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.

Impact of NYPD Surveillance: Limiting the Voices of Our Youth

Like any student who embarks on their journey through college, I spent much of my undergraduate years at American University discovering my identity, sense of belonging and interests in life.  As I reflect on those days not so long ago, I now realize how important being a part of a cultural student group was for me and the impact it had on my sense of identity. For me, my involvement in the Philippine Student Association played a significant role in how I came to identify, both individually and within a community. Knowing that, it is difficult for me to imagine experiencing those moments of self-searching and struggle while also having restrictions on my ability to find my community.

Imagine having your student organization be the target of a police surveillance program just for the mere fact that your student organization is racially, ethnically, or religiously-based.

Well, it happened in New York and beyond. Student groups, in this instance Muslim student groups, were targeted by the New York Police Department (NYPD). But, it doesn’t just stop there.

It’s not a secret that the NYPD has long-been spying on student organizations, places of worship and businesses.

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Image from Politicker

In fact, just a few months ago, the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) released a report which documents this surveillance program and its impact on the Muslim community since its inception in 2002. Needless to say, the effects on the Muslim community have been drastic, causing individuals to restrict their speech and religious practice as well as their everyday activities. And, with the recent release of evidence that the NYPD has been conducting in-depth surveillance on Muslim Americans by designating them as “terrorism enterprises” and trying to infiltrate at least one local community organization, I can only imagine the impact that this will have on individuals. Moreover, as a recent college graduate, I can’t help but wonder what this means for 17 and 18 year olds as they embark on their college experience, a time many Americans use to find themselves, figure out where they belong, and build community.

Being a part of a student group and participating in cultural activities helped me to feel a sense of belonging and allowed me to learn more about Filipino culture and history during my four years at American University. It provided me a space in which to connect with peers who shared similar experiences and struggles. It’s disheartening to know that my peers will not have the same opportunity, which is such a big part of the college experience. What’s worse, if they chose to explore their identity in these traditional ways, their civil rights may be violated as well as their privacy.

We cannot not let the NYPD or other government agencies limit the ability of youth to find their identity or of anyone else to engage in their community by threatening their civil rights and religious freedom. We must demand accountability from our government agencies and officials. We must move forward — not backwards – because a better future is ahead of us. We owe this much to our youth, our communities, and our nation.

AuriaJoy Asaria
Communications and Admin Assistant
South Asian Americans Leading Together, SAALT

In Pursuit of the “Dream”: We Reflect and Recommit

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Photo Credit: Bao Lor, SEARAC

Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. This past weekend, to commemorate this important occasion, Asian American organizations joined thousands of people who gathered in the nation’s capital to participate in a march and rally titled, “National Action to Realize the Dream March”.. The purpose of this march and rally was not just to remember the legacy of Dr. King and the progress since his speech over 50 years ago, but to show that even today in 2013, inequality persists.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

SAALT staff rallying in solidarity

Among the Asian American organizations present at the March were representatives from SAALT, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM). And as part of the program on Saturday, Jasjit Singh, Executive Director of SALDEF spoke and shared the stage along with other civil rights leaders.

The work still continues, especially within the South Asian, Muslim and Sikh communities when it comes to decreasing hate crimes, discrimination, harassment and racial profiling following 9/11, and the tremendous disparities within South Asian communities from the standpoint of access to educational equity, jobs, and health care.

SAALT Programs Intern and recent graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, Victoria Meaney, reflected on the significance of the March, “Attending the 50th Anniversary March on Washington was monumental to me as a South Asian American. My ability to participate, in collaboration with SAALT really exemplifies the progress that has been made, based on the work of individuals such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Their examples show the importance of the individual’s voice, and, by allying with others, the steps to a just society are possible. My hope is that future marches to come will have an even greater representation of South Asians and Asian Pacific Americans, because civil rights belong to all, but we will not be heard if we do not advocate for ourselves.”

We marched and rallied in solidarity for jobs, justice, peace and equality along with Americans of all races, faith and backgrounds.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

In giving her reasons for the importance of this March, Roksana Mun a DRUM Youth Organizer reflected on the theme of the March in 1963, which was “the need for jobs and the ever growing economic and social inequality between people of color communities and white communities”. And today she notes, “…we’re living at a time when the same exact issues of working-class, people of color are struggling to find jobs, decent pay (or in many cases any pay), increased cuts to education, health care and social service systems still persist. The Poor People’s March is still needed”

We showed that even though 50 years has passed since Dr. King’s speech calling for equality and justice we still have yet to pursue that dream.

As Fahd Ahmed, Legal and Policy Director of DRUM states, “It was important for DRUM to have a presence at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington because we have directly benefited from gains made by the Civil Rights movement. Both in terms of actual rights, won, such as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, but also in having learned strategies and tactics. Our current struggles for immigrant rights, racial justice, and worker’s rights, are a continuation of that legacy.”

Let us reflect and recommit as SAALT Executive Director, Deepa Iyer, notes “South Asians are indebted to the civil rights movement and the African American leaders and community members who marched today 50 years ago. The pivotal anti-discrimination and immigration laws that were enacted in 1965 have preserved the rights of millions of people of color and immigrants. Now, 50 years later, South Asians must continue to be a critical and visible constituency in the ongoing struggle for equity.”

So today, on the actual date of the March on Washington, as we commemorate Dr. King, his legacy and the struggles that were endured to defend our civil rights, let us not forget that problems still persists and that we are still in pursuit of the “Dream”.
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AuriaJoy Asaria
Communications and Admin Assistant
South Asian Americans Leading Together, SAALT