SAALT Opposes Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule Published in Federal Register Today, Encourages Community Members to Submit Comments

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The Department of Homeland Security published a new proposed “public charge” ruletoday that would deny permanent resident status (“green cards”) to lower income immigrants who use government services such as nutrition programs and housing assistance. The proposed rule was officially published in the Federal Register, triggering a 60-day period for the public to comment before the Department of Homeland Security proceeds with final rulemaking.
This rule punishes people for using the public benefits they are entitled to and is set up to prevent as many immigrants as possible from becoming legal permanent residents. It’s the latest in a series of attacks on all immigrant communities and their children. The rule directly impacts immigrants who are applying to become Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR’s or green card holders) or looking to extend or change the category of a nonimmigrant visa. If finalized, the Bangladeshi community would be the hardest hit among South Asian Americans. Nearly 61% of non-citizen Bangladeshi American families receive public benefits for at least one of the four federal programs including TANF, SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid/CHIP, according to a 2018 Migration Policy Institute Report. The same report showed that 48% of non-citizen Pakistani families and 11% of non-citizen Indian families also receive public benefits. Additionally, the proposed rule would flag all immigrant households of four earning less than $63,000 under negative scrutiny for the “public charge” test.
The impact of the rule would be felt across the South Asian American community, as over 10% of green card recipients in FY 2016 were from South Asian countries. Nearly 472,000 or 10% of the approximately five million South Asians in the United States live in poverty, according to a recent Pew Research Center study. In 2015, eight of nineteen Asian American groups had poverty rates higher than the U.S. average. Among those, Pakistani (15.8%), Nepali (23.9%), Bangladeshi (24.2%), and Bhutanese (33.3%) Americans had the highest poverty rates among South Asian American groups. The same study showed that Bangladeshi and Nepali communities had the lowest median household incomes out of all Asian American groups, which fell far below the $63,000 threshold. We encourage South Asian Americans to visit SAALT’s campaign page and easily submit a comment opposing the discriminatory “public charge” rule before December 10.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

SAALT 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is excited to share our 2018 Midterm Election voter guide. In this critical election year, South Asian Americans have a stake in key policy questions that affect our communities. An important first step is understanding candidate stances on the issues that affect our community so we can hold them accountable for their policy positions and values—regardless of their party affiliation.

SAALT’s voter guide presents policy positions and values of candidates in the twenty Congressional districts with the highest number of South Asian Americans in the country. This guide also includes two additional races that feature a South Asian American candidate and a Congressional district whose Member holds a leadership position in the House of Representatives.

Each race shows the Democratic and Republican candidate positions on the issues of Immigration, Civil Rights, Hate Crimes, and the 2020 Census based on a series of questions. If your Congressional district is not featured in this guide, we encourage you to use the questions below to evaluate the candidates in your district. Scroll down, click through, read up, and even reach out to candidates yourself before you go to the polls on November 6th!

Are you mobilizing South Asian American voters for the 2018 Midterm Elections? Print and share this flyer to easily access SAALT’s non-partisan Voter Guide.

SAALT Releases Groundbreaking Voter Guide to Educate, Mobilize South Asian American Community in Preparation for 2018 Midterm Elections

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, D.C., Today South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) released its 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide, the only resource designed to engage, educate, and mobilize the growing South Asian American electorate in Congressional districts nationwide.
At over 5 million strong, South Asian Americans are the second-most rapidly growing demographic group nationwide, across longstanding community strongholds and newer regions in the South. As a result, South Asian Americans occupy an increasingly significant position in the American electorate. In this critical election year, South Asian Americans have a stake in key policy questions that affect our communities, and are deeply impacted by issues spanning immigration, civil rights, hate crimes, and the 2020 Census.
The Guide is a voter education tool that equips South Asian Americans and all voters with the crucial information they need to cast informed votes this November. SAALT’s non-partisan 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide does not endorse any candidate—rather; it analyzes House of Representatives candidates’ positions on four critical issues for South Asian Americans in twenty Congressional Districts with the highest South Asian American populations. The Guide also includes analysis on two additional races that feature a South Asian American candidate and a Congressional district whose Member currently holds a leadership position in the House of Representatives.
Each race shows the Democratic and Republican candidate positions on the issues of immigration, civil rights, hate crimes, and the 2020 Census based upon their responses to a series of questions. SAALT reached out to all candidates with a questionnaire and analyzed publicly available information on their voting records on federal legislation, public statements, and policy platforms to develop our analysis. For all incumbent candidates, SAALT analyzed only their voting record on key legislation to determine their policy positions. All questions are included in the Guide to allow voters to assess a candidate’s positions themselves even if a particular Congressional district is not featured.
SAALT will be distributing its 2018 Midterm Election Voter Guide far and wide in partnership with its 62 community partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), national allies, as well as over social and traditional media. The Voter Guide will be unveiled in-person at this weekend’s The Future of South Asians in the U.S. regional town hall in Niles, Illinois in partnership with Chicagoland NCSO organizations. On Saturday, October 6th from 1-4 pm, this powerful and topical forum will address the impact of U.S. immigration policy on the South Asian American community. The Voter Guide will continue to serve as a critical community education tool that keeps the focus on the important issues impacting our nation on the road to the November 2018 elections and beyond.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

SAALT Denounces the Administration’s “Public Charge” Proposal to Criminalize Immigrants for Using Public Benefits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Washington, D.C., South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) condemns the Department of Homeland Security announcement of new proposed “public charge” rules that would deny permanent resident status (“green cards”) to immigrants who use government services such as nutrition programs and housing assistance. The new rule would also weigh age, health, and employability as factors to deny green cards. SAALT, along with immigrant and civil rights, public health, and labor organizations, are denouncing these changes that threaten families and children’s health. The proposed rules would relegate immigrants who are not yet citizens to second-class status by condemning their use of critical public benefits programs.
If implemented, the public charge regulation would undermine the safety, health, and security of immigrant families. Rumors of the proposal have already sown fear among immigrant families, many of whom have foregone essential health and nutrition services for which they are eligible. The new rule would hit South Asian American communities particularly hard, as over 10% of green card recipients in FY 2016 were from South Asian countries. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, one in four immigrants in the U.S. from Bangladesh and Nepal and one in three immigrants from Bhutan already live in poverty. This new rule would put all of these individuals at great risk. The term “public charge” predates federal immigration law entirely. In the early 1800’s states would only free individual slaves on the condition that they never become a “public charge.” This framework is now being expanded to criminalize immigrant communities.
“This policy is about who this Administration considers a desirable immigrant. It is designed to instill fear in immigrant communities of color and relegate non-citizens and their families to second-class status. It will punish immigrants who rightfully access the public benefits to which they are entitled, it will punish parents for taking care of their children, and it will force immigrant families to choose between citizenship and basic needs. Rather than taxing the 1%, this Administration chooses to punish immigrant families over and over again. Today, on the one-year anniversary of Muslim Ban 3.0, we say no to more racist and anti-immigrant policies,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.
Once the rule is officially published in the Federal Register, the public will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule before the Department of Homeland Security proceeds with final rulemaking. Stay tuned for SAALT’s campaign to channel public comments to the federal government opposing this discriminatory proposal.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

SAALT Chicago Townhall: The Future of South Asians in the U.S.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Join us to learn about how we can all build The Future for South Asians in the U.S. on Saturday, October 6th in Niles, Illinois. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) will be partnering with Chicagoland community organizations to host this critical forum addressing the impact of immigration policy in the U.S. on the South Asian community.

This exciting Town Hall will include:
  • A Resource Fair, featuring local South Asian community organizations.
  • A panel discussion on several key local and national policies that impact South Asian Americans

 

The Resource Fair will allow community members to connect with local organizations serving and working with South Asian American communities. Indo-American CenterSouth Asian Americans Policy and Research Institute (SAAPRI)Hamdard CenterApna Ghar, the Council on American Islamic Relations – Chicago (CAIR-Chicago), and more local organizations will be available to answer your questions aboutimmigration, health care, public benefits, and DACA.
There will also be a panel discussion with local advocates for the South Asian community, sharing how current national and state-level policies affect our communities, H4 visa holders, DACA recipients, and the DREAM Act. There will also be information about the 2020 Census, and how proposed changes will likely impact the South Asian community.
For a full list of our co-sponsors and speakers please visit and RSVP on our Eventbrite page for The Future of South Asians in the U.S. on Saturday, October 6th at Culver Elementary School.
We look forward to seeing you there!

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing — 17 years after 9/11 ”Detentions, Deportations, Diminished Civil Rights”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2018
On September 13, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) hosted a Capitol Hill Briefing in collaboration with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Members of Congress and an expert panel of community leaders provided remarks marking the 17th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. This year’s anniversary fell at a time of rampant anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Members of Congress and community leaders discussed the intersection of hate violence, the Muslim Ban, and immigration enforcement. They also pointed to legislative and policy proposals to safeguard civil rights and protect immigrant communities.
As lead sponsor of H.R. 1566 NO HATE Act, Representative Don Beyer (VA-08) provided opening remarks emphasizing the relationship between hate violence and discriminatory and anti-immigrant policies advanced by the current administration. Representative Beyer reminded the audience that hate violence exists in every corner of our nation as he recounted recent incidents from his northern Virginia Congressional District.
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) provided closing remarks commemorating the impact of 9/11 and the ensuing backlash against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities in New York City. She highlighted the story of Salman Hamdani, a young Muslim-American first responder on 9/11, whose name was left off the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan.
“SAALT is committed to addressing the underlying factors that spur hate violence against our communities, including discriminatory policies and the growth in organized white supremacy. We are dedicated to working with Congressional leaders and our community partners to ensure the next decade sees a decline in hate violence,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.

Honorary Co-hosts:
The Honorable Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley (OR)
Congressional Co-sponsors:
Representative Don Beyer (VA-08) – opening remarks
Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)
Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17)
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) – closing remarks
Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Panelists:
Azza Altiraifi, Justice for Muslims Collective
Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together

Quotes

Representative Don Beyer (VA-08): “I want to recognize SAALT’s crucial advocacy work – they have been instrumental in elevating South Asian American voices into conversations on the Hill. I am proud to have SAALT’s support on my bill, the NO HATE Act, which will help improve hate crime reporting.”
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06): “I’m proud of the tremendous work SAALT does on behalf of the South Asian community. We have a collective responsibility to ensure our communities are safe from violence, hate, and discrimination. I’m committed to ensuring that my constituents have the support and resources to keep our communities safe. I’m proud to partner with SAALT and am confident it will continue to play a pivotal role in keeping our communities safe.”
For a recorded stream of the Briefing, please click here.

17 Years After 9/11: Detentions, Deportations, Diminished Civil Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2018

Today marks the 17-year anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001. This anniversary falls at a time of rampant immigration enforcement and racial profiling policies directed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Unsurprisingly, this escalation of brutal and discriminatory policies is accompanied by a rising tide of hate violence impacting our communities. Nearly two decades after the events of September 11th, hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities has now surpassed levels only seen immediately after that tragedy.

SAALT has already documented over 400 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities since the 2016 presidential election. Tragically, we can now draw a direct link between divisive political rhetoric and its role in spurring hate violence: one in five of the hate incidents documented in our 2018 report, Communities on Fire, involved perpetrators who verbally referenced President Trump, one of his administration’s policies, or one of his campaign slogans while committing an act of violence.

Since the events of September 11th, successive administrations have leveraged a ‘national security’ lens to advance anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies that target our communities and our place in this nation. This list of policies that seek to limit and exclude our rights includes but is not limited to the Patriot Act, the Countering Violent Extremism program, and the Muslim Ban. Several devastating policies aimed at immigrant communities have been unveiled in the last year alone. Examples include the decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from several countries including Nepal, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan; a wave of deportations of documented and undocumented residents; separating families and detaining children in cages; and denaturalizing American citizens. In short, we are in the midst of a campaign to create an America that is separate and unequal for the foreign-born and their families. The onslaught is slated to continue escalating through the administration’s plans to further criminalize immigrants for utilizing public benefits by issuing a ‘public charge’ rule and unconstitutionally including a question on citizenship status in the 2020 Census.

It appears this dangerous convergence of policies, rhetoric, and violence will not end soon. In April 2018, a Houston Muslim woman wearing a hijab was stabbed by an attacker yelling “Oh my God, it’s a r**head” “sand n******” and other racially derogatory terms. In July and August 2018, two California Sikh men wearing turbans were violently attacked in separate incidents. In one incident, the perpetrator yelled “Go back to your country!” SAALT continues to collect data on incidents of hate violence in our public, online database, and provides monthly updates on trends.

Later this week, SAALT will host a Congressional Briefing in collaboration with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to highlight the intersection between current incidents of hate violence, the Muslim Ban, and immigration enforcement. SAALT is committed to addressing the underlying factors that spur hate violence against our communities, including discriminatory policies and the growth in organized white supremacy. We are dedicated to ensuring the next decade sees a decline in hate violence and an effort to regain this nation’s core ideals of equality and justice.

DACA: One year of uncertainty, one year of fighting back

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2018

Today is the one-year anniversary of this administration’s unnecessary and destructive decision to expose over 800,000 DREAMers to deportation by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This critical program, which continues to enjoy overwhelming support from the American public, has protected immigrant youth for over six years from being forced out of the only country they have ever known. The DACA program is an important lifeline for immigrant communities, including South Asians; there are at least 5,500 DACA recipients from India and Pakistan alone, and an additional estimated 17,000 individuals from India and 6,000 individuals from Pakistan who are eligible for DACA.

Continue reading

Young Leaders Institute 2018-2019

Meet the 2018-2019 YLI cohort!
“Building Community Defense”

The 2018-2019 Young Leaders Institute (YLI) theme was Community Defense, and projects will take on anti-immigrant policies and hate violence. Shared below are project descriptions from this year’s cohort.

Apoorva Handigol: My project will stem from my senior thesis research on how antiblackness and Black-Brown solidarity have manifested over generations of South Asian Americans in Chicago. I will start with organizing a collaborative event at my school focusing on narratives of pain and love among South Asian and Black Americans. After this, I will take the project to my community in the Bay Area and reframe this community need as one of support for a group of people who has gone through much the same as we have, plus other injustices we have the privilege to forget. I will translate what I learned from the event on campus and my research into addressing my South Asian community’s antiblackness, lack of awareness of our 150+ years of Black solidarity, and need to strengthen our community defense.

 

Farishtay Yamin: My proposal centers around creating a rapid response system to ICE activity and hate crimes using an app. I would like to use the existing member base and network present in Athens, GA to duplicate the model in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Hiba Ahmad: My project is to create a financial literacy program for prison inmates in aims to reduce recidivism rates around the United States, which is mainly caused by lack of attainable financial education and resources. US prisons
disproportionately target people of color, so the successful
implementation of this program will hopefully protect our communities of color against further unjust detainment, and arm them with the education necessary to combat the difficulty of reentering the workforce.

Mahi Senthikumar: I will explore the intersections of rights and religion through a series of public talks and YouTube videos. By creating interfaith forums to discuss
religion alongside activism, I hope to break down social barriers within our community and uncover shared values which compel us to stand together for justice.

 

 

Meghal Sheth: For my project I will be working to co-program with other cultural and identity- based groups on Washington University in St. Louis’ campus to create a “Justice Through Freedom” Week. The week will include a vigil, call-in, panel discussion on community defense, and a gala with other various student organizations.

 

Myra Khushbakht: For my project, I plan to create an open discussion town hall event at Howard in the coming academic year. I hope to initiate a conversation about colorism within minorities on my campus.

 

 

Naisa Rahman: My community defense project will focus on improving my university’s reporting and response system for bias, discrimination, and harassment. My goal is for our institution to respond timely to students and to better support them during any crises.

 

 

Sarah Rozario: Sarah hopes to create a video composed of her campus community’s immigrant and undocumented voices addressing anti-immigration policies. The project will provide a space for students to voice their concerns as well as act as a display of support.

 

 

Vrinda Trivedi: Coming from Ohio, I think suburban and rural locations are sorely overlooked in regards to being seen as spaces conducive to community building. Therefore, I would like to find a way to connect LGBTQIA+ South Asians, through hosting a retreat similar to YLI, but on a smaller scale, and geared towards addressing the unique themes faced by LGBTQIA+ South Asians in suburban and rural spaces.

 

Yasmine Jafery: My project is creating an on campus club that provides a safe space for peers to talk to one another about difficult things they are going through. This club would provide struggling students a place to meet and learn from their peers that are fighting similar obstacles.

 

 

Neha Valmiki: Neha will have a session on her campus called Breaking Barriers, where will bring in speakers to talk about mental health in the South Asian community and the
necessity for civic engagement. The goal is to break the stigma of mental health and to break the idea that your vote doesn’t count. Her goal is it make sure each students knows that they have a voice and they are valid.

 

Rupkatha Banarjee: Summits and conferences often attract large audiences and transmit messages of support and awareness throughout the community. In lieu of student involvement and increased participation, I aim to organize a TEDx type conference with multiple speakers to explicate stories of immigrants who’ve experienced targeted racial violence.

 

Jaspreet Kaur: Brown Girl Joy [an IG platform] explores the intersections of beauty one brown girl [including gender non conforming + nonbinary person] at a time. We hope to reconstruct paradigms of beauty to be more inclusive and accepting for people of color.

 

 

Sana Hamed: I propose to start SEMS (Sharing Every Muslims’ Story), an initiative that would serve to unite Muslim organizations on campus through the common thread of storytelling. The project would include various ways to put a positive spotlight on who Muslims are in America and would include creating short narrative videos to be shared through social media, written features for an anthology, and even a showcase featuring Muslim creatives through which we could further engage the community.

 

 

For more information around Young Leaders Institute, follow SAALT on Twitter at @SAALTweets, or contact Almas Haider at almas@saalt.org

2020 CENSUS

The Constitution mandates a counting of all persons in the U.S every 10 years. This count is regardless of legality of stay. For the first time in United States history, the 2020 Census could include a question around citizenship. If allowed to pass, it would endanger immigrant communities, leaving them exposed to violence, and hate.

The Census informs the allocation of $800 billion in federal funds, guiding spending on infrastructure, education, healthcare, and public benefits. The inclusion of a citizenship question will red flags communities of color, and might lead to increased surveillance and policing of immigrants, specifically South Asians who already find themselves at the cross hairs of hate and violence.

We have until August 7th to submit comments to the federal government. Follow these three steps to submit a comment:

STEP 1:
Follow this link for a sample comment letter SAALT and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) created you can use.

STEP 2:
Personalize your comment.

We need to show the diversity of voices in opposition to the citizenship question. You are encouraged to personalize your comment using the data we provided in our webinar. Some questions to consider in personalizing your comment:
  • How will an inaccurate count impact your local community and state?
  • Do you have specific programs or projects funded by the state or local government that are at risk of being under-funded?
  • How might this impact political representation in your communities?
  • How will your community demographic affect their response rate?
  • Many South Asian families live in mixed-status households, do they feel safe responding to a citizenship question?
STEP 3:

Submit your comment at: https://goo.gl/LL34xx

 2020 CENSUS RESOURCES
–          2020 Census Strategy Webinar
–          2020 Census Community Workshop Support Materials