Statement on New Zealand attack: Standing with our communities.

March 15, 2019

We all woke up today to the horrifying news out of New Zealand. We are shaken.

Our hearts are broken.

We are mourning and standing with the victims and families impacted by this act of mass violence, and all our Muslim brothers and sisters worldwide. We offer our love, support, and solidarity.

White supremacy, xenophobia, and Islamophobia fueled the shooter’s attack, which killed 49 people in two mosques during Friday prayers in Christchurch.

As many of our community members in the US go to Friday prayers in their local mosques today, we encourage everyone to seek the support they need. We’ve included a list of mental health resources and community actions below.

Islamophobia and white supremacy are a global phenomenon. We know that Islamophobia and its ripple effects in the US are real and continue to deeply affect our communities’ safety and sense of belonging in the US. More than one in four hate violence incidents we documented in our Communities on Fire report were fueled by anti-Muslim sentiment.

We also know the power of the political bully pulpit is real, and has a real impact. Of the hate violence incidents we documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration’s policies, or his campaign slogans as they violently attacked our community members. We remain ever committed to fighting Islamophobia and white supremacy.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, said, “Houses of worship should be places of refuge and peace, not scenes of a massacre. We are standing with Muslim communities everywhere as the world mourns and we seek to keep our communities safe. As hard as it is not to cave into fear at times like these, we have no choice but to keep fighting against Islamophobia in all its forms.”

 

Mental health support from the Muslim Wellness Foundation

NYC vigil

Tragic Events toolkit from the Family and Youth Institute

Fundraiser to support the families of the victims

Immigration Advocates Warn of Physical and Mental Harm to Hunger Strikers in El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 15, 2019

EL PASO, TX — Immigration advocates and medical experts are deeply concerned over the ongoing hunger strike at the El Paso Service Processing Center and the dire situation facing people held in indefinite detention, especially as their health deteriorates.

The “El Paso 9” have been subjected to brutal force-feedings, mistreatment and retaliatory actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private contractors following their hunger strike, which began in late December 2018. At least two of the “El Paso 9” have entered the 11th week of their hunger strike.  

Of the group of men who were on hunger strike or supporting the hunger strike, two have been deported, three have been transferred to the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, and four remain detained at the El Paso Processing Center, two of whom are still on hunger strike and are in medical isolation.

Nathan Craig, a volunteer with Advocate Visitors in Detention, who recently visited one of the hunger strikers in El Paso, said, “At this point, having not eaten since December, he can barely walk and hold up his head. In his frail state, thinking and talking are slow and laborious. He must be afforded the opportunity to recuperate outside of detention so that he can prepare for his merits hearing and cross-examination.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has long argued that force-feeding against an individual’s wishes is unethical and inhumane, says precautions must be taken to ensure those on hunger strike receive adequate medical attention and accommodations. PHR also recommends that Congress fund alternatives to detention programming that represent a long-term solution to prevent human rights violations documented in immigration detention. Below is an official statement by Physicians for Human Rights:

Hunger striking is a nonviolent form of protest undertaken when other means of expressing grievances are unavailable, and hunger strikers must be protected from any and all reprisals. Physicians for Human Rights calls for all precautions to be taken to ensure that hunger strikers receive needed medical attention, and that accommodations be made to ensure appropriate transport so that they are not injured. Not eating may result in lightheadedness, so wheelchairs should be provided as needed.

“Extensive medical research shows that immigration detention is harmful and strongly correlated with negative mental health outcomes, while prolonged or indefinite detention violates the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

“The U.S. immigration detention system has repeatedly demonstrated a dangerous lack of accountability and transparency, and the recent hunger strikes are just one more example illustrating this dire situation. As a long-term solution, PHR strongly recommends the use of alternatives to detention that are humane and cost-effective and that have been proven to ensure compliance with immigration enforcement.

In a separate comment, Altaf Saadi, MD, a neurologist at UCLA and a member of Physicians for Human Rights’ Asylum Network, said,

Prolonged detention causes significant medical harm to individuals due to both denial and delays in medical care, inadequate staffing, punitive approaches to mental health needs like the misuse of isolation, and harmful conditions of confinement more broadly like poor and overcrowded living conditions. The human toll of detention is compounded for those already vulnerable and suffering from trauma based on persecution they have endured in their home countries. We don’t want more patients joining the list of those whose deaths have been linked to substandard care in detention, nor do we want to see the lasting impacts of detention-related psychological harm.”

ICE has threatened the hunger-striking men with deportation despite the deterioration of their health.

Immigration and civil rights groups are demanding the immediate release of the men and for them to be able to address their asylum cases outside of detention, as they should have been able to do from the beginning.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said, “These asylum seekers, like so many before them, resorted to a hunger strike to draw attention to the litany of abuses they face at the hands of ICE on top of the indefinite delays in adjudicating their asylum cases.  We demand the immediate release of all of the detained individuals so they can be cared for by their community. And, we demand an immediate investigation into the civil rights violations, retaliation, and medical negligence at the El Paso Processing Center, a facility that SAALT and our partners have been monitoring and lodging complaints about over the last five years. We know the treatment of detained individuals in El Paso is a microcosm of conditions across detention facilities in this country.”

Media contact: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org, 202-997-4211

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Freedom for Immigrants 

Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID), in the Chihuahuan Desert

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Defending Rights & Dissent

National Immigration Project of the NLG

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee

Ruby Kaur –Kaur Law Pllc

La Resistencia

 

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Washington, D.C.: Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over 2 million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMERs and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, states:

We welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act, sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.

Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with NAKASEC, states:

We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”

 

ICE Deports Two Hunger Strikers Detained in El Paso

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2019
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

El Paso, TX: Two of the #ElPaso9 hunger strikers were deported on Thursday, February 28th from the El Paso, TX Processing Center (EPPC). The two deported were among the Sikh men seeking asylum who have been on hunger strike, some for over 60 days.

Amrit Singh, the uncle of two of the men who remain detained in El Paso, was notified of the deportation early Thursday.

Immigrant and civil rights groups are deeply disturbed by this development. In early February, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX), who represents the Congressional District where the El Paso Processing Center is located, requested independent psychological and medical assessments of the men after the doctor in the El Paso facility cleared the men on hunger strike for their deportation travel. ICE has neither acknowledged nor fulfilled the request. 

Nathan Craig of Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) visited the El Paso Facility last Sunday and reported signs of rapidly deteriorating health among the detained asylum seekers. He said,“Some of the men were receiving glucose by IV. One of the men reported to us that IVs are inserted if their health condition deteriorates to the point that medical tests indicate that a large amount of proteins are spilled in their urine.”

The “El Paso 9” have been subject to intermittent and involuntary force-feeding and solitary confinement since January. The men were on hunger strike to protest the ongoing delay in hearing their cases and verbal and physical abuse by the guards. Some of the men are still on hunger strike.

On February 8th, 27 immigrant and civil rights groups sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen demanding the immediate release of the nine men on hunger strike and for an investigation into the facility. DHS has not responded to the letter. Advocates across the country have been calling the El Paso ICE field office all month to stop the deportations of the #ElPaso9, but it appears their phone lines have been either rerouted or disconnected.

Lakshmi Sridaran of SAALT said, We are outraged by this development. The men who were deported yesterday were in no physical condition to travel – much less to a country where their lives are already endangered. The inhumane treatment of individuals in detention facilities across the U.S. is unconscionable. The remaining individuals in the El Paso facility must be released immediately and given adequate medical attention.”

Jennifer Apodaca of Detained Migrant Solidarity Network said,Deportation continues to be used as a final and cruel form of retaliation by ICE to target individuals who have witnessed and speak out against abusive treatment and violation of civil rights. ICE continues its practice of evading accountability by deporting individuals to ensure that those with critical information are gone, essentially erasing evidence. We demand that all deportations be halted immediately until the full set of information is made public.


Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert works to end the isolation of immigration detention. Our volunteers are from Las Cruces, El Paso, and surrounding communities. We visit and write to migrants who are detained in El Paso, Otero, and West Texas. avid.chihuahuan.org
Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) is a community group based in El Paso, TX, that fights to free the border from the criminalization and mass incarceration of migrants. We aim to reach this goal through support services, organizing, and actions that promote more humane public policy and respect for migrants and other marginalized communities.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.
Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) is a national civil liberty organization that strengthens our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression and working to make the promise of the Bill of Rights a reality for everyone.
Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) organizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants, workers, and youth in NYC for educational, immigrant, racial, worker, and gender justice.

AAPIs say, “Immigrants and Refugees Deserve Better than a Harmful Bill and a Fake National Emergency”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, February 15, 2019

Washington, DC – The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) are gravely concerned by the steps taken last night by the United States Congress and the president.

First, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrant families are deeply disappointed with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 in both the House and Senate yesterday.

We understand the immense pressure that negotiators were under to prevent another government shutdown. We similarly need to keep our government operating. Nevertheless, our organizations are alarmed at the inclusion of $1.375 billion for a physical barrier (a total of 55 miles), an 11% increase in funding for 45,274 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds, and more enforcement agents. AAPI communities have made clear that any bill including any of these measures is unacceptable. A full list of measures that AAPI communities will not stand for can be found in this letter to congressional leaders.

Both the border wall and the presence of ICE are sources of terror for all immigrant communities. The wall is a symbol of hate for any immigrant living within and outside of the United States, and it directs billions of taxpayer dollars to separating families. Furthermore, the bill does not place a limit on the number of ICE detention beds nor does it restrict the authority of the Department of Homeland Security from transferring or reprogramming funding internally, which enables ICE to continue expanding immigrant incarceration and deportation at will.

Second, President Trump intends to declare a “national emergency” at the border in order to justify the need for his border wall. Make no mistake, there is no national emergency happening at the border. Rather, there is a humanitarian crisis happening at the border, and it is a crisis that President Trump and his Administration caused in its entirety. The president’s intention to declare a “national emergency” is a unilateral rebuke of our democratic process driven by an irrational desire to fund an anti-immigrant unnecessary, and unpopular border wall after Congress would not approve the $5.7 billion the president initially demanded. Two-thirds of Americans do not support a national emergency.

Suman Raghunathan, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), said:

“In just the last 10 days we’ve been hearing firsthand about the cruel treatment towards nine South Asian men currently on hunger strike in a detention facility in El Paso. Despite their asylum requests, they’ve been subject to violent force-feeding, solitary confinement, and constant threats of deportation.  What’s particularly devastating is that we’ve seen similar treatment occur previously in this same facility and we have received accounts of abuse of detainees in several facilities across the country. This bill does nothing to address the systemic issues with our detention system, and only serves to perpetuate abusive situations like the ones we are witnessing now.”

Jonathan Paik, director of the Korean Resource Center, a NAKASEC affiliate, stated: “This is a reckless move and endangers the future of our country. Our democracy is in incredible danger- this is the true national emergency. We call on all our fellow Americans to resist these abuses of power and reclaim our democracy!”

Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC, expressed:

“The Southeast Asian American refugee community has been devastated by the expansion of our detention and deportation system, and our families continue to be torn apart at unprecedented rates. Our organizations understand that this is a difficult position for our policymakers to be in, and none of them should be forced to make this choice. But our communities elected our policymakers to represent our interests, and Asian Americans have declared in no uncertain terms that we oppose the passage of this bill and the president’s unconstitutional and falsely justified national emergency. We remain vigilant and committed to working with our Congressional partners to protect the rights of our refugees and immigrants.”

 

Contact: Sophia Qureshi | sophia@saalt.org | 202-997-4211

Letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Demanding Release of Hunger Strikers in El Paso ICE Facility

February 8, 2019

Ms. Kirstjen M. Nielsen Secretary of Homeland Security Washington, D.C. 20528

Secretary Nielsen,

We write to express our deep and urgent concern about the treatment of Indian-Punjabi Sikh and Cuban asylum seekers detained at the El Paso Processing Center in Texas, in particular 11 of who have been on hunger strike since late December, 2018. Through nasal tubes and IV, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials are force-feeding nine Punjabi detained asylum seekers; six of these nine individuals have been force-fed since January. It is imperative that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) immediately release the individuals engaged in these hunger strikes to ensure their well-being, safety, and protection of their due process rights.

Just today, our organizations learned of disturbing retaliation against the strikers. An attorney representing two of the detained hunger strikers reported that ICE officials threw nine of the hunger strikers into solitary confinement for refusing to be force-fed while standing up. This follows reports on Wednesday, February 6, that ICE officials threatened four of the hunger strikers with imminent deportation, allegedly scheduled for today, February 8, 2019.

A lawyer representing two of the detained immigrants informed South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) that her clients’ arms and legs were tied to a chair to facilitate the force- feeding. The force-feeding tube stays in their nasal passages 24/7. On some of the individuals, the tubes are too large, causing nasal bleeding and pain. Many of the detained asylum seekers have wounds and lesions on their throats and nasal passages, are suffering from rectal bleeding and bleeding while vomiting, persistent stomach pain, and are having difficulty speaking and breathing. We are deeply concerned about their health and well-being at the hands of guards and medical staff at the El Paso Processing Center.

On January 30, 2019 an Associated Press article detailed the story of detention center staff force-feeding Cuban and Punjabi asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike to protest their prolonged detention and denial of bond at bond hearings after passing credible fear interviews. This latest strike represents an escalation of pervasive and historically discriminatory behavior against South Asian asylum seekers in particular, that has been extended to Cuban asylum seekers in this case and across various populations.

The detained immigrants have also been subjected to prolonged psychological abuse by ICE and detention staff. They are being denied religious accommodations and are routinely threatened with deportation, segregation, and solitary confinement. We believe these threats are a form of retaliation for drawing attention to their cases through the hunger strike.

Lastly, the asylum seekers are being denied adequate language access inside the facilities regarding their legal rights and due process. All detention facilities have an obligation to provide language interpretation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and Executive Order 13166 and under the ICE’s Performance Based National Detention Standards 2011 (rev 2016).

Our organizations and many others have documented egregious, dangerous, and punitive conditions experienced by hunger strikers in detention facilities across the country, particularly in the El Paso Processing Center and Adelanto Detention Facility. Asylum denial rates in El Paso and neighboring New Mexico, where some of the hunger strikers’ cases were heard, areamong the highest in the country. The current El Paso immigration judges average about 95% for denials of asylum, with one judge not awarding asylum in the last two years. Additionally, El Paso and southern New Mexico immigration judges routinely deny bond, resulting in prolonged detention for many residents in the detention facility.

From 2014 through 2018, organizations have documented several instances of damaging and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers on hunger strike in the El Paso Processing Center and others across the country.

2014

El Paso, TX: In 2014, the Sikh Coalition filed a complaint (No. 14-07-ICE-0183) with the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) about the treatment of 37 Punjabi asylum seekers detained in the El Paso Processing Center for over one year. All of these asylum seekers passed their credible fear interviews and were denied bond or parole and went on hunger strike to protest their prolonged detention. They too received inadequate medical care, retaliation for their hunger strike, and no language interpretation. In the end, many of them were deported.

2015

El Paso, TX: In 2015, 54 South Asian asylum seekers, mainly from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Pakistan went on hunger strike at the El Paso Processing Center to protest their prolonged detention and demand investigations into unfair hearings and interference with their legal cases. These asylum seekers passed their credible fear interviews and were denied bond or parole. They too received inadequate medical care, retaliation for their hunger strike, and no language interpretation. In the end, as egregious examples of refoulement, many of them were deported back to their deaths. In the 2014 and 2015 instances, the government brought Indian and Bangladesh consulates into the El Paso Processing Center without the consent of the asylum seekers. This endangered the security of the detained immigrants who were seeking asylum from these very governments represented by the respective consular offices. These consulate representatives then intimidated detainees into ending their hunger strike, which is in direct violation of 8 CFR 208.6 which “generally prohibits the disclosure to third parties of informationcontained in or pertaining to asylum applications, credible fear determinations, and reasonablefear determination.”

In 2015, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), The National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild (NIP-NLG), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) filed a complaint (No. 16-01-ICE-0012) with CRCL about the treatment of these 54 asylum seekers. In early 2017, we were informed the findings of a CRCL investigation were turned over to ICE for further action. We have followed up several times for the findings of these investigations and have been given no update.

2017

Adelanto, CA: An asylum seeker from Nicaragua detained in the Adelanto Detention Facility committed suicide in 2017 and seven more detained immigrants attempted suicides between October 2016 and July 2018. This follows the death of five asylum seekers from Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras over the last three years alone in Adelanto, resulting from medical neglect despite repeated requests for medical attention from detained immigrants. In June 2017 nearly 40 detained immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras launched a series of hunger strikes to protest their conditions and treatment and faced severe retaliation. In May, 2018 the DHS Office of the Inspector General conducted a surprise visit of the facility and concluded that it was violating ICE’s own detention standards. On August 15, 2018, a delegation of Members of Congress from the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, led by Chairwoman Judy Chu, raised further questions about hunger strikes, retaliation, and woefully inadequate medical care of detained immigrants in the Adelanto Detention Facility.

2018

Sheridan, OR: In June, 2018, 70 South Asian detained immigrants in the Yamhill County Federal Prison were denied access to counsel, language interpretation, and religious accommodations. Some Sikh detained immigrants were even forced to cut their hair.

Folkston, GA: Also in June, 2018 over 100 South Asian asylum seekers at the ICE Processing Facility in Folkston, GA began a second hunger strike to protest their prolonged detention. Once again, after passing credible fear interviews, the asylum seekers were denied bond by immigration judges. DHS allegedly visited the facility in August, 2018, but there has been no update on the findings of this visit.

Victorville, CA: Also in June, 2018 nearly 400 South Asian asylum seekers were held in the Federal Correctional Institution in Victorville, CA. Many of the asylum seekers were Sikh and banned from wearing their turbans and denied other religious accommodations and adequate medical care at a facility notorious for its scabies and chicken pox outbreaks. The detained immigrants were also denied legal counsel and their cases were on indefinite hold.

We request the following actions:

  1. Release the hunger strikers and provide them with immediate medical attention.
  2. Release the court order authorizing ICE or DHS officials to engage in force-feeding the detained immigrants in the El Paso Processing Center.
  3. Conduct an unannounced inspection by the DHS Office of the Inspector General.
  4. Conduct immediate independent monitoring of the El Paso Processing Center while investigations are carried out into allegations against medical staff and guards, including the review of facility video footage that documents incidents of abuse and mistreatment.
  5. Release the findings of the 2015 CRCL investigation into treatment of hunger strikers and violation of Title VI provisions in the El Paso Processing Center to the complainants within 14 days.
  6. Conduct an investigation to assess how ICE complies with Title VI provisions relating to language access in the El Paso Processing Center and nationwide across all detention facilities. Release the findings to the public within 30 days.
  7. Immediately conduct an investigation of bond and parole processes, including whether people are released, in the El Paso Processing Center and nationwide across all detention facilities. Release the findings to the public within 30 days.

Signed,

  • Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert
  • Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC)
  • Chhaya CDC
  •  Defending Rights and Dissent
  •  Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)
  •  Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee
  •  Detention Watch Network
  •  Freedom for Immigrants
  •  Government Information Watch
  •  Immigrant Defense Project
  •   Immigration Advocates Network
  •   Jakara Movement
  •   Kaur Law LLC – Ruby Kaur
  •   National Immigrant Justice Center
  •   National Immigration Project of NLG
  •   National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
  •   NWDC Resistance
  •   Sakhi for South Asian Women
  •   Sapna NYC, Inc.
  •   Services, Immigrant Rights & Education Network (SIREN)
  •   Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
  •   Sikh Coalition
  •   South Asian American Policy & Research Institute (SAAPRI)
  •   South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
  •   Southern Poverty Law Center
  •   Texas Civil Rights Project
  •   The Reformed Church of Highland Park

ICE officials throw El Paso hunger strikers into solitary confinement after altercation over force-feeding, says attorney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, February 8, 2019

El Paso, Texas — The nine Sikh asylum seekers on hunger strike in the El Paso Service Processing Center (EPSPC) have been thrown into solitary confinement after refusing to be force-fed standing up, reports their attorney after speaking with a family member. Immigrant rights advocates, civil rights organizations, and local community groups are deeply alarmed by this latest development involving the nine Sikh asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days to protest their incarceration at the EPSPC. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has responded with abusive retaliation, including force-feeding at least nine of the asylum seekers, a cruel, degrading and inhumane practice. ICE agents also threatened the asylum seekers with deportation as early as Friday morning.

“They have scars on their arms from IVs, and are suffering from rectal bleeding and blood in their vomit in addition to persistent stomach, chest, and throat pain. They recounted abuse after abuse at the hands of ICE agents and medical staff at the facility. They’ve lost 40 to 50 pounds,” said the attorney for two of the asylum seekers, Ruby Kaur, after visiting the facility on Thursday. “They told me ICE agents have threatened them with deportation as early as today, despite them being in no physical condition to travel.  ICE agents responded that there was nothing that they could do and that they didn’t care.”

Amrit Singh, the uncle to two of the Sikh asylum seekers on hunger strike, attempted to put money into the commissary accounts of three of the strikers and money was returned back to his card.  This development is particularly alarming because ICE frequently cuts off detainees’ phone accounts prior to deportation.

“We demand the immediate release of the hunger strikers and that they receive critical medical care,” said Nathan Craig of AVID. “ICE has a long documented history of abuse, clearly indicating that people are not safe in its custody. We call on Representative Escobar of Texas to stand with the migrant community and demand their release, while insisting on an independent investigation of the facility and ICE Field Office, yielding swift disciplinary consequences over the strikers’ treatment.”

Since May 2015, Freedom for Immigrants has documented nearly 1,400 people on hunger strike in 18 immigration detention facilities. A troubling pattern as President Trump continues to expand the detention system to skyrocketing proportions, leading to an increase in abuse and death. Since March of 2018, AVID volunteers have been collecting reports of large numbers of detained South Asians hunger striking at both EPSPC and the neighboring Otero County Processing Center.

“In the shadow of Trump’s border wall is immigration detention, a system shrouded in secrecy where a culture of violence persists,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of Policy and Advocacy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). “The retaliation and abuse that hunger strikers have been forced to endure underscore the egregious conditions endemic to the detention system nationwide. It also echoes the cases of abuse and torture of South Asian migrants in particular, in detention facilities in the U.S., including most recently at the Adelanto Detention Center in California.”

Sign the petition to support the hunger strikers at the El Paso Processing Center:  https://rightsanddissent.salsalabs.org/ICEForceFeeding/index.html

Media Contacts

Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org 202-997-4211

Liz Martinez, lmartinez@freedomforimmigrants.org 956-572-4349

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Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert works to end the isolation of immigration detention. Our volunteers are from Las Cruces, El Paso, and surrounding communities. We visit and write to migrants who are detained in El Paso, Otero, and West Texas. avid.chihuahuan.org

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) is a community group based in El Paso, TX, that fights to free the border from the criminalization and mass incarceration of migrants. We aim to reach this goal through support services, organizing, and actions that promote more humane public policy and respect for migrants and other marginalized communities.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.

Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) is a national civil liberty organization that strengthens our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression and working to make the promise of the Bill of Rights a reality for everyone.

DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving organizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants, workers, and youth in NYC for educational, immigrant, racial, worker, and gender justice.

Freedom for Immigrants is Devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. Freedom for Immigrants provides support to people in immigration detention and monitors and documents human rights abuses through a national network of visitation programs, a free hotline and community-based alternatives to detention. www.freedomforimmigrants.org

Ruby Kaur – Kaur Law LLC

National Immigration Project of the NLG promotes justice and equality of treatment in all areas of immigration law, the criminal justice system, and policies related to immigration. We provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, immigrant communities, community-based organizations, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens.

 

Two years too long: Repeal the Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2019

Two years ago today, the Trump Administration announced its Muslim and refugee ban. From the ban to the militarization of the border to restrictions on asylum seekers, the Trump Administration’s racist policies are tearing families apart. These racist policies are enacted in an environment where xenophobic political rhetoric is all too frequent.

In SAALT’s 2018 report Communities on Fire, we found that one in five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan. This data demonstrates a strong link between this administration’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate violence. We have documented over 300 incidents of hate violence to date since November 2016 aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans.

As we welcome a new Congress and as the government reopens, it is imperative that elected officials exercise their leadership to terminate the Muslim Ban and ensure it is never replicated. SAALT supports legislative solutions that will at the very least block funding to implement the Muslim Ban, but ideally limit executive authority to institute discriminatory bans in the future.

Two years of a Muslim Ban is two years too many.  This anniversary must be a call to action to Congress to use their power to end this example of state-sponsored discrimination and keep our communities and nation whole.

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

Notorious El Paso Facility Continues Abuse of South Asian Asylum Seekers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2019

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is deeply disturbed by reports of staff at the El Paso, TX detention processing center force-feeding mostly Indian and Cuban detainees in the midst of a hunger strike. Up to 30 detainees, the majority of whom have pending asylum claims, went on a hunger strike after verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of ICE and detention center staff at the notorious El Paso facility.

These horrifying reports are only the most recent in a series of unaddressed civil rights violations reported at the El Paso facility since 2015, at which point SAALT, along with other organizations, pursued legal action. In 2015, mostly Bangladeshi asylum seekers at the El Paso facility went on hunger strike to protest the indefinite delays in their cases after passing “credible fear” interviews, an initial and important step in the asylum process. SAALT, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild filed an official civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over treatment of the asylum seekers.

DHS has yet to address the civil rights violations at the El Paso facility reported in 2015, and now more asylum seekers face violence and abuse.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, issued the following statement:
“Individuals should not have to put their bodies and lives on the line to draw attention to their indefinite detention. Our nation’s immigration system should provide protection from violence and persecution, yet current practices create an increasingly punitive asylum process, which only extends the violence and persecution asylum seekers are fleeing.”

Since 2015, SAALT has also documented reports of South Asian detainees in additional facilities in Oregon, California, and Georgia who have gone on hunger strikes to protest prolonged detention, denial of legal counsel, and a range of civil rights violations from providing inadequate medical care to withholding language interpretation to denying religious accommodations.

SAALT is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

Contact:  Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

Between Deals and Decisions, SAALT Reaffirms the Need for Real, Clean Solutions on Immigration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision today to omit hearing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case is welcome news, as it keeps the program alive and allows current DACA recipients to continue submitting renewal applications. While this is encouraging, the work ahead remains clear – we need a clean DREAM Act and permanent legislative solutions that do not include harmful provisions, as proposed by the Trump Administration last weekend.

The Administration’s immigration “deal” from this weekend is no deal at all – it’s a sham. The Administration is claiming to reinstate two programs – DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – that the Administration itself made a decision to eviscerate last year. These so-called protections to TPS and DACA holders are half baked at best and do little to actually protect communities. The “deal” legislation that the Senate will likely introduce this week excludes entire communities. Anyone with TPS status from Nepal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria would not be protected.  The bill only covers a fraction of all DREAMers and does not provide permanent protection from deportation. Most alarmingly, it includes a $5.7 billion dollar border wall and more bloated increases to detention beds and border patrol agents.

“This ‘deal’ offers no concessions, no solutions, and will further undermine the rule of law. It will intensify militarization on the border and expand detention, while continuing to hurt refugees and asylum seekers, DACA recipients, and TPS holders. There are at least 450,000 undocumented people from India alone, at least 25,000 Indian and Pakistani DACA recipients, and nearly 15,000 thousand Nepalis with TPS status who will be directly impacted by this legislation,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

South Asians, along with all immigrant communities, deserve a real immigration overhaul that serves everyone. Once this sham bill is introduced, we will support our community members and partners to voice our opposition.

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi sophia@saalt.org