SAALT Marks One Year Anniversary of Supreme Court Ruling Upholding the Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2019

Washington, D.C.: On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of upholding the Muslim Ban, making it both legal and indefinite. Since the inception of the Muslim Ban, countless families have been separated, individuals have been denied critical medical treatment, family members have been unable to attend weddings, funerals, births; and many more have had no choice but to turn down opportunities of the so-called American dream. 

There is no humanity in the Muslim Ban, despite the Trump Administration’s assertion that waivers are granted in cases of undue hardship. The waiver process itself is a sham.  Only 5.1 percent of waivers requested are granted. The process to obtain a waiver and the way in which waiver requests are evaluated, is extremely opaque, even after numerous FOIA requests on the paltry numbers of waivers that have been granted. 

The Muslim Ban is hurting familes both in the U.S. and abroad. It is a fundamental part of our nation’s violent environment where families are routinely separated at the U.S. Mexico border and white supremacist hate violence thrives. Just this month, the body of six-year old Gurupreet Kaur was found in the Arizona desert, one mile from the nearest port of entry, where she and her mother were part of a group of migrants seeking asylum. As SAALT documented in its Communities on Fire report, 1 out of every 5 perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump Administration policy or a Trump campaign slogan while committing the act of violence. Since November 2016, SAALT has documented over 484 incidents of hate violence and over 252 incidents of xenophobic rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communites around the country. 

It’s increasingly clear that our communities cannot rely on the Executive or Judicial branches of our federal government to protect our rights. But, Congress has the power to terminate this racist and violent policy and has recently introduced legislation that would curtail executive authority for this and future bans.

Call your Member of Congress today (House: 202-225-3121, Senate: 202-224-3121)  and urge them to cosponsor the NO BAN Act (HR 2214/S1123), which will end this cruel policy and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to ensure that no community can ever be targeted for their religion without accountability.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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SAALT DENOUNCES ICE RAIDS AND FAMILY SEPARATION

For Immediate Release
Friday, June 21, 2019

Media Contacts
Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org
Lakshmi Sridaran, lakshmi@saalt.org

Following the Trump administration’s announcement this week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids are expected to impact families across the U.S. beginning this  Sunday, June 23rd in the pre-dawn hours. Cities expected to have the highest level of impact include: Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami, New Orleans, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Newark, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Around 2,000 families are being targeted, primarily those with final orders for deportation or those who missed a hearing, with “collateral arrests” of others who might be in the vicinity.

Targeting children, youth and families in an effort to further criminalize immigrant communities is misguided and immoral. This is a blatant assault on families that will destabilize communities and harm children. Research by the Center for Law and Social Policy found evidence of behavioral changes in children who had been separated from a parent or had come in contact with immigration agents. It showed that children who have been separated from their parents frequently exhibit  signs of trauma, including anxiety, depression, frequent crying, disrupted eating and sleeping, and difficulties in school.

The ICE raids announcement comes on the heels of new reports of deaths and overcrowding in detention facilities, denial of beds and sanitation for detained children, and continued unwillingness by  ICE to reunify families.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said, “The announcement of these raids further underscores the need for sanctuary policies across all cities to protect our communities. SAALT is working with our partners to quickly disseminate know your rights materials in multiple South Asian languages to prepare communities if ICE comes to their door. We are also encouraging members of the South Asian legal community to offer their expertise and aid for individuals impacted by these raids and for those currently detained.”

It is increasingly clear that Congress must cut funding from both Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and ICE, and immediately redirect funding to reunifying families and closing detention facilities across the U.S.

The death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2019

We are devastated to learn of the death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur.

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote desert outside the Lukeville, Arizona point of entry on Wednesday, June 12th, just days before her seventh birthday.

She died of heat stroke in the Arizona desert where temperatures were 108 degrees Fahrenheit, according to U.S. Border Patrol and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her mother were reportedly among a group of five Indian nationals who were dropped off by migrant traffickers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico border. Her mother and another woman went in search of water, leaving Gurupreet with two others from the group. Gurupreet’s mother was found by a U.S. Border Patrol agent 22 hours later. Four hours after that, Border Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Seven migrant children have died in immigration custody since last year. Hundreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempting to make the perilous journey through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border.

SAALT is sending a letter of inquiry to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demanding an investigation into Gurupreet’s death and information about her mother and the other migrants in their group.  

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has escalated border enforcement and aggressively turned away migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry, deaths have continued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dangerous conditions that CBP and other federal agencies often blame on migrant traffickers and smugglers.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “U.S. border militarization, forced migration, and rejection of migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry have created an environment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this system is completely defunded and a new one is created that upholds the dignity of all migrants – we will continue to see unspeakable tragedies, not withstanding the countless deaths that go undocumented. While ICE and CBP have experienced unprecedented surges in their budgets, their treatment of migrants has plunged to new lows.

SAALT has been tracking both the rise in the number of South Asians crossing the border over the last 5 years and their treatment in detention facilities. Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in detention facilities, SAALT has tracked a pattern of abuse including inadequate language access, lack of religious accommodations, medical neglect, use of solitary confinement, and unacceptably high bond amounts.  

We urge our communities to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.  

Stay updated and active by following our updates and action alerts on Twitter (SAALTweets) and Facebook (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also support by donating to these organizations that provide immediate assistance:

  • The Fronterizo Fianza Fund is a community bond (fianza) fund based in El Paso and serving Far West Texas and New Mexico. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their trial. When someone does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most families, ranging anywhere from $1,500-50,000.
  • The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.
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House Passes Historic Dream and Promise Act

We’re taking a moment today to pause and celebrate what just happened.

After years of immigrant justice organizing by a broad coalition of community members, allies and partners, elected officials have listened.

The House voted last night to pass the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which offers permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for over two million people. The bill passed the House yesterday with no additional anti-immigrant amendments.

H.R. 6 will have a direct impact on the lives of people who came to the U.S. as children – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients. It will make a difference in the lives of people who came to the U.S. because their countries were ravaged by war, disaster, or U.S. intervention – those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED).

In our communities alone, there are over 15,000 Nepalis with TPS and 4,500 South Asians with DACA status.

H.R. 6  will give them the ability to plan a future for themselves.

The road ahead isn’t easy. We are disturbed that this victory in the House included long debates across both parties on the use of deeply flawed gang databases and unjust criminal convictions to deny protections to some immigrants. Ultimately, the tireless political education of Members on the part of advocates ensured that the bill passed the House with no harmful additions. But, our work ahead will be to stop Congress from funding this administration’s deportation machine.

Before H.R. 6 becomes law, the Senate must vote to pass H.R. 6 and President Trump must sign it into law. We commit to ramping up the pressure on our elected officials.  

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “ The Dream and Promise Act passed the House without additional anti-immigrant concessions.  This is the first step in bringing an end to this administration’s racist and xenophobic policies and laying a foundation for immigrant justice in federal policy. When we refuse to compromise our values, we keep the bar higher and set the standard for change. This must be the new path forward for additional legislation and measures to defund deportation and restore protections for all immigrant and communities of color.”

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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ACTION ALERT: URGE CONGRESS TO PASS THE DREAM AND PROMISE ACT WITH NO HARMFUL ANTI-IMMIGRANT AMENDMENTS

June 3, 2019

Last month’s passage of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) by the House Judiciary Committee is a historic milestone in the fight for immigrant rights. It is scheduled for a full floor vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow, June 4th.

The Dream and Promise Act offers a pathway to citizenship for thousands of our community members who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

As this historic legislation goes to the House, we need YOU to urge lawmakers to both support this legislation, which would provide permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for over two million immigrants, and reject any anti-immigrant amendments or changes to the bill.

Please take a moment to call your Member of Congress and urge them to pass the Dream and Promise Act with NO harmful anti-immigrant amendments.

There are over 15,000 Nepalis with TPS whose protection from deportation will expire on June 24, 2019. NCSO member organization, Adhikaar has been leading the fight to ensure that the thousands of Nepalis on TPS would be able to remain here in the U.S. with their families, rather than being deported at the end of this month.

Over 4,500 South Asians in the U.S. are active DACA recipients (2,550 Indian recipients, 1,300 Pakistani recipients, 470 Bangladeshi recipients, and 120 Sri Lankan recipients). The Dream and Promise Act would give them a permanent path to citizenship and access to in-state tuition and federal financial aid.

It is critical that lawmakers vote against any anti-immigrant changes to the bill, regardless of their substance, including any additional funding for ICE and CBP as well as any further discretionary power to USCIS or DHS that would increase deportations and detention. Any anti-immigrant amendments will serve only to delay the passage of this vital legislation.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “The Dream and Promise Act will give over two million immigrants a fundamental right – the right to build a life and plan for a future in this country. We urge all Members of Congress to act boldly and pass this legislation with no anti-immigrant amendments. It’s time for Congress to chip away at this administration’s racist policies and voting for H.R. 6 without delay is a step in the right direction. It is our hope that this legislation will the be the first of many and lay a strong foundation for immigrant justice. ”

South Asians by the Numbers: Population in the U.S. has grown by 40% since 2010

May 15, 2019

SAALT released its latest South Asian demographic snapshot today, revealing a community in the U.S. that’s growing almost as fast as it is changing.

By 2065, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S. The South Asian population in the U.S. grew a staggering 40% in seven years, from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

Key demographic facts:

  • The Nepali community grew by 206.6% since 2010, followed by Indian (38%), Bhutanese (38%), Pakistani (33%), Bangladeshi (26%), and Sri Lankan populations (15%).
  • There are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72% increase since 2010.
  • There are currently at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA recipients.
  • Income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Nearly 10% of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • There has been a rise in the number of South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. over the last 10 years. ICE has detained 3,013 South Asians since 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested 17,119 South Asians between October 2014 and April 2018 through border and interior enforcement.

The South Asian community in the United States includes individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The community also includes members of the South Asian diaspora – past generations of South Asians who originally settled in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. South Asian Americans include citizens, legal permanent residents, students, H-1B and H-4 visa holders, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrants.

SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran said, “As we witness this unprecedented growth in our communities, it is more important than ever that the needs of the most vulnerable South Asian populations are met. South Asians are impacted by the full spectrum of federal immigration policies – from detention and deportation to H-4 visa work authorization and denaturalization to the assault on public benefits. An accurate Census 2020 population count is essential to distributing critical federal funding to our communities. A citizenship question on the census would chill thousands of community members, resulting in a severe undercount, with at least 600,000 South Asians in the country not being counted and thousands more deterred. And, this means even fewer resources to the communities who need it the most.”

SAALT’s demographic snapshot is based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey. We encourage community leaders, government entities, policymakers, and journalists  to use this data to better understand South Asian Americans and help inform their engagement with this community.

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

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Coalition Letter to House Homeland Security Committee: Concerns about Domestic Terrorism Hearing

May 8, 2019

Dear Chairman Thompson and Ranking Member Rogers:

As civil liberties and community-based organizations, we submit this statement for the record in response to the hearing on domestic terrorism in order to share our concerns about the rise of white supremacist and nationalist violence in the country, and to remind the committee that communities of color continue to have their freedom of speech and right to assembly curtailed under the guise of fighting domestic terrorism. Before adopting any policies to fight white supremacist and nationalist violence, we urge you to consider how these policies will impact communities of color.

The term “domestic terrorism” itself has been heavily politicized and critiqued. The politicization of this term has meant that rather than applying a uniform definition, it has instead been applied differentially and used in particular to target and criminalize communities of color and their freedom of speech, movement, and assembly.   More specifically, there has been and continues to be, a systematic bias in the way terrorism is framed such that it is more readily applied to cases where the alleged perpetrator or planner of a violent act is Muslim.

Furthermore, the term “domestic terrorism” has often been associated, particularly by law enforcement, with Black and/or, Muslim and/or, Indigenous communities and their allies despite documented incidents of violence perpetrated largely by white supremacists and right-wing extremists.We are therefore concerned that the remedies and interventions that come out of this hearing will be used to increase targeting of marginalized communities.

A recent report published by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) documents hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017. The report draws a direct line between the Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim agenda and increasing attacks, revealing that of the 213 incidents of hate violence documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration policies, or his campaign slogans during attacks.[1]As the SAALT report made clear, state rhetoric, policy, and violence are key to understanding the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist violence. We urge the committee to use this hearing, and subsequent hearings, to examine how government policies and institutions and political rhetoric have fostered the rise of white nationalist and white supremacist terror.

We also urge committee members to reject Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs as a remedy to the rise in white supremacist violence. Though often neutral on their face, CVE programs have in practice and since their inception under the Obama administration profiled, surveilled, and divided Muslim communities. To simply include white supremacist groups within CVE would not alter the foundation of the program, but would strengthen and expand it – and this would likely result in Muslim youth and communities getting targeted even more than before.

Moreover, CVE programs are not only problematic because of their almost exclusive focus on Muslims, but because they are based on debunked, pseudo-scientific theories that certain “radical” ideas lead to violence.[2]As civil rights and civil liberties advocates have long argued, expanding CVE to include white supremacy will be ineffective in fighting terrorism, and harmful to communities of color.[3]CVE programs promote a narrative of collective responsibility of Muslim and other marginalized communities, putting them at risk in a way that will not be felt by the majority White population.[4]

We caution that white supremacist and right wing violence are less likely to be prosecuted as terrorism,[5]and urge the committee to take steps to ensure that any reported data by relevant government agencies is reliable. Required reporting would also track the number of FBI assessments and investigations, of each domestic terrorist movement defined by the FBI. This data could be revelatory, and should be made public.

Furthermore, if the Department of Homeland Security and FBI have the discretion to define and give their opinion about each terrorist movement and conduct a threat assessment – discretion that would almost certainly be biased if either of these agencies’ histories are any indication. Therefore, we are concerned that any efforts to “research” threats will lead to increased monitoring, surveillance, and destabilization of communities of color and non-violent activist groups.

Additionally, we are worried that action to address domestic terrorism could further embolden the FBI’s surveillance of the Muslim community. To date, the FBI maintains a nationwide network of over 15,000 informants[6], many of them highly paid to infiltrate Muslim communities. According to Human Rights Watch, from 2001 – 2014, “nearly 50 percent of the more than 500 federal counterterrorism convictions resulted from informant-based cases; almost 30 percent of those cases were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.”[7]It is unclear how these injustices will be addressed moving forward and what the recommendation will be regarding the use of informants to uncover or manufacture domestic terrorism plots. Thus, we urge Members of Congress to be explicit about the role of informants and what safeguards will be put in place to make sure they are not violating the rights of already marginalized communities. Data on the number of FBI informants involved in domestic terror related assessments and investigations should be collected and made public.

We look forward to working with the committee to ensure that white supremacist terror is addressed without adversely impacting the very communities most often targeted by white supremacists. We do not believe that law enforcement or intelligence agencies need additional authorities to address domestic terrorism, but they must be held accountable for ignoring some threats and inflating others.

 

Signed,

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Justice for Muslims Collective

Defending Rights & Dissent

American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

Asian American Resource Workshop – Boston

Campaign to TAKE ON HATE

Center for Constitutional Rights

Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)

MPower Change

National Network for Arab American Communities

Project South

Property of the People

Revolutionary Love Project

Southern Poverty Law Center

The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (S.T.O.P).

 

[1]Communities on Fire, South Asian Americans Advancing Together, January 2018

[2]See Letter from Nicole Nguyen & Stacey Krueger, Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, to Members of Congress et al, Concerning the Questionable Use of Academic Research to Support CVE Initiatives (October 5, 2016)
and Who Will Become a Terrorist? Research Yields Few Clues (Matt Apuzzo, The New York Times, Mar. 27, 2016)

[3]See Letter from 53 Civil Rights and Liberties Organizations Against Expanding CVE Programs(September 7, 2017)

andStatement:​ ​AMEMSA​ ​Groups​ ​Oppose​ ​Expansion​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Countering​ ​Violent​ ​Extremism​ ​Program(September 7, 2017)

[4]Are Muslims Collectively Responsible?, 416Labs, November 19, 2015

[5]Trevor Aaronson, Terrorism’s Double Standard: Violent Far-Right Extremists Are Rarely Prosecuted as Terrorists, The Intercept, March 23, 2019

[6]Trevor Aaronson, The Informants, Mother Jones, July, 2011

[7]Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terror Prosecutions, Human Rights Watch, July 21, 2014

13 year old in Critical Condition after Alleged Hate Crime in Northern California

May 3, 2019

Dear Friends, Community Members, and Allies,

On April 23rd, 13 year-old Dhriti was walking back home from the library with her father and brother, when a driver plowed into them and several other pedestrians at a busy crosswalk in Sunnyvale, California. Dhriti is in a coma after suffering major brain injuries and is currently on life support. At least seven others were injured in the crash, all of whom are in stable condition.

Shortly after the arraignment of the driver, Sunnyvale Police Chief Phan Ngo said, “Based on our investigation, new evidence shows that the defendant intentionally targeted the victims based on their race and his belief that they were of the Muslim faith.” The FBI and local law enforcement are both investigating the crash as a hate crime.

This tragic and disturbing news comes at a month when reported hate crimes have been at an all time high. In April alone, SAALT tracked 10 incidents of hate violence and 6 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric. Just days after the Sunnyvale crash, a shooter killed one woman and injured three others at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in San Diego. The same shooter is accused of setting fire to a mosque in Escondido, CA in March. Globally, the impact of hate violence in March and April has been shattering. Earlier this month, nearly 300 people were killed in churches and hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday. The horrific attack occurred just weeks after at least 50 people were killed by a white supremacist in New Zealand who named Trump as his “symbol of renewed white identity.”

SAALT’s “Communities on Fire” report draws a direct line between The Trump Administration’s anti-Muslim agenda and increasing attacks, revealing that of the 213 incidents of hate violence documented, one in five perpetrators invoked President Trump’s name, his administration’s policies, or his campaign slogans during attacks.

This hate survives—and in fact thrives—against a backdrop of racist policies from the Trump Administration like the Muslim Ban and family separation. This hate knows no borders, race, or creed. This hate is a threat to Muslims, and to those racialized as Muslims. Similar to the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe, Kansas who was profiled as Middle Eastern, Dhriti and her family were allegedly targeted because they were perceived as Muslim.

To Dhriti and her family, we stand with you, demanding justice and an end to policies and hate speech that have created an ecosystem for hate crimes to increase.

Donate to Dhriti’s healthcare costs at:  https://www.gofundme.com/helpdhriti

Sincerely,

South Asian Americans Leading Together

Alliance of South Asians Taking Action

Council of American Islamic Relations – San Francisco Bay Area 

South Asian Workers Center, Boston

Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus

Houston Coalition Against Hate

California Immigrant Policy Center

South Asian Youth Action

Narika: Changing the Way We Live Violence-Free

Sikh Family Center

 

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.

 

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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