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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SAALT Welcomes Official End of Discriminatory Profiling of South Asian, Muslim, and Arab Individuals via NSEERS Program

December 22, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

SAALT applauds today’s announcement from the Department of Homeland Security on a final rule that formally ends the deeply flawed, patently ineffective, and openly discriminatory National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program (known as special registration) effective immediately.

As a national South Asian organization that has since its inception been fighting the deeply discriminatory NSEERS program as well as racial and religious profiling writ large, SAALT thanks the Department of Homeland Security, White House, and the Obama Administration for their decision to rescind the regulation behind this dormant program.  SAALT in particular salutes the steadfast leadership, organizing, and advocacy of South Asian, Muslim, and Arab individuals directly impacted by the program and grassroots South Asian and Muslim organizations-including members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO)-who have been involved in longstanding advocacy against NSEERS. The program was discontinued in 2011, but its regulatory framework remained dangerously on the books until today.

NSEERS, first created in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, required certain non-immigrant male visitors from 25 Middle Eastern, Arab, and South Asian countries and North Korea to appear at local immigration enforcement offices. Over 80,000 men were forced to register and over 13,000 individuals were placed into deportation proceedings, which did not result in one terrorism-related conviction. SAALT and South Asian Americans nationwide have experienced firsthand the ways programs such as NSEERS have decimated our trust in law enforcement.  Today’s announcement begins us on the path to restore some of that trust.

South Asians are the most rapidly-growing demographic group in the United States, and there are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims nationwide.  Even as our communities continue to grow, we are reminded that we are all safer when we refuse to racially and religiously profile individuals.  As an organization with a deep and longtime commitment to racial justice, civil rights, and civil liberties, SAALT will continue fighting to ensure South Asians and indeed all Americans are able to enjoy and exercise the basic rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution and concordant with our values as a nation.

United We Must Stand


Dear Friend,

Each day that passes brings another disturbing incident of hate violence against our communities. In response, each day we are more united, organized, and determined in our pursuit of justice for South Asian Americans and all.

On December 19, SAALT hosted a webinar on hate crimes with groups working on the front lines of this struggle. Members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, the largest South Asian American network of community-based advocacy organizations, shared their insights on this urgent call, along with the San Francisco chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. The Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, a Bay Area all-volunteer group, also joined to describe how they’re aggressively documenting local hate incidents for use as public evidence.

Representatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Justice also participated in this webinar, providing a variety of insights into America’s hate violence problem, as well as an opportunity to brainstorm solutions for the future.

This online event couldn’t have come sooner. The FBI’s most recent Hate Crimes report revealed not only a 7% increase in hate crimes overall, but also an alarming 67% increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims. SAALT’s own database confirms an uptick in hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities nationwide in 2016, with incidents expected to accelerate in the new year.

SAALT will continue to push back against hate, but we need your help.

Big battles require big support. Please stand with SAALT as we take on the challenges ahead. By donating today, SAALT can continue tracking hate, supporting our partners nationwide, and demanding justice and cooperation from our government.

With you by our side, we can make America better, together.


We can only do this with your support. Stand with us today.

With determination,
Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

It’s Not Too Late To Push Back Against Hate


Dear Friend,

On December 6, moments after leaving a policy conference at the White House, a taxi driver called Minnesota Representative-Elect Ilhan Omar a member of “ISIS” and threatened to forcibly remove her hijab. Ms. Omar calls it the “most hateful, derogatory, Islamophobic, sexist taunts and threats I have ever experienced.”

A day earlier in New York City, Soha Salama, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) employee was harassed, called a “terrorist”, and pushed down a flight of stairs at Grand Central subway station. She was told to “go back” to her country by her assailant during the attack.

Days earlier in Pittsburgh, Ankur Mehta was working on his computer in a Red Robin Restaurant when a drunken man told him “things are different now” and “I don’t want you sitting next to me.” He then proceeded to use racial slurs such as “sandn****r” before striking Mr. Mehta several times with his fists and elbows.

These incidents occurred in a span of a little over one week. Sadly, there are many more. In 2016 SAALT tracked over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities. These incidents have surged massively in the wake of the Presidential election.

We need your support now more than ever to push back against hate.

In the coming weeks and months, SAALT will:

  • Release a detailed report to policymakers and the media on hate incidents against South Asian, Muslim, and Arab Americans during the 2016 election cycle to fully illustrate the extent to which our communities are under attack;
  • Organize town hall meetings throughout the country to understand the local concerns of our communities nationwide;
  • Hold the 10th anniversary of our National South Asian Summit where hundreds of thought leaders, organizations, and activists from across the country will come together to strategize on how to support and defend our communities in this new and uncertain future. We will then take to Capitol Hill to engage with policymakers and government agencies en masse.

The time to answer the urgent call for South Asian American justice is now. Please stand with us as we take on the enormous challenges ahead. Will you make a contribution to our work?


With your support, we can push back against hate so that our communities can enjoy the freedoms and rights owed to all Americans. With your contribution, we can help make America better for us all.

Please donate as generously as you can today.

With determination,
Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

Our Impact. Your Voice.


Dear Friend,

In a year defined by hate, where our communities have suffered historic levels of violence and xenophobic political rhetoric nationwide, SAALT worked even harder to ensure our communities’ voices were heard louder and farther than ever before.

With your help, we’ve made significant strides.

In 2016, we tracked over 220 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against our communities. In the coming weeks we will release a report to policymakers, law enforcement, and the new administration to make sure they fully understand the extent to which our communities are under attack.  We will demand that the government use its full power to ensure our communities are protected, not targeted or ignored.

In 2016 we terminated a 7-year relationship with Southwest Airlines due to repeated incidents of racial profiling against our communities on their flights. Doing so meant returning $10,000 in sponsorship that supported many of our vital programs. At SAALT, we advance ideals of justice and equality, and live by them fiercely and faithfully.

One such program is the Young Leaders Institute (YLI), which brings together 13 young adults to learn leadership skills, connect with activists, and develop practical tools and action plans to protect immigrant rights on and off campus.  For 4 years SAALT has trained 72 young adults to take on the challenges of the future, and with your support we can continue training tomorrow’s leaders today.

Through our We Build Community program, we provided $45,000 to four grassroots South Asian American groups to support and increase their capacity to fight for racial justice and immigrant rights across the country.

We continue to coordinate and expand the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a group of 54 community partners that foster a broader movement for racial, gender, and immigrant justice.  The NCSO is the largest network of South Asian American organizations in the country, and is a crucial voice as we confront the ongoing challenges facing our communities.

These examples reflect our increasing commitment to South Asian American justice. We need your support so we can continue defending and demanding rights for our communities nationwide.

Please donate today to sustain and expand our work on this long road ahead.  While the future may be uncertain, what you can be sure of is SAALT’s commitment to our communities, our partners, and our mission.

Please stand with us today and donate as generously as you can.

With resolve and gratitude,

Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

On #GivingTuesday, Going Forward Means Giving Back

Hi Friend,

My name is Jasveen and I am a college student living in America’s post-election reality.  I am also a 2016-2017 Fellow of SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute (YLI).

In acknowledgment of Giving Tuesday, which follows the Thanksgiving Holiday each year, I want you to know how grateful I am that generous donors support SAALT and this amazing program.

With intolerance and even violence targeting our communities and surging nationwide, it is becoming difficult to find safe havens anywhere. Going to school, traveling, practicing my faith, even walking the street in broad daylight now present unmistakable risks to my life.

YLI became an important outlet for me and eleven other young South Asian American Fellows who are part of this year’s cohort.  It gave us an opportunity to connect with activists and mentors, and explore equality and immigrant justice strategies to implement on behalf of the South Asian community.  It has also become a place where I found community amongst like-minded South Asians Americans who are passionate about justice.


The 2016-2017 YLI Cohort during a two-day leadership convening in Silver Spring, Maryland

I also wanted you to know that until recently YLI was funded in significant part by sponsorship money from Southwest Airlines.  This year, SAALT made the right choice to end its relationship with Southwest because of multiple incidents of racial profiling by its employees, including against a Muslim university student in California.

Speaking on behalf of the rest of my YLI cohort, we greatly admire and respect the bold stand that SAALT took in cutting ties with Southwest, because it meant returning a $10,000 contribution. Taking a stand against large powerful corporations like Southwest showed me what a dedicated organization SAALT is and made me prouder to be in YLI.

So today, on Giving Tuesday, a global day dedicated to generosity and charity, I’m asking you to please take the walk towards justice with SAALT and YLI. Please support SAALT and make sure it has enough funds to replace the $10,000 it lost in ending its relationship with Southwest. It’s in your hands now to help make sure that SAALT and YLI can thrive for years to come, and more young adults can get the vital leadership training we need to take on the challenges of tomorrow.


Jasveen and the 2016-2017 YLI Cohort

P.S. More than ever, our community and our country need young leaders to create the change that we all want to see.  Please stand with us today for a better tomorrow.

How To Prepare For An Uncertain Future

Dear Friend,

The weeks after the most divisive election in modern American history have left our community shaken.  Hundreds of incidents of hate violence and intolerance have been reported since November 8, and SAALT has tracked more than 200 of these incidents even before Election Day.  From campuses to places of worship, from airplane cabins to the sidewalks of America, our communities continue to be targets. As we prepare for an uncertain future, we must look to our children to be the ambassadors of change.

We must support our young people to help solve these problems.

Young adults like  Nikhil Mandalaparthy, a student at the University of Chicago who came to Washington, DC as a part of SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute (YLI) 2016-2017 cohort.  As a YLI Fellow, Nikhil joined 11 other young people in a two-day convening where mentors and activists took them through workshops and activities to strengthen their leadership skills.  This year’s theme was Building Immigrant Justice,and provided the cohort with practical tools and action plans to organize within the South Asian community while spotlighting undocumented immigrant rights.

Nikhil found this experience “eye-opening“, and believes “our efforts to have these important conversations in our communities can have a much greater impact than we could ever imagine.

"The theme of this year's YLI was Immigrant Justice, and after hearing
about the different projects we were hoping to execute on our campuses,
I was honestly in awe." -Nikhil Mandalaparthy, 2016-2017 YLI Fellow

In order for SAALT to continue skills building and community training for these young leaders of tomorrow, we need your support – Today!  The need is made even more urgent by our recent decision to return $10,000 in sponsorship funds to Southwest Airlines, money that helped support our YLI program.  Southwest employees have been racially profiling South Asian, Muslim, and Arab passengers in the last year, including at least five well-publicized incidents.

Southwest ignored SAALT’s repeated demands to address racial and religious profiling in their training guidelines and complaint procedures.  Enough was enough, and we said goodbye to their sponsorship.

Now we need you! Please step up now as an individual standing for equality and justice.  Any amount you can contribute that is meaningful to you would make a big difference.


Your gift supports young leaders as they chart out a path for a better future for our communities and country.  Leaders like Nikhil, who believes that the Young Leaders Institute “will serve as inspiration to many more young South Asian Americans, just as it did for me.”

With your help, we can ensure that our future is filled with young leaders who are inspired to work for South Asian justice, and indeed justice for all.  Please give today.

With resolve and gratitude,

Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

Southwest Went Low. Help Us Fly High!

Dear Friend,

For the past 7 years we’ve received funding support from Southwest Airlines to help with numerous programs including making the SAALT Young Leaders Institute (YLI) possible. YLI annually brings together undergraduate students and other young adults to build leadership skills, connect with activists and mentors, and explore social change strategies on issues that affect South Asian and immigrant communities in the U.S. Through YLI, we are building the next generation of South Asian community leaders.

But because the airline has treated our communities like second-class citizens, we have terminated our relationship with Southwest.


Southwest employees have been racially profiling Muslim, Arab, and South Asian passengers in the last year, including at least five well-publicized incidents. One well-covered incident involved kicking a University of California Berkley student off a flight in April 2016 for saying “Inshallah” to his father on the phone.

Our decision was not taken lightly nor made in haste.

As a non-profit organization, the $10,000 we lost by terminating our relationship with Southwest affects SAALT’s ability to support tomorrow’s leaders through our YLI program.

SAALT and our partners sent multiple communications to Southwest, including to CEO Gary Kelly, over the last year expressing our concerns. Disappointingly, all we received was one unsatisfactory response after another.

Southwest made it clear they would issue no apology to the affected passengers nor would it address profiling in their corporate training guidelines and complaint procedures. In short, we saw no effort by Southwest Airlines to establish protections against racial and religious profiling of passengers on its flights. The airline continues to deflect any responsibility for its actions, even as the level of hostility against our communities continues to increase nationwide.

So we said “enough!” and goodbye to Southwest.

Now we need your help to replace this lost funding, and make sure that YLI can keep growing. The 2016-2017 cohort is focused on Building Immigrant Rights, a topic in which South Asian Americans have a tremendous stake.

saalt yli group

Please help SAALT replace these lost funds, and support tomorrow’s leaders today. Any amount that is meaningful to you will make a difference.

We took a stand against hate, against profiling, and for equality when we returned Southwest’s money. We took a stand for your right to fly with dignity. Thank you for standing with us and believing in the work we do at SAALT for and with the South Asian community. Since Southwest went low, we need your support to ensure that our community continues to fly high. Please donate today.

With hope,
Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

New FBI Hate Crimes Report Reveals Massive Increase in Anti-Muslim Violence

November 17, 2016
Contact: Vivek Trivedi, vivek@saalt.org

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) – a leading national South Asian civil rights organization representing the diversity of our growing communities in the United States – is profoundly concerned by the findings of the 2015 Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crime Statistics report released this week. The FBI’s analysis revealed 5,850 hate crimes were reported in 2015, a 7% increase from 2014. Two deeply disturbing revelations in the report are the 23% increase in religious-based hate crimes and the 67% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country in 2015.

“The 257 anti-Muslim crimes reported in 2015 are the second highest on record in the United States, trailing only the backlash after the attacks of September 11, 2001,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Hundreds of hate violence incidents have already been reported in only a week after these deeply divisive elections. This leads many in our community to believe that the FBI’s statistics are only the tip of the iceberg, with much worse yet to come.”

The FBI’s sobering statistics may pale in comparison to reality, however, as underreporting remains a consistent issue across the country. The number of law enforcement agencies that participated in the 2015 FBI data collection effort decreased from 15,494 in 2014 to 14,997 in 2015, and less than 12% of these agencies even reported one or more hate crimes to the FBI. This means that 88% of participating police agencies reported zero hate crimes to the FBI. Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have indicated that the data reported to the FBI may be as low as 35% of actual levels of hate crime in the country.

“The issue of underreporting is of critical concern when attempting to diagnose the severity of violence against our communities,” stated Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT. “South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the United States, with a population of over 4.3 million. Law enforcement agencies must participate actively and accurately in the reporting of hate crimes in order to shed light on the full scope of violence facing our growing communities.”

This is one of the many reasons SAALT developed an online database tracking incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities. Even before the post-election surge in violence, we tracked over 200 incidents from November 2015, and we encourage people to continue to utilize this resource to report incidents against our communities.

A welcomed aspect of the FBI’s report was the new addition of categories for crimes targeting Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus, who have historically been targets of violence due to real or perceived religions and appearance. SAALT supported the tremendous advocacy work of the Sikh community following the 2012 Oak Creek, WI gurdwara massacre where a known white supremacist killed six Sikh worshippers. This eventually led to the FBI adding these new categories to help disaggregate hate crimes data more accurately.

The alarming data in the FBI’s report and the post-election surge in violence underscore the climate of hate surrounding our communities nationwide. It is high time our communities are prioritized, not as targets, but as Americans, who deserve all the rights and protections available under the law.

We Accept The Challenge

Dear Friend,

Our nation is still reeling in the wake of the Presidential election. It’s been a challenging time for so many in our community, and indeed for America. Today we want you to hear us loud and clear: SAALT accepts the challenge.

We accept the challenge by expressing outrage when the President-Elect, elected officials, and individuals paint our community as a dangerous “other”. We’ve tracked over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our community since November 2015. Over 25% of rhetoric came from President-Elect Trump himself. We’re not stopping. We will redouble our efforts to hold the President-Elect accountable when he takes office in January to ensure our community’s rights and voices are defended. We refuse to accept the politics of fear and division.

We accept the challenge by knowing we cannot do this alone. In 2016 through our We Build Community Program we’ve provided nearly $50,000 support to grassroots groups in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations to build a strong field of South Asian groups ready to take their place in racial justice, immigrant rights, and civil liberties movements across the nation.

We accept the challenge by understanding our future South Asian leaders of tomorrow must be trained today. In 2016, through our Young Leaders Institute, we provided twelve undergraduates and young adults the opportunity to build leadership skills, connect with activists and mentors, and explore social change strategies around issues that affect the South Asian community. These young adults are more necessary than ever to lift up the voices of South Asians nationwide.

We accept the challenge by knowing the strength of numbers and the power of unity. April 2017 will mark the 10th anniversary of the first National South Asian Summit, our multi-day gathering in D.C. that allows South Asian American community organizations and leaders to strategize on how to unite and strengthen our communities and make our presence known in the halls of Congress. With our country so deeply divided, the 2017 Summit will be the most urgent and compelling gathering of South Asian voices yet.

We have big challenges ahead of us, and I know we are up to the task. We’re counting on you to stand with us as we take on this challenge. Together, we’ll make it clear our community is here to stay and that our voices must be heard.

Stand with us by making a generous donation today.

We have a long road ahead of us, and we are steadfast in walking every step side-by-side with our community. Friend, we need your support to help us down that road. With you standing with us, we will keep fighting for our community and accepting the challenges that come our way.

With determination,

Suman Raghunathan
Executive Director, SAALT