SAALT ChangeMaker Award Recipient, Asm Rahman, Profiled in Detroit Free Press

SAALT ChangeMaker Award recipient, Asm Rahman

SAALT ChangeMaker Award recipient, Asm Rahman

Asm Rahman, one of the recipients of the inaugural SAALT ChangeMaker Awards, is profiled in the Detroit Free Press. Elected the President of the Hamtramck NAACP, Rahman is a lifelong supporter of civil rights and education. Check out the article here <http://www.freep.com/article/20090427/NEWS02/904270359/>. I had a chance to talk with Mr. Rahman about what motivated him to take a leadership role in the NAACP as well as what he envisions for the South Asian community nationally and in the Detroit area.

Q: How did you get involved with the NAACP?

A: After 9/11, I realized that many people in my community were unaware of their civil rights. They did not know why they should become citizens or that many were confronting post-9/11 racism. While Detroit was not affected like some areas with open harassment, they did go after many people, especially Middle Easterners, in a way that seemed related to race. When I first came to this country, I had learned about Martin Luther King, Jr and Frederick Douglas and such during February, Black History Month, at Hamtramck High School. I realized that after 9/11, we, as a community, need to learn about and join this movement for civil rights. For our community, we need to see that freedom did not come cheap and we have to respect the African American community’s contribution to our freedom.

Q: What do you hope for your community, in Detroit and around the country?

A: I hope that the community can come together and get involved about the issues that we face. That’s why we formed BAPAC (Bangladeshi American Public Affairs Council). We saw that there were smaller organizations providing social services, but in terms of political engagement or civil rights, we were behind. Voting and politics are different in South Asia and it is important to educate our community about how the system works here. We run workshops like how to vote where we use a sample ballot to help Limited English Proficient or older voters navigate the process. The excitement that we saw during the Presidential elections must be maintained. This election was the first time I saw the Bangladeshi community getting involved in national politics. There was this sense that even if our votes did not count before, this time it will matter. My mother was watching the election like her son was running.

Q: What do you think the community needs in order to become engaged?

A: Firstly, I would say we need education and I do not mean just academics. We need to become familiar with the power structure. Knowing that can help us be prepared for emergencies, when people really need help. For instance, in terms of education, many immigrant parents do not know how they should get involved. By knowing what is already in place, community members can make a bigger impact on the issues that matter to them. Second, I would say it is leadership. This community needs leaders who really know what the problems are and how to address them. Ultimately, our numbers do not matter unless the numbers are doing something.

Deepa Iyer, Executive Director on Apr 28 Applied Research Conference Call “Race in Review: The First 100 Days”

Check out Deepa Iyer, SAALT’s Executive Director on Tuesday’s ARC call “Race in Review: The First 100 Days”. The call is at 4pm EST/3pm CST/1 pm PST. Learn more (and RSVP!) here <http://www.arc.org/content/view/594/1/>

Undocumented Immigrants, Children and CCPA

Check out this piece from Lavanya Sithanandam, pediatrician and travel doctor in Takoma Park and SAALT Board member about undocumented immigrants, citizen children and the Child Citizen Protection Act:

The non-partisan Pew Hispanic Center released a report yesterday entitled ‘A Portrait of Unauthorized Immigrants in the United States’ .  The report reveals that 4 million American children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent, which is up dramatically from 2.7 million children in 2003.   Children of unauthorized immigrants now account for about one in 15 elementary and secondary school students nationwide.  One third of these children live in poverty and close to half (45%) of these children are without health insurance.

As a practicing pediatrician in Takoma Park, MD, these statistics are more than numbers to me.   Some of my patients that I treat in my own office are included in this data.  What these percentages and statistics do not convey is how deeply entrenched these children and their families have become in this country.  Despite this, I have noticed a disturbing trend over the past two years, with a growing number of my patients having to deal with the detention and possible deportation of a parent, friend, or neighbor.  This is a nightmare scenario for anyone to have to cope with, let alone a young child.

In response to this situation, I have been working with SAALT and several other non-profit organizations such as Families For Freedom to shed light on the plight of such children and to help them stay united with their families.   This week is a ‘Week of Action’ in support of HR 182 or the Child Citizen Protection Act, which will give immigration judges discretion in deportation cases involving the separation of families with children who are U.S. citizens.    Currently, judges have their hands tied and are forced to deport many parents unless they meet an ‘extreme hardship’ standard-  a difficult standard for most to meet.  I ask that you call your local congressmen and ask them to sign on to this bill.  Also please try to document any experiences that you may be facing with the detention and/or deportation of a loved one.  In my own practice I am asking my patients to draw pictures of broken hearts (like the one above) to represent the pain and suffering these families endure when one or both parents are deported.   I hope to show these drawings and letters that I collect to my local representatives as part of SAALT’s annual advocacy day next week.

Takoma Park Pediatrics Patient, Age 7

Also, check out Dr. Sithanandam’s excellent Op-Ed published in the Baltimore Sun.