SAALT Organizes Congressional Briefing on Hate Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

On March 23, 2017, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, held a Congressional briefing to address the uptick in hate violence nationwide and highlight recommendations for change, as outlined in our recent report, “Power, Pain, Potential.”  SAALT was joined by eight members of Congressional leadership and community partners in an urgent discussion on combatting the surge in hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans across the country.

“As President Trump continues to test fire Muslim bans, this administration appears intent on intensifying efforts to ignore and provoke hate violence,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “The President has a sworn duty to protect the rights and safety of all Americans.  Today’s briefing with Congressional leaders is an important step in making sure President Trump doesn’t escape his responsibilities.”

Our communities have experienced devastating violence in recent months, including deadly shootings in Kansas and Washington State, numerous arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes nationwide, and mounting fear by our communities across the country.

These tragedies are building upon the historically divisive Presidential elections, which, as documented in “Power, Pain, Potential,” saw over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities nationwide. Notably, 95% of incidents were animated by anti-Muslim sentiment and 1 out of 5 xenophobic comments emanated from then-candidate Trump.  This is a 34% increase in these incidents in less than a third of the time covered in our 2014 report, “Under Suspicion, Under Attack.”

“SAALT stands ready to work with Congressional leaders to fight hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric impacting our communities across the country,” stated Ms. Raghunathan.  “South Asian Americans are the most rapidly growing demographic group, and we are committed to policies at all levels that reinforce the place our communities have in our nation now and as we continue to grow.”

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Honorary Co-Chairs of the briefing include: Senator Mazie Hirono (HI); Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT); Senator Ben Cardin (MD)

Member Co-Sponsors of the briefing include:  Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5); Congressman Andre Carson (IN-7); Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3); Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7);  Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6); Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41);  Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7); Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8); Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Members of Congress who joined the briefing include: Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus; Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7); Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41); Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6); Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7); Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8); Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Partner organizations include: Sikh Coalition, Washington Peace Center/D.C. Justice for Muslims Coalition, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Arab American Institute

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “I have been deeply disturbed by the growing number of religious-based hate incidents across the United States, including the rising tide of hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh Americans nationwide. It is a troubling trend that we must bring to an end. Leaders from the national level to the neighborhood level must make opportunities to speak out forcefully against this kind of intolerance. Religious-based threats, vandalism and potential violence are not only criminal but fan the flames of extremism that tears apart societies. Each threat needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness as we band together to discourage such vicious language and activity.”

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “The increase in hate crimes and attacks on minority communities since the election is no coincidence- they are the unfortunate result of individuals who feel newly empowered by an Administration whose top advisors include a noted white supremacist. If we do not stand up against these horrific actions now, we will be complicit in what follows.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus: “The disturbing uptick in hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities is appalling and must end. Recent attacks, including the shootings of Srinivas Kuchibotla, Alok Madasani, and Deep Rai, are examples of the very real consequences that anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric have on communities of color. Today’s briefing, which exposes this rising tide of hate, is critical to bring more attention to this urgent crisis. I would like to thank SAALT for bringing us together for this important discussion. We must take proactive steps to ensure that all communities – regardless of faith, race, or national origin – feel safe and welcome in their own country.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3): “Donald Trump campaigned for president on themes of bigotry and intolerance, and sadly, his success has emboldened some of the darkest and most reprehensible pockets of our society. Against this backdrop, I could not be more proud to join CAPAC and SAALT for this briefing on hate violence. In my home state of Arizona, the wounds from SB 1070 – a law entirely predicated on illegal racial profiling – still run deep. We know firsthand what Republicans across the country urgently need to learn: politicians who embrace hate don’t just betray their oath of office – they endanger innocent lives.”

Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7): “As a nation, we must come together to stand up to these disturbing acts of hate violence — starting with the President. I am saddened and outraged when I hear about any American being warned not to speak their language or wear traditional clothing in public out of safety concerns. These hateful attacks do not reflect who we are as a nation of immigrants, but such violence could do irreparable damage to our reputation around the world.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6): “Immigrant, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and South Asian American communities continue to be targets of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric. It remains critical for elected officials to speak out early, loudly, and often against hate violence and the policies that fan the flames of violence. I’d like to thank SAALT for its tireless efforts in supporting the South Asian community, and I hope that together, we can reverse the horrible trend of heightened intolerance and violence.”

Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41): “This nation is built on that most powerful and American idea that every person is deserving of dignity and respect. The disturbing rise of hateful rhetorical and violence directed at South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh Americans nationwide threatens the basic premise of our country. Americans of all faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities must come together to ensure we protect the diversity and tolerance that makes us a beacon of hope around the world.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7): “We will continue to be resilient to counter the fearful, hateful people who think they can control us—they cannot. The resolution that Congressman Crowley and I introduced, along with the work of SAALT are steps in the direction of ending this vitriol, but every single person in this country has a stake in ending hate. This falls on all of us, I would encourage the current administration to remember that.”

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8): “The hate-motivated crimes we have witnessed these past months have been an attack on the very spirit of America. As we confront this wave of hate, it is heartening to see so many Americans – from the South Asian community and others – coming together for essential meetings, like this briefing, to speak out and stand up for the values of our country.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17): “I have full confidence that our country will stand together, on a bipartisan basis, against hateful words and actions, and we must prosecute any hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Joins Senator Cardin (D-MD), Leaders For Roundtable To Address “Muslim Bans”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On March 20, 2017, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, joined Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and organizational leaders for a roundtable discussion on the devastating impacts of President Trump’s “Muslim Bans” and the important judicial rulings that have stifled their enactment.

The nation continues to experience a blinding uptick in anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant hate violence, emboldened by the President’s virtually identical “Muslim Bans.” In two months our communities have experienced deadly shootings in Kansas and Washington State, arson and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes nationwide, and the heavy weight of fear and uncertainty experienced by our communities across the country.

Representing SAALT at the roundtable, Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy, noted, “There is an acute relationship between policies and rhetoric that criminalize Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities and the hate violence targeting these communities. While the judiciary doggedly blocks the President’s “Muslim Bans,” the damage continues to be done as each week uncovers a new inventory of victims of racially motivated attacks.”

The violence currently facing the nation is building on the toxic momentum of the 2016 presidential election. SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documents over 200 instances of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric during this historically divisive election cycle, with 95% of incidents animated by anti-Muslim sentiment and 1 out of 5 xenophobic comments emanating from then-candidate Trump.

At the roundtable, Senator Cardin responded to SAALT’s findings and the uptick in hate violence nationwide, stating, “It starts with leadership. President Trump’s comments as a candidate and a President is just the opposite of what you need.”

The President has tried to strategically distance himself from his own campaign rhetoric over recent weeks in hopes of pushing through his “Muslim Ban 2.0,” but last week the Maryland Federal District Court wasn’t convinced. In its ruling U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang noted, “Significantly, the record also includes specific statements directly establishing that Trump intended to effectuate a partial Muslim ban by banning entry by citizens of specific predominantly Muslim countries deemed to be dangerous, as a means to avoid, for political reasons, an action explicitly directed at Muslims.”

2017 has been a banner year for hate. What we’ve learned in these short months is that words matter, words can be deadly, and words properly measured can be the key to justice. SAALT is listening.

CONTACT:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Applauds Blocking of Muslim Ban 2.0, a Stimulus Package for Hate

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, applauds today’s ruling by a federal judge in Hawaii that blocked nationwide implementation of President Trump’s revised executive order set for tomorrow.

“Today’s ruling underscores that no one, not even a President, can green light discrimination and racism,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Despite the administration’s legal gymnastics, the Muslim Ban 2.0 remains a stimulus package for hate that has already fanned the flames of fear, violence, and tragedy in our communities. We call upon the President to rescind this executive order in full and begin the work of healing our divided and wounded country.”

Violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities has skyrocketed across the country in recent weeks, with numerous acts of hate occurring in the wake of the President’s announced Muslim Bans.

This February saw the deadly shooting of two Indian men in Kansas by a gunman screaming “get out of my country,” leaving one of the men dead and two nations in hysteria. Days later in Washington State, a Sikh man was shot in his driveway by a gunman reportedly yelling “go back to your country” before opening fire. Last week a Florida man tried to set fire to a convenience store owned by Indians in order to “run the Arabs out of our country.” In Oregon a man assaulted employees at a Middle Eastern restaurant with a pipe, calling them “terrorists” and screaming “get out of America” during the attack. Meanwhile, white supremacist groups continue to multiply nationwide.

In January SAALT released “Power, Pain, Potential,” a report documenting over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 elections. 95% of the incidents documented were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic rhetoric we tracked.

In response to the ongoing and escalating threats to our communities, SAALT coordinated a vigil on March 10 to honor the victims of hate violence on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Speaking at the event were partner organizations and Members of Congress including Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA), who took this moment to mourn the victims of hate violence and demand more accountability from President Trump. “One of the messages I want to send to people who are out there listening,” noted Congresswoman Jayapal, “is that America is your country, you belong here, and we will stand up to protect your rights.”

Today’s ruling declares that America has a place for and indeed welcomes us all, regardless of statements by xenophobic gunmen and the President. SAALT will continue demanding justice for our communities nationwide until all of our community members and their rights are protected.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT, Partners, Members of Congress Hold Vigil on Hate Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Today in Washington, D.C., South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, along with partner organizations and Members of Congress, held a vigil on the steps of the Capitol to honor the victims of hate violence in South Asian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Arab communities nationwide. The vigil was a collective moment to mourn the injuries and loss of life our communities have suffered and to also demand just laws, policies, and leadership in response to increasing violence against our communities.

“At a time when South Asian, Sikh, Muslim, Hindu, and Arab community members are facing hate violence and harassment on nearly a daily basis, we need real leadership from Washington to stem the tide of injustice,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Waiting nearly a week before commenting on a deadly shooting in Kansas won’t do it. Issuing a second toxic Muslim Ban won’t do it. We need direct action from this administration to forge inclusion, justice, and hope in this quintessential nation of immigrants. SAALT will continue fighting for laws and policies that light a path toward a just and inclusive future for us all.”

In recent weeks three Indian men and one Sikh man, either perceived as Muslim or as a result of anti-immigrant sentiment, were shot, with two of the victims ultimately dying of their injuries. In two of the cases the assailants screamed at their victims to leave the U.S. and go back to their countries before opening fire. The nation has also witnessed spikes in mosque burnings, vandalism, and an increasing wave of intimidation aimed at our communities nationwide.

This recent violence is part of a rising tide of hate targeting our communities. SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 elections, with an astounding 95% of incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Notably President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic political rhetoric we tracked.

The President’s response to the attacks against our communities has been woefully inadequate. His dangerous rhetoric and destructive policies have fanned the flames of violence that we’ve experienced in recent weeks and months. SAALT calls upon the President to reverse course and lead our nation down a path of justice, inclusion and equality for all Americans. This is the moment for our nation to come together, and SAALT will continue to fight until our country has reached that important goal.

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Members of Congress who joined the vigil included Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA), Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY), and Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA).

Partner organizations include: American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), Arab American Institute (AAI), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM), Indiaspora, MPowerChange, National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), National Network For Arab American Communities (NNAAC), Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF), and Sikh Coalition.

Congressman Joe Crowley (D-NY)
“I feel very strongly that there needs to be more love, more acceptance, more tolerance now in the United States than ever before, and I believe also that the violence we’ve seen taken against people who don’t necessarily look like me is something we all need to be concerned about. Whether you’re a South Asian, whether you’re a Muslim, whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Christian, whether you’re Hindu, whether you’re Sikh, whether you’re Buddhist, it matters not. An attack against one is an attack against all of us. The attack in Kansas did send a shiver down my spine, because I know that this is something that unfortunately has developed because of hate rhetoric and hate speech that developed during the campaign and has continued afterwards. President Trump not only has to speak out against this, he has to take action against this as well and put resources out there to ensure the South Asian community in the United States is protected.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)
“This is a very important moment. I have tremendous sympathy and condolences for the families across the country who are dealing with hate crimes and who are literally suffering at home, sometimes in silence, unsure of whether they can go out or not. When we’ve seen spikes in hate crimes, it is incredibly important for Members of Congress, but most importantly for the President, to speak out against this kind of hate violence. But it doesn’t actually mean anything unless the policies follow that rhetoric, and that has been one of things that has been very troubling. One of the messages I want to send to people who are out there listening is that America is your country, you belong here, and we will stand up to protect your rights.”

Congressman Ami Bera (D-CA)
“These disturbing acts of violence not only attack our communities, they are an assault on all Americans. Attacking someone based on where they come from or what they look like insults the very core of everything that we stand for as a nation of immigrants. As a nation, we must stand up to these hateful attacks, which means doubling down on our commitments to safety, equality, and the American values of liberty and justice for all.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA)
“I have a fundamental belief in the goodness and decency of the American people. This is not a partisan issue. I have had Republicans and Democrats approach me on the floor appalled by some of the recent acts of violence. The country must stand together against hateful words and actions, and we must prosecute any hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Rajdeep Singh Jolly, Interim Managing Director of Programs, Sikh Coalition
“As we remember Srinivas Kuchibhotla and all those who have lost their lives and loved ones to hate, we demand that the White House create a federal task force to prevent hate violence. Words are not enough. We need accountability and action.”

Yolanda Rondon, Esq., Staff Attorney, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
“The courage of the Arab American community is unparalleled. Hate attempted to create fear but we discovered our strength. We will not be divided.”

Amrita Bamrah, SALDEF
“Today as we offer our thoughts and prayers to the victims of hate violence, SALDEF stands firm in its belief that the goodness of our communities will prevail over hate, and we reaffirm our commitment to standing up for the rights of all communities in Chardi Kala (everlasting optimism), without fear, and without hate.”

James Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
“Hate crimes are fundamentally different than other threats or acts of violence because they target entire communities, seeking to cause fear and intimidation. I know from personal experience when my office was fire-bombed, or when my life and that of my family and office colleagues was threatened because we were Arab Americans or because we advocated for Palestinian rights. The intent was to silence and intimidate us and to spread fear throughout our community. In this regard, hate crimes are a threat to our very democratic system. Those who incite and create a climate of intolerance towards groups or causes contribute to creating the environment from which haters spring. They are as much a threat as the perpetrators of hate crimes themselves.”

Robert S. McCaw, Director of Government Affairs Department, CAIR
“We are communities that are under attack, our houses of worship are being vandalized and burnt to the ground, our worshipers face death threats for attending their sacred spaces, and many are afraid to go out in the public. We cannot remain silent. We cannot as a country look the other way. This is real. This is happening. This cannot be ignored. We need assurance from our government that this will not continue to occur as it is without any foreseeable end. This is not the new normal. As a nation we cannot allow it to be.”

Contact: Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Statement Condemning Trump’s Muslim Ban 2.0

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, strongly condemns President Trump’s revised and stubbornly racist Executive Order effectively banning Muslims, rejecting refugees, and expanding surveillance on Muslim-American communities under the guise of national security.

“In a twisted dance of trial and error, the President continues his dogged pursuit of a Muslim ban despite national outrage and a unanimous Ninth Circuit decision blocking enforcement of his original Order,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “No matter the legal gymnastics, this latest order is a thinly veiled assault on Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and the founding ideals of equality and freedom in the United States.

Today’s order targets immigration from six Muslim-majority countries deemed terrorism-prone, despite the Ninth Circuit pointing out that the government provided no evidence to justify this claim. The President’s original order curtailed rights, broke up families, denigrated Muslims and immigrant communities, and today’s order threatens to do the same. Carving out exceptions for some immigrants does not make this order any more acceptable.

“I’m here following through on what I pledged to do, that’s all I’m doing” noted President Trump in a recent press conference. This is indeed true. SAALT’s recent report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 elections, with 94% of incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment and President Trump responsible for 21% of the rhetoric we tracked.

Trump’s dangerous combination of rhetoric and policies has fanned the flames of violence, including the deadly February shooting of two Indian men in Kansas and this weekend’s shooting of a Sikh man in Kent, Washington. The assailants in both cases told the victims to leave the US and go back to their countries before opening fire. In the last seven weeks four mosques have been burned, numerous homes have been vandalized, and threats have routinely been made against our communities.

The fear, intimidation, and anxiety carried by millions in our communities everyday are the invisible wounds produced by this administration’s reckless policies that continue with today’s revised Executive Order. SAALT calls upon the President to immediately reverse course and end his campaign against Muslim and immigrant communities. It is time for the White House to set the tone for our nation and turn its back on poisonous rhetoric. It is time for our nation to begin to heal from the violence.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org