Standing with the Victims and their Families in Sri Lanka

April 22, 2019

At least 290 people in Sri Lanka were killed and more than 500 injured from the horrific attacks on Easter Sunday in St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, Zion Church in Batticaloa, and three hotels in the capital city of Colombo: the Shangri-La, the Cinnamon Grand and the Kingsbury.

Our hearts are aching for the victims and their families. We are standing with them in this time of immense tragedy and with all of our Sri Lankan community members here in the U.S.

Murder is wrong. Targeting people because of how they choose to worship is wrong.  This is true whether it be churches in Sri Lanka, mosques in New Zealand, or a synagogue in Pittsburgh.  

The Sri Lankan government has said that National Thowheed Jamath is responsible for the murders. As the investigation ensues, it is critical that Muslims are not criminalized in the process.

No one should lose their life or loved ones from acts of hate. We must stand strong and united against hate in all its forms.

Resources/Vigils:

The Sri Lankan Catholic Community of New York is hosting a Memorial tonight:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/140746092612505/

The Franklin Township interfaith council is hosting an interfaith vigil:

https://www.tapinto.net/towns/franklin-township/articles/franklin-township-vigil-to-condemn-terrorist-attack-and-promote-unity-set-for-tonight-28ac4bdf-c663-4907-8de2-c1a4587eaf19

 

Men who Sustained 80-day Hunger Strike Released from El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 17, 2019

Jasvir Singh and Rajandeep Singh were released from the Otero County Processing Center last week almost three months after initial reports that they were among nine Sikh men on hunger strike whom ICE agents were force feeding in the El Paso Service Processing Center.

El Paso and Las Cruces based community groups and national advocacy organizations launched a coordinated campaign to demand ICE cease force feeding and release the men.   

ICE released both men on bond after consistent pressure from local Rep. Veronica Escobar’s office and local and national advocates, and days after a Congressional Delegation from the House Committee on Homeland Security visited and toured facilities in El Paso where they examined immigration policies and operations along our southern border.

Three of the men who had originally been among the nine on hunger strike remain in detention. While on hunger strike at EPSPC they reported regular physical, verbal, and psychological abuse at the hands of facility guards.

Jasvir and Rajandeep sustained a hunger strike for nearly 80 days to protest their conditions and treatment in detention. They had been held in the EPSPC since November 2018.  Initially they were part of a group of 13 men in the EPSPC, ten from India and three from Cuba, who began hunger striking at the end of December.

Four of the men taking part in the hunger strike were deported and returned to India in early March. A fifth man who agreed to stop his hunger strike in January in return for much needed surgery, was also deported.

Quotes:

Jennifer Apodaca of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee who led advocacy efforts in El Paso said, “ICE always had the discretion to release people but refused to use it. It shouldn’t have taken an angry congressional delegation to secure their release. Instead, they continue to ignore the complaints of abuse and torture and turn a blind eye at the conditions of detention and prison spaces that house more than 52,000 people as they await their fate in our broken and biased immigration courts. All of this could have been avoided. It is time to abolish the detention and deportation machine.

Nathan Craig from Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) visited the hunger strikers regularly in the El Paso facility. He said, “From their initial asylum requests, to their treatment while hunger striking, to their various hearings, all of these men experienced substantial discrimination based on the language they speak and the way they dress. Unfounded value judgements by and prejudices from U.S. government officials and contractors resulted in significant negative consequences for these men’s asylum claims. Inadequate, or complete lack of, interpretation was a chronic problem.  All of the men told me about how they were subjected to frequent racial and ethnic slurs while detained. Sadly, more than the facts of their cases, these men’s asylum claims have been structured by prejudice on the part of immigration officials and their contractors. This must change. Wrongdoing at all stages of the process must be investigated. Justice must be brought for those men still in the US, and those men already deported must be afforded the opportunity to return to the US to pursue justice for what is widely recognized as torturous treatment in detention.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national advocacy organization for South Asians that led national advocacy efforts said,  “We are relieved that Jasvir and Rajandeep have finally been released, but it should not have taken this long. And, we remain deeply concerned for the three men who remain in detention – we fear they could be deported back to India and into the dangerous conditions they fled. We also know there are thousands more people housed in detention facilities across the country, suffering from the same litany of abuse and due process violations that our government refuses to acknowledge and address. It is clear that our nation’s entire understanding of detention must be overhauled. As a start, we need Congress to pass legislation that will hold facilities accountable with penalties and even the threat of shutting down for their repeated patterns of noncompliance.”

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

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Statement of Concern Regarding April 9 Congressional Hearing on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism

April 8, 2019

Dear Chairman Nadler and Ranking Member Collins,

We write to share our concerns with you and members of the House Judiciary Committee regarding the April 9 hearing on Hate Crimes and The Rise of White Nationalism. We believe these are urgent issues and that Congress should be paying close attention, especially in light of the rise of hate crimes in the United States and the role that domestic white nationalist groups have here at home, and on a global scale.

On Tuesday, April 9, Congress is holding a hearing on hate violence and white nationalism.  According to the announcement, the House Judiciary Committee plans to “examine hate crimes, the impact white nationalist groups have on American communities and the spread of white identity ideology.” We believe these are urgent issues and that Congress should be paying close attention, especially in light of the rise of hate crimes in the United States and the role that domestic white nationalist groups have here at home, and on a global scale.

As organizations working with Muslim, South Asian, Sikh, and Arab communities, we are deeply aware of how hate violence has become a pervasive issue affecting our communities and other marginalized communities. We are heartened to know that the witness list for Tuesday’s hearing includes Dr. Abu Salha whose two Muslim daughters and son-in-law were murdered in a brutal hate crime in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 2015.

However, Tuesday’s hearing fails to comprehensively address the scope and magnitude of hate violence that disproportionately impacts Black, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab American communities. Nor does the hearing utilize an opportunity  to unearth the complex motivations behind white nationalism or its effects, including hate violence. Apart from Dr. Abu Salha, it is not survivor-centered, and the GOP witness list includes several individuals whose actions and institutions have helped catalyze hate crimes, not abate them. For example, the witness list includes Candace Owens, Director of Communications at Turning Point USA, who tweeted “LOL” after the Christchurch massacre and who was listed as an inspiration in the manifesto released by the white supremacist who is responsible for the massacre of at least 50 Muslims in New Zealand. The list also includes Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America who used the slur “filthy Arabs” just last year. It is important that white nationalism and white supremacy are not treated as redeemable ideologies.

It is unfathomable as to why witnesses who espouse hateful positions and represent racist institutions would be included given their active discrimination  against Muslims and Arabs. Additionally, the hearing does not  thoroughly examine  the various and dominant strands of white nationalism, including zionism; the connection between political rhetoric, state policies, and the rise in hate crimes; nor does it include survivors who experienced hate violence since the 2016 election; or government officials who should be held accountable for how federal agencies and law enforcement entities are actively addressing white nationalism and hate violence.

We demand that Congress hold substantive hearings that center survivors and that unequivocally reject white nationalism, white supremacy, Islamophobia, racism, and hate violence in all its forms. Similar Congressional hearings have fallen short of examining the depth of white supremacist hate violence and our communities continue to pay the price. The 2017 FBI hate crimes statistics revealed an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row, a 17% increase from the prior year. This is an alarming upward trend in hate crimes – now consistently surpassing the spike immediately after September 11, 2001. Survivors of hate violence and bigotry deserve honest inquiries and true justice from their elected officials. Congress must hold subsequent hearings that comprehensively confront and address the proliferation of white supremacist and white nationalist hate violence.

Signed,

American – Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

Arab American Association of New York (AAANY)

Arab American Bar Association

Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)

Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (API DVRP)

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving

HEART Women & Girls

Justice For Muslims Collective

Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative

Muslim Social Justice Initiative

National Network for Arab American Communities (NNAAC)

National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

Project South

Sikh Coalition

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

South Asian Workers’ Center Boston

The Partnership For The Advancement of New Americans (PANA)

United We Dream

PRESS RELEASE: SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing “Detention, Hunger Strikes, Deported to Death”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAESE

April 2, 2019

On April 2, SAALT and immigrant justice partners UndocuBlack Network, Detention Watch Network, United We Dream, Freedom for Immigrants, Sikh Coalition, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) hosted a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill to draw immediate attention to the rise in South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape violence, persecution, and repression alongside migrants from African, Southeast Asian, Central American, and Latin American countries.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT opened the briefing saying, “We are all here today to say loud and clear that immigration is a Black issue, immigration is a LatinX issue, immigration is a South Asian issue, immigration is an LGBTQ issue. It is the practice of solidarity and local organizing that we hope to uplift today for Capitol Hill to see, to understand immigrant detention, and to address the litany of violations and abuses faced by detained individuals.”

A panel of expert community leaders and advocates including Jennifer Apodaca, of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee in El Paso; Ruby Kaur, an attorney for two of the #ElPaso9; Deep Singh, Executive Director of Jakara Movement; Patrice Lawrence, National Policy Director of UndocuBlack Network; Carlos Hidalgo, Immigration Rights Activist and member of Freedom for Immigrants leadership council; and Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream highlighted a series of abuses and civil rights violations documented in detention facilities from Adelanto, CA to El Paso, TX. They cited cases of medical neglect, inadequate language access, denial of religious accommodations, retaliation for hunger strikes, and the practice of solitary confinement. Advocates urged Members of Congress and their staff to take immediate action through specific legislation, oversight, and appropriations recommendations.

Quotes from Members of Congress:

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27): “I want to commend SAALT for putting together today’s briefing to highlight the diverse communities impacted by the xenophobic policies of the Trump Administration and our broken immigration and detention system. Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in the number of individuals seeking asylum from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal who have suffered from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own federal government. This is unacceptable. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight of these facilities.”

Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus: “The separation of immigrant families is a violation of human rights. This outrageous policy along with the Trump Administration’s attempt to deport individuals living in the United States, many of whom now know the U.S. as their home, must be addressed immediately. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Tri-Caucus on a permanent solution and a path to citizenship for many of the families impacted by these policies.”

Rep Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) said: “Far too often, I hear from Americans who are horrified by the Trump administration’s treatment of people seeking safety at our border. I am grateful to South Asian Americans Leading Together and others for bringing continued attention to the Trump Administration’s terrible detention and enforcement policies. I saw firsthand how these policies are hurting people when I visited detainees at a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. We must do everything we can to protect the human rights of every individual. When I learned about the hunger strikes in El Paso, I joined Rep. Escobar in calling for an investigation of the conditions at ICE detention facilities. My colleagues and I will continue pushing for strong oversight that holds this administration accountable for its appalling treatment of those seeking refuge and asylum.”

Representative Grace Meng (NY-6): “I want to thank SAALT for its leadership in standing up for the South Asian community, and I thank all the partner organizations that are fighting tirelessly for those who have been unjustly abused in detention facilities throughout the United States. The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants but President Trump’s policies and rhetoric toward those who came to our country in search of a better life has been cruel and un-American. He has made the targeting of immigrants a central part of his administration while persistently lobbing bigoted, verbal attacks at immigrant communities. From separating families to feeding only pork sandwiches to a Muslim detainee, the administration’s actions have been abhorrent. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by what has been taking place over the past two years. As a Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I will continue to hold President Trump and his administration accountable for the immigration policies that they have implemented. My priority is to end these inhumane immigration enforcement practices, and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Representative Mark Takano (CA-41): “I’m grateful for this strong coalition of immigrant rights groups working together to shed light on the injustices and cruelty immigrants are facing under this Administration. I share with them extreme concern about how immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being treated at the hands of our government. Congress must continue to exert its oversight powers to hold the Trump Administration accountable and bring humanity back to our immigration system.”

Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16): “For the past two years, our country has witnessed an unprecedented attack against our immigrant community. From separating families to force-feeding detainees, the Trump administration has constantly implemented policies that violate our laws and American values. That is why, now more than ever, we need to raise our voices and share the stories of those impacted by cruelty in order to hold the administration accountable and ensure this pattern of abuse comes to an end.”

For a recorded stream of the Briefing, please click here.

In Collaboration with:

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) | Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) | Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) | Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus | Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) | Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) |Representative Gil Cisneros (CA-39) | Representative Judy Chu (CA-27)| Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16) | Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) | Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) | Representative Grace Meng (NY-6) | Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) | Representative Mark Pocan (WI-2) | Representative Mark Takano (CA-41)

Honorary Co-hosts:

Senator Ben Cardin (MD) | Senator Kamala Harris (CA) | Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)

Contact: sophia@saalt.org