership become the watchword at the Grand Old Party? Check out Ennis’s entire post here <http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/005629.html>

Daily Buzz 2.12.2009

1.) Gov. Bobby Jindal to give GOP Response to Obama’s State of the Union.

2.) Colorado Kills e-verify Bill to Require Worker Status.

3.) Eboo Patel Discusses his Appointment to Obama’s Faith Council.

4.) There is a “Record number of Women in Congress”, but they are still underrepresented.

5.) Sri Ram Sena Abandons Valentines Day Protests in Karnataka

South Asian Artists Use Music to Inspire a Movement

Canadian pop stars The Bilz & Kashif recently released a single called “One Voice” which expresses a desire for unity, change, and action. After returning from a trip to India and witnessing the aftermath of the recent Mumbai attacks, these artists were moved and inspired to create this inspiring song and video.

From the lyrics of “One Voice”:Get informed. Get inspired. Stand up. Speak out. Break the silence. Build Awareness. Share the Knowledge. Stop Ignoring and Deliver the Message.


The Bilz & Kashif – One Voice from Bilz Music on Vimeo.

I am looking forward to seeing more artists in the United States follow this approach and use popular forms of media such as music to deliver a strong message.

Have you heard of any artists in the US doing something similar?

How the Economic Downturn is Affecting Nonprofits

In times of economic crisis, non-profit organizations often see an increase in the need for services. SAALT’s partners who provide services to South Asian community members are observing an increased need for housing, job training, and benefits due to layoffs, lack of jobs, and the downturn in the economy.  At the same time, non-profits too are facing the burden of the economic crisis and are having to lay off staff, reduce programming, and dip into reserve funds.

As Daniel Gross, a financial editor at Newsweek, pointed out as early as June of 2008, donations from individual donors are down from what they used to be. And with 80 percent of support to non-profits coming from 20 percent of the people in America, any reduction in giving can have a significant impact on non-profit groups.

How can South Asians who are able to give support the non-profits that are so critical in our local communities? Why give at all? Read an excerpt from a post from Sayu Bhojwani (former Executive Director of South Asian Youth Action and former Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs for New York City on the South Asian Philanthropy Project blog about the importance of strategic giving within the South Asian community:

South Asian philanthropy has until recently meant contributing to causes in the home country and to regional and religious associations here in the U.S. As the community matures, accumulates wealth, and increases in number, more South Asian Americans are contributing to institutions in the United States, targeting resources to issues of concern in the community. Strategically utilized, the “brown dollar” can boost the capacity of fledgling organizations that serve the needs of minority communities across the U.S. and can play a critical role in shaping perspectives about South Asians in the broader American community.

In the fifteen years or so that I have been working in the South Asian community and in philanthropy, I have been frustrated by the piecemeal approach that people often take to philanthropy. South Asians who give, whether they are wealthy or not, are like most others who give—responsive to a personalized request from a friend or colleague, drawn by a personal connection to an issue or organization, or motivated by the need to meet a certain end-of-year level of giving

Read more here <http://southasianphilanthropy.org/2009/02/02/sapp-blog-forum-sayu-bhojwani/>

Daily Buzz 2.11.2009

1.) The Associated Press presents a comparison of economic stimulus plans.
2.) The South Asian Philanthropy Project discusses Philanthropy and the Stimulus Package
3.) Updated statistics about wage discrimination in the United States.
4.) Award Winning journalist Pratap Chatterjee discusses his new book, “Halliburton’s Army: How a Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes War”, on Democracy Now!
Transcripts, Audio, and Video all available.
5.) How is the economy affecting money being sent family members abroad?
6.) India’s tangled relationship with the kiss.

Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported back to India 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

This case came to our attention through Dimple Rana at Deported Diaspora. In a tragic turn of event, Harvey Sachdev, who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, was deported to India even though his case is still open on appeal. Unfortunately, Sachdev suffers from schizophrenia and has been missing since his arrival in New Delhi. Read the press release about Sachdev’s case below.

Want to do something to to demand human rights for immigrants who are in detention and who regularly face due process violations? Take a minute to sign this petition to President Obama encouraging him to consider these violations as he staffs and restructures the Department of Homeland Security (the Executive agency that oversees many key operations including Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here <http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/?q=DHSPetition>

PRESS RELEASE:
Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, (213) 389-2077, ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com

Washington DC Area Family of Mentally Ill Man Fears for His Life as He is Missing in India Following Deportation
ICE executes deportation of schizophrenic man on January 22nd, despite his case still being under review, that he is the son, brother and father of U.S. citizens and that his deportation could result in his death.

Washington D.C.  –  January 28, 2009 – The Sachdev family is living a nightmare as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported their family member, Harvey Sachdev, to India on January 22nd. Harvey was a resident of the United States for nearly 40 years, and is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Harvey is a son, a brother and a father of U.S. citizens. His case is still open on appeal before the Fourth Circuit court. Nevertheless ICE deported him to India on January 22nd, 2009.

The trauma of Harvey’s prolonged detention and recent deportation made him highly unstable. He is now missing in New Delhi, India, a city of 11 million people. It is an unfamiliar city to him, where he has no family and no access to medication. According to his brother and sisters, “Our brother’s deportation is likely a death sentence for him, and we also fear our mother’s life. The stress and the worry has put her life in peril.”

Having pushed his deportation date back several times, ICE initially notified the family of the scheduled deportation, but failed to confirm it, so necessary arrangements could be made in India. After repeated calls on the day of his deportation, ICE only told the family he was no longer in detention. The family also repeatedly attempted to get confirmation from the India Consulate Offices and Embassy, which had to issue travel documents, but received no information.

Harvey came to the U.S. with his parents at the age of twelve. He was valedictorian of his high school and earned a scholarship to college. Tragically, in his late teens he developed schizophrenia and has battled mental illness for all of his adult life.

Due to his mental illness, he was convicted of inappropriate and aberrant but non-violent crimes. The most serious was indecent exposure, but he was not guilty of any physical contact with any person, nor of any violence. There is no indication that any court thought that the punishment for his crimes should result in deportation to a country that he can’t remember, where he has no friends or family or any connection whatsoever.

His parents and his family are U.S. citizens. Two of his family members are serving in the military, with one completing two tours of duty in Iraq. He married a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen daughter who is now twenty-two years old.

Mr. Sachdev is mentally ill and requires care, which his family is able and willing to provide. He has no one in India and does not have the ability to survive on his own.

Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. states that “People with mental and developmental disabilities who are deported can also face a grave risk of harassment and even persecution in their home countries – harassment and persecution based solely on their disabilities.”

“Without family or medical support, deportation can become a death sentence. Suicide and attempted suicide are not uncommon among deported people with mental illnesses. Access to medicine can be limited and people are often deported without any information on their medical background.  Deportation of the mentally ill is cruel and unusual punishment,” says Dimple Rana of Deported Diaspora, an organization working with people deported from the U.S.

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev – Harvey Sachdev’s sister, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW – Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. (213) 389-2077 ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, Co-Founder and Director, Deported Diaspora, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com