SAALT Releases Guide for South Asian Voters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

With exactly 4 weeks left before Election Day, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the country’s only national South Asian advocacy organization, today released YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: A Guide for South Asian Voters.  The voter guide provides prospective voters with crucial information on the candidates’ stances on priority issues for our community, South Asian voting trends, and important resources to cast informed votes this November.  The guide is also intended to encourage South Asians to come out to vote in significant numbers.

“Our community’s voices and votes have power.  South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group nationwide, with over 4.3 million community members living and working in the U.S.,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “Our new voter guide provides essential information for South Asians as they take their rightful place in our democracy.  We want our community members to make informed decisions at the ballot box, and to know where the candidates stand on the issues.”

The hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric that our community confronts every day came into sharp focus at the second Presidential debate on October 9, when Gorbah Hamed, a Palestinian American, asked both candidates how they would address rising Islamophobia in the U.S. and “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?”  The question, sobering in its reality, remains a permanent fixture in the hearts and minds of millions of South Asians nationwide, and for good reason.  SAALT’s September 2014 report, Under Suspicion, Under Attack, tracked a nearly 40% increase in xenophobic political rhetoric from our previous 2010 report.  Over 90% of these comments were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  Our report also documented 76 incidents of hate violence against our communities from January 2011 through April 2014, with over 80% of these incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  SAALT has been tracking incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric for the last two years and will do so through the elections.  SAALT’s voter guide provides where the candidates stand on these important priorities.

These urgent issues underpinned SAALT’s partnership with MTV on the #BeyondTheWall project, a groundbreaking interactive video installation showcased in New York’s Herald Square on October 10.  #BeyondTheWall provided a digital forum to go beyond the current anti-immigrant, xenophobic public discourse and highlight individual stories and perspectives on immigration reform, race and diversity in the United States.  Through celebrities telling stories about the personal challenges they’ve faced with race and immigration, to user-generated submissions on social media, #BeyondTheWall carved a meaningful space for conversation on these important issues.  One such submission was a video of Hina, whose family came to the U.S. for medical treatment for her sister, and who overstayed their visa due to the life-saving treatment she was receiving.  Hina’s challenges as a DACA recipient are unforgettable and touch on the realities thousands of South Asians face nationwide.  SAALT’s voter guide provides the candidates’ positions on this issue as well.

As the fastest growing demographic in the nation, South Asians have an important voice in this year’s elections.  Our voter guide provides vital information for South Asians as they enter the ballot boxes this November, and indeed as they remain a significant feature of the American landscape now and into the future.

SAALT Partners with MTV for the #BeyondTheWall Interactive Exhibition in Herald Square

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

On October 10, 2016, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) partnered with MTV and several other organizations on a groundbreaking project called “#BeyondTheWall”, a 10’x35′ interactive video installation standing in the heart of New York’s Herald Square that serves as a digital forum to showcase perspectives on immigration reform, racial diversity, and multiculturalism in the United States. The video wall, metaphoric of the much debated border wall of the 2016 elections, provides visitors an opportunity to see video stories from participants such as Diane Guerrero, Arturo Castro, Amani Alkhat, and Cristela Alonzo, along with real-time user-generated submissions over social media, about how immigration and diversity are at the heart of the American experience.

“The United States is a nation of immigrants, and with a population of more than 4.3 million South Asians, we are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the US,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “A majority of our community is foreign born, which makes immigrant rights and racial justice a top priority for us. Post 9/11, our research shows that South Asians both old and young have faced tremendous hate violence, suspicion, and surveillance, and have heard xenophobic political rhetoric spewing from candidates and politicians across the country. This partnership with MTV gives South Asians and other groups a chance to make their voices heard on their realities and the issues affecting them.”

With October 10 marking Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a reminder of the nation’s multicultural origins, this curated interactive forum provides in-person and online audiences a way of listening and adding to the ongoing discussion about immigration and diversity in the US, a central issue in the 2016 elections.

In the run up to the elections, SAALT has released YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: A Guide for South Asian Voters, which provides key election deadlines and resources, South Asian voter priorities and data, as well as the policy positions of the two main Presidential candidates. One such priority for South Asian voters is immigration reform. Recently, the Supreme Court declined to rehear arguments in United States v. Texas, effectively denying millions of immigrants and over 200,000 South Asians the benefits of the Obama administration’s 2014 executive actions of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). SAALT’s Immigration Factsheet, available here, explains the current state of the law and provides key resources for those wanting to learn more.

With immigration reform and racial diversity at a high pitch in both the public and political spheres, and with hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric continuously affecting the South Asian community nationwide, the #BeyondTheWall project provides an opportunity for all of us to speak, listen, and engage in a meaningful conversation about the ideals of this country, and how to perhaps one day reach them.