SAALT Responds to Tragic Kansas Shooting – This Country is for All of Us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, is deeply disturbed by the deadly shooting of two South Asian men, Alok Madasani and Srinivas Kuchibhotla, in Kansas City that left one victim dead in what appears to be a hate crime.  Our thoughts and condolences go to the victims’ families and communities. Sadly, this latest act of violence comes as no surprise given the anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim vitriol escalating across the country, most notably illustrated in President Trump’s divisive recent executive orders.

“This incident is the latest in a rising tide of hate violence against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communities, electrified by the President’s anti-immigrant policies,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “When our ‘so-called’ leaders attempt to govern from an angle of xenophobia, these sentiments embolden deadly violence against our communities.”

Witnesses reported the shooter yelled “get out of my country” and various racial slurs before opening fire, apparently believing his two victims were ‘Middle Eastern’. SAALT welcomes news that the FBI is investigating whether this incident was racially motivated and we insist that considerations of domestic terrorism are included in the investigation to address the problem of growing white supremacy across the country.

SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against our communities during the 2016 elections, with an astounding 95% of incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Regardless of the target, it is enough simply to be perceived as Muslim to be the victim of violence.

The President has yet to comment or offer his condolences to the victims’ families after this latest tragedy, consistent with his pattern of curious silence in the wake of hate violence incidents against many communities including Muslim, Arab, South Asian, and Jewish Americans. When tragedies charged with anti-immigrant sentiment occur on the heels of anti-immigrant executive orders by the President, we must demand better from our leaders. SAALT calls on the President to immediately denounce hate violence and rescind his recent anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim executive orders. We further encourage legislators at all levels to condemn this unacceptable violence.

Despite the venomous words of the shooter, there is a place in America for all of our communities, and we will fight fiercely for our rightful place within it.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Resolutely Objects to DHS Memos Creating Blueprint for Mass Deportations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, resolutely objects to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) memoranda implementing President Trump’s executive orders on interior and border enforcement. We believe these memos further relegate South Asian and all immigrant communities to second-class citizenship, questioning our very place in the quintessential nation of immigrants.

These policies massively expand and accelerate detentions and deportations, trample upon due process by in many cases removing the requirement for hearings and convictions prior to deportation, deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration enforcement authorities, and increase the profiling and targeting of immigrant communities already under siege in the wake of recent and controversial executive orders released by this administration.

“The scale of the President’s anti-immigrant policies is extreme, and the new administration appears hell-bent on targeting and demonizing immigrant communities through orders that actively undermine safety and public trust in law enforcement,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Short-circuiting due process is not a crackdown on crime, but a crackdown on rights and our very founding values as a nation, and these measures must be opposed by all communities of color.”

The President’s policies deeply affect the South Asian American community, the most rapidly growing demographic group in the United States at over 4.3 million. The undocumented South Asian population has grown significantly in the US in recent decades. India is the country of origin with the greatest increase in unauthorized immigrants to the United States with a 914% increase since 1990. Currently there are 450,000 undocumented Indian-Americans in the US alone, making India the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

As documented in our recent report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” hate violence against our communities has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the backlash immediately after the events of 9/11. At a time when immigrant communities need to feel confident in engaging with local law enforcement to report such incidents, the President’s draconian policies will instead force vulnerable communities to turn inward based upon their fear of profiling and deportation at the hands of the authorities. Overall public safety will likely plunge as a result, as entire communities continue to lose trust in the very law enforcement professionals tasked with keeping them safe. As such, public safety does not increase, but instead cripples under the weight of these short-sighted anti-immigrant policies.

Our communities are at the crosshairs. SAALT will continue to fight for the core rights and protections for our communities at the national, state and local levels with our 55 community partners of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations. We will remain unbowed.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Endorses the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (ERRPA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian American advocacy organization, is proud to endorse the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act 2017 (ERRPA), a critical piece of legislation introduced today by Senator Ben Cardin that provides a comprehensive prohibition on profiling by law enforcement that is woefully missing from existing federal law enforcement policies.

“This has been a banner year for hate and we’re only in February, with successive waves of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies cracking at the notion of equality in our country,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “ERRPA acknowledges the dangerous climate of hate in the United States, the dehumanizing impact profiling has on our communities, and creates mechanisms that seek to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.”

If passed, ERRPA creates a uniform definition of racial profiling, including discriminatory profiling based on religion, ethnicity, or other protected categories, prohibited at all levels. ERRPA mandates training on racial profiling issues, authorizes grants to law enforcement agencies to implement best practices discouraging discriminatory profiling, and requires data collection by these agencies.

ERRPA comes in light of SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documents the disturbing increase in profiling, surveillance, and hate violence aimed at Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities during the 2016 election cycle, with levels rivaling the backlash in the year after 9/11. Issues of mistrust and accountability from law enforcement have plagued communities of color for decades, and particularly since 2001, when Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have been unjustly targeted, profiled, and surveilled by law enforcement. This legislation is now more important than ever, as the Trump administration continues to embolden law enforcement to target and criminalize communities of color through divisive policies such as the Secure Communities program, as well as through destructive executive orders and cabinet appointments.

The trust deficit continues to grow between the public and law enforcement at a time when public confidence in policing is urgently needed. The passage of ERRPA can have a civilizing effect in our divided society by transforming our police from a force to a service and ensuring that all are equal under the law. In a month of wrong turns, this legislation is the course correction our country needs to uphold and protect the rights of all.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Vehemently Opposes Bill Limiting Legal Immigration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian American advocacy organization, vehemently opposes today’s bill introduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) that aims to crackdown on legal immigration. The bill, named the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, would significantly reduce the number of immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas and would cut the number of legal immigrants allowed in the United States by 40% in the first year and by 50% over a decade.

“This bill is clearly part of an undisguised and coordinated attack on immigrant communities,” stated Lakshmi Sridaran, Director National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT. “The draconian use of legislation and Executive Orders to criminalize and marginalize immigrant communities reveals the inherent xenophobia of this new administration.”

Numbering over 4.3 million, South Asians are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, with the majority our communities foreign born. Senator Cotton’s bill will make reuniting families a draining if not impossible task for South Asian immigrants who already struggle under a woefully outdated immigration system that makes family reunification a burdensome task.

We implore Congress to support and not hinder immigration, to welcome refugees, to not cripple sanctuary cities, and to adopt an accurate and long view of our country’s history that sees immigrants as a fundamental aspect of American life.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi
vivek@saalt.org

Help us Fight Back Against the “Muslim Ban”

Dear Friend,

Last week’s Executive Orders were an affront to the ideals of equality and justice upon which our nation was founded. Building walls, banning Muslims, and crippling sanctuary cities are just a few of the devastating impacts of President Trump’s policies targeting our communities.

In response, we’ve seen an inspiring public pushback against these policies nationwide. It’s clear that the new administration feels the resistance. To keep the momentum going, below is a menu of actions you can take to demand justice for our communities across the country.

Take Action:

  • Use the link here to find your Member of Congress. Check here to see which Senators and Governors have taken a public stance against the Executive Orders and find a sample script on the “template for responses” tab of the document. Thank the Members of Congress who have publicly opposed the Orders and demand that those who remain silent or in support speak up in opposition!
  • Earlier this week Senator Feinstein submitted a bill to reverse the ‘Muslim ban’. While it didn’t advance, it will be introduced again and needs more support. Call this number to ask your Senators to pass this bill to reverse the ban: 1-855-976-1858.
  • Attend the National South Asian Summit on April 21-24 in Washington D.C., where SAALT will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of this important gathering of South Asian American organizations, activists, and individuals coming together to claim our power through collective action. To learn more and for information on registration, click here.

Educate Yourself:

  • Get familiar with the impact of the Executive Orders on our communities. Read and share these resources with your family and friends:
    • Read SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential” to learn about the disturbing levels of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeted at our communities during the 2016 presidential elections.
    • Take a look at these important general resources to find out what you can do to help today.
    • Go through this toolkit prepared by American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee to understand the Executive Orders, Jan 27, 2017.
    • Read through this fact sheet on the Executive Orders prepared by the Penn State Law Center for Immigrants’ Rights Clinic and Muslim Advocates, Jan. 27, 2017.

Demonstrate:

  • Join the numerous direct actions occurring all over the country. Here is a list of airport actions around the country that occurred this weekend or coming up soon.
  • Organize rallies and actions in support of local mosques on February 3, 2017. MPower Change can support your ideas for action.
  • Connect to members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations in your state if you want to volunteer or join a rally.

Provide and Find Help:

  • If you experience or witness an act of hate violence or xenophobic political rhetoric, help SAALT track these incidents on our online database here.
  • If you’re a lawyer and can donate your time and skills or know someone who needs assistance, consider organizations assisting immigrants and refugees, such as The International Refugee Assistance Project or the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Stay informed:

  • Check out SAALT’s webpage and social media for the latest.

These small actions collectively can create large-scale change for our communities and country. SAALT stands ready as a resource and support for all. Contact us at info@saalt.org.

In partnership and with determination,
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Our nation is better than this.

Dear Friend,

Last week I spoke out against the President’s divisive and un-American Executive Orders that built walls, banned Muslims, rejected refugees, deprived sanctuaries, and expanded surveillance on Muslim-American communities across the country, all the while failing to make us safer or greater. I wrote in response, “we must be better than this.”

The tens of thousands of people who took to the airports and airwaves, to the city streets and social media, to the courtrooms and Capitol Hill in protest of these orders confirmed: we are better than this.

As a result, President Trump’s xenophobic agenda has met resistance.

This morning I spoke at a press conference in Washington D.C. with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus in opposition to the President’s Executive Orders. Part of my remarks focused on SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documented over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeted at our communities during the 2016 elections. I also stated that “These Executive Orders sow fear in communities of color and make us all less safe. The current national message resounds with exclusion and racism.”

As South Asian Americans, we’ve been here before. In those dark days and months following 9/11, our communities were targeted, attacked, and legislated against at unprecedented levels. We cannot let history repeat itself. Never again.

As SAALT continues to demand equality, justice, and full inclusion for all Americans, and as we push back against the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-American agenda of the Trump administration, we ask you to please stand with us.

As we continue tracking hate and working with our partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations to demand our rights, we ask you to please stand with us.

As we host the 10-year anniversary of the National South Asian Summit in Washington D.C. this April, where hundreds of organizations and activists will come together to build skills, connect with policymakers, and strategize on how to claim our power through collective action, we ask you to please stand with us.

As our country continues to change shape and many of you fear that the worst is yet to come, we ask you to please stand with us. We promise you, our best is also yet to come. Support SAALT today.

In strength and partnership,

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director, SAALT

SAALT Staunchly Opposes President Trump’s Separate and Unequal Policies Toward Muslims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 28, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, staunchly opposes the latest Executive Order in the litany of divisive, un-American measures issued by President Trump this week. Today’s announcement effectively bans Muslims, rejects refugees, and expands surveillance on Muslim-American communities, creating separate and wholly unequal standards of law and justice for millions of Americans.

“The ethos and impact of these Orders contradict America’s founding values and take us further away from our bedrock commitment to freedom and civil liberties for all,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Today’s announcement will criminalize people of color based on their religion and national origin, and reinforces a climate of suspicion and increasing violence aimed at Muslim communities living in the U.S. Our nation is better than this.”

Today’s Executive Orders block refugees entering the U.S. from war-torn Syria indefinitely; suspends refugee admissions from other countries for 120 days; vaguely suspends visa issuance to countries of “particular concern;” bans immigrant and non-immigrant entry of individuals from several Muslim-majority countries; and creates an entry-exit tracking system for all visitors to the United States in addition to requiring in-person interviews for all nonimmigrant visa applicants.

A majority of American voters do not support the measures announced today: in fact, 52% of Americans oppose a ban on immigrants and travelers who are Muslim. President Trump’s decision to transform his divisive and irresponsible campaign rhetoric into policy expressly targets millions of our community members nationwide, and explicitly runs counter to the will of the electorate. The most recent policies will only serve to further divide us as a nation at the very moment when we must all come together as the resounding national message rings of exclusion and racism.

The entry-exit policy in particular has a troubling precedent that devastated South Asian American, Muslim, and Arab communities for much of the last 15 years, and was just dismantled at the end of 2016. Under the guise of “national security,” the 2002 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) forced immigrants from Muslim-majority countries to register at local immigration offices for lengthy interrogations. Over 83,000 individuals registered; over 13,000 were placed into deportation proceedings, resulting in zero terrorism-related convictions. President Trump’s order reopens this wound at a time when our communities are increasingly under attack nationwide.

Just this month, SAALT released “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities during the 2016 election cycle. An astounding 95% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic political statements we documented. Just one week into his administration, the President’s rhetoric is now being implemented via destructive policies. It is clear that this administration’s rhetoric and policies serve only to criminalize and dehumanize large segments of our country, and will continue to embolden neighbors to target neighbors, Americans to target Americans-all for the narrow end of “making America great again.”

As Black, Brown, indigenous, immigrant, and Asian American communities who have survived systemic racism, internment, and genocide, we will stand strong as a united front against any policies rooted in discrimination and divisiveness. Working with our partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, we will forge a future driven by the fundamental value that all people must be treated equally under the law. We must be better than this.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi
vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Condemns President Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Executive Orders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 25, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, is outraged at the latest Executive Orders issued by President Trump. Today’s announcement on immigration effectively shuts down our borders, threatens state and local policies that protect and welcome immigrants, and puts immigrant communities in the crosshairs of policies that tear apart families under the pretext of “making American great.”

“Today’s Executive Orders push the nation further away from core American values of equality and freedom, sow fear in communities of color that already face increasing violence, hostility and attacks, and make us and the country less safe – all under the guise of national security,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Walling off the country will not make us safer. We expect this will be the first in a series of attacks against the freedom of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.”

South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the country, numbering over 4.3 million, with large growth in the undocumented South Asian population in recent years, including 450,000 Indian-Americans alone. India is currently the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We also know there are significant undocumented immigrants originally from other South Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Indo-Caribbean diaspora.

Today’s announcement puts South Asian communities under further scrutiny and attack in the United States, particularly through the alarming revival of the “Secure Communities” program, which deputizes local authorities as immigration agents – a function numerous police chiefs have already spoken out against. The program, previously abandoned due to concerns that it led to racial profiling and other abuse by law enforcement, authorizes local police to check the immigration status of every individual arrested and to enforce immigration laws against the very communities they are sworn to protect. This policy sends a clear message to immigrants that any contact with the police can lead to deportation, and only serves to spur fear in immigrant communities.

Today’s Executive Orders also strip federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to arrest or detain undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Many of these places of refuge are located in California, New York, and Chicago: areas with massive South Asian American populations as well as immigrant communities writ large. The result deprives localities of critical funding necessary to meet the needs of their residents. This crucial federal funding (from taxpayer dollars) is instead being funneled to hire more border patrol agents to criminalize rather than protect immigrant and border communities, all the while fueling an increasingly privatized immigration detention system.

SAALT recently released “Power, Pain, Potential,” the first comprehensive report documenting hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities during the 2016 election cycle. We found skyrocketing violence against our communities nationwide reaching levels only seen in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. President Elect Trump was responsible for over one in five, or 21%, of the xenophobic political rhetoric we tracked.

Due to today’s Executive Orders, our communities – already experiencing the full force of a rising tide of hate violence and the proliferation of white supremacist movements nationwide – will have less recourse for protection from police, diminished options to report incidents aimed at their families, and fewer places to find safety and security. In the face of these devastating policies, SAALT and our partners nationwide will instead draw strength, unity, and resilience from each other, and work closely with our communities to ensure that we have an equal place in the U.S. and that our voices ring clear as we fight for equality, protection, and dignity for all.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi
vivek@saalt.org

Ahead of Inauguration, SAALT’s New Report Exposes Alarming Hate Violence and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric During Elections

power-pain-potential-cover-image

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

On January 11, 2017, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a leading national South Asian American advocacy organization, released “Power, Pain, Potential,” the first comprehensive report documenting hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 election cycle.  This report examines the dramatic demographic growth of South Asians across the United States, particularly in the South, and reveals how increases in population are met with increases in intolerance during the most divisive Presidential election in modern American history.

“The unprecedented violence we saw following the September 11 attacks has returned, electrified by a hostile 2016 presidential election,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “With over 4.3 million South Asians in the US, policymakers must make it a first priority to address and dismantle the paradox of our communities living at the intersection of growth and hate.”

From November 15, 2015 to November 15, 2016 (between the Paris attacks and the week after the Presidential elections), SAALT documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at our communities in an online public database, a 34% increase in less than a third of the time covered in our 2011-2014 report, “Under Suspicion, Under Attack.”

This disturbing data breaks down to 140 incidents of hate violence and 67 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric during the 2016 election cycle.  An astounding 95% of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  SAALT’s findings are consistent with the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes statistics, which revealed a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims from the previous year. Notably, President-elect Trump was responsible for one in five (21%) xenophobic political statements SAALT documented.

Against the backdrop of this hostility and the resurgence of white supremacist organizations nationwide, South Asian Americans are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the nation.  The largest population growth occurred in the South, where 30% of South Asians currently reside: an increase from half a million to one million since 2000.  Thirty percent of the hate violence incidents we catalogued occurred in the South.

This report also offers policymakers crucial and comprehensive recommendations to address hate crimes underreporting, improve relations between our communities and law enforcement, dismantle policies that promote racial profiling and surveillance, and shift immigration policies to respect and meet our communities’ needs.  The new administration must make these recommendations a first priority in order to heal our deeply divided country.  Anything less will make the transition of power on January 20 simply a transition of pain for our communities.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi; vivek@saalt.org for more information.