FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, mourns the death of Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Reston, Virginia resident who was killed as she left her All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque on Sunday morning. Though police swiftly arrested and charged a local man with the killing, on Monday Fairfax County Police stated on Twitter, “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.” This early and impulsive decision to rule out racial or religious bias as a possible factor in this killing sends the wrong message to South Asian and Muslim communities across the country who continue to face violence and intimidation every day. SAALT calls on law enforcement to vigorously investigate all possible motives that led to this tragic loss of life.
“Given the pandemic of hate violence aimed at Muslim and South Asian communities in the United States, it is nothing less than tone deaf for the police to categorically dismiss hate as a possible factor in the tragic killing of a young Muslim girl who was attacked while walking out of her mosque during Ramadan,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The police have a sworn duty to protect and serve everyone, including Muslim and South Asian communities. A complete investigation into the facts is the only way to achieve justice for Nabra.”
SAALT has documented over 100 incidents of hate targeting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans in 2017 alone. Shootings in Kansas and Washington State, along with vandalism and arson attacks of mosques, homes, and businesses across the country are only a few of the tragic incidents our communities have experienced this year.
Nabra’s killing is not the first incident that leads our communities, and communities of color writ large, to distrust law enforcement. In recent years the police have repeatedly brutalized our communities with impunity. In 2015 Sureshbhai Patel, a senior citizen with limited English proficiency, was partially paralyzed after being slammed to the ground by an Alabama police officer. During a traffic stop in 2016, Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer while the entire incident was live-streamed by Castile’s girlfriend. Despite video evidence in both cases, the accused officers were acquitted of all charges.
On the other hand, the police are equally quick to the trigger when dismissing hate as a possible motivating factor in violence aimed at our communities. Our communities have experienced far greater hate violence than has been documented due to severe underreporting of hate crimes by local law enforcement. In 2014, the Bureau of Justice Statistics suggested the actual number of anti-Muslim hate crimes was likely 6,000 or more than what was registered, despite the FBI only reporting 154 hate crime incidents.
The federal government has also been wholly inadequate in protecting our communities. A May 2, 2017 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on “Responses to the Increase in Religious Hate Crimes” did not include a single Muslim or Arab organization or expert witness to provide testimony, despite dramatic spikes in anti-Muslim hate violence across the country that are nearing levels not seen since the year after 9/11. This erasure of reality and unwillingness to understand the problem on the part of our government is completely unacceptable.
Nabra’s tragic death rattles our already embattled communities, and should shake the entire nation. Parents should not fear for their child’s safety because they wear a hijab or attend a mosque. Every young person should be guaranteed a life free of hate. This is the promise our country continues to break every day. We as a nation must collectively pledge, early and often, with words and actions, that we are NOT going to compromise the principles of religious freedom out of fear or hate, and that we will protect the rights of all Americans always.
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South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, welcomes the 9th Circuit decision to uphold a nationwide injunction on President Trump’s “Muslim Ban 2.0” executive order.
“What the President called ‘watered-down’, the Court of Appeals called unconstitutional,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The 9th Circuit, along with numerous courts, have made it abundantly clear that discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin are offensive to the ideals of our democracy. While welcomed, today’s ruling could not block the hate the President’s policies have already created and validated. Violence against our communities is on the rise. Visa issuances have slowed dramatically. These are the grim realities our communities experience in public every day.”
SAALT has documented increasing hate violence incidents since the President took office, numbering over 100 incidents targeting Muslim, Arab, and South Asian Americans alone. Tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State, arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, homes, campuses, and businesses across the country, and anti-Muslim rallies in 30 cities over the weekend demonstrate the fertile environment for hate this administration has cultivated.
Data released by the State Department also suggests that the number of visas issued to people from six majority-Muslim countries targeted by the President’s executive order appears to be slowing down dramatically. The number of nonimmigrant visas issued to citizens from the six majority-Muslim countries in March and April have decreased by nearly 50% from the 2016 average.
Despite strong rulings by various courts on the “Muslim Bans”, hate and division continue to be a fact of life for our communities. SAALT maintains that immigration reform that upholds the rights of all, legislation such as the No Hate Act and End Racial and Religious Profiling Act that codify protections for all of our communities, and strong hate crimes laws in all 50 states are key priorities we must demand from all of our elected and appointed officials.
As the 9th Circuit noted, “immigration, even for the President, is not a one-person show.” Nor is the struggle for civil rights and liberties. We must applaud today’s order, but we must continue to demand justice and full inclusion in our America.
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The National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 58 South Asian American community organizations across the country, condemns the local anti-Muslim events organized by ACT For America on June 10. These events are an alarming part of a larger wave of white supremacy targeting our communities nationwide.
ACT for America, reportedly the largest anti-Muslim hate group in the United States, has branded their campaign a “March Against Shariah,” a divisive fear mongering effort to manufacture hatred against the nation’s already-embattled Muslim American communities. The organization’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, has made her bias and opposition to an entire religion clear, stating “every practicing Muslim is a radical Muslim” and that Muslims are a “natural threat to civilized people of the world, particularly Western society.” While ACT for America remains a fringe organization, not representative of the majority of public opinion, the June 10 protests are a physical manifestation of the ongoing effort to sow hatred against our communities nationwide.
Gabriel’s statements are troubling and reminiscent of President Trump’s, who has declared on the record, “I think Islam hates us.” The President’s “Muslim Bans” and divisive rhetoric have validated and amplified the views and actions of violent white supremacists and white nationalist extremists in recent months.
Recently in Portland, OR, a known white supremacist, Jeremy Joseph Christian, spewed racist comments at two commuters, one of whom was a young Muslim woman wearing a hijab. When other passengers attempted to intervene, Christian stabbed two of them to death and injured another before being arrested. At his arraignment Christian reaffirmed his white supremacist beliefs, declaring, “Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom.”
This brutal bigotry builds on a rising tide of violence and intimidation that has defined much of the last several years and accelerated during the 2016 Presidential election cycle. Tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State, ongoing arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes across the country, and the persistent targeting and harassment of South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities nationwide continue to be a fact of life.
“While white supremacists believe Islam is incompatible with Western society, we believe racism and fear mongering are incompatible with core American values,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together. “ACT for America’s anti-Muslim rallies, scheduled during the month of Ramadan, are an affront to the core religious freedoms enshrined in our Constitution and encourages divisive rhetoric that paints Muslim communities in our nation as un-American, which couldn’t be farther from reality. We call on all elected and appointed officials to denounce ACT for America and its anti-Muslim protests as un-American and unacceptable.”
“Much of ACT for America’s gatherings are the sum result of existing practices and policies by local and federal governments that harm frontline communities such as surveillance, racial profiling, and collaboration between local and federal enforcement agencies that commit violence, accelerate deportations, and allow for continued unaccountability from law enforcement officers,” stated Roksana Mun, Director of Strategy at Desis Rising Up & Moving. “Racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic actions like these are the reasons why all frontline communities need to join together and build our community defense which builds our own people power.”
“Many southeastern states such as North Carolina are on the frontlines of the juxtaposition of South Asian American population growth and the growth in white supremacist organizations,” stated Chavi Koneru, Executive Director of North Carolina Asian Americans Together (NCAAT). “Given these dynamics, it is critical for grassroots organizations like NCAAT to work with our local partners to support smart, inclusive public policies that take a stand against division.”
As grassroots organizations, NCSO members work on numerous issues including domestic violence, immigrant rights, civil rights, civil liberties, and LGBTQIA rights. We have confronted hate violence, advocated for major shifts in law enforcement, government documentation, and responses to hate crimes, as well as policy solutions to anticipate and prevent these horrible incidents. With South Asian Americans the most rapidly growing demographic group in the nation, the NCSO continues to work on inclusion and community building as we mobilize in the face of hate. In this urgent moment, we combine our voices and join our hands in opposition to the organized bigotry and racism targeting our communities every day. We demand our rights and freedoms.
During his arraignment, the Portland attacker declared with zeal, “You got no safe place.” This is the world that white supremacists, with their powerful allies, want to speak into reality. This is the world we will never stop opposing, because love must always trump hate.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On June 6, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, participated in a critical hate crimes forum facilitated by the US Department of Justice Community Relations Service in Kansas. Representatives from government agencies, diverse community leaders, and advocacy organizations gathered at the Hindu Temple and Cultural Center of Kansas City to examine and address the bigotry and hate violence targeting our communities nationwide.
The Kansas community is still reeling from the February killing of Srinivas Kuchibhotla by a gunman who screamed “Get out of my country” before opening fire. This attack was neither the beginning nor the end of the epidemic of hate violence targeting South Asian, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, and interfaith communities across the country.
“The United States was founded on religious liberty, yet our country is flooding with hatred and violence explicitly targeting communities based on their religion, race, nationality, and perceived identity,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The President’s responses to the tragedy in Kansas along with many others have been deeply problematic. Multiple attempts at a ‘Muslim Ban’, careless words or complete silence following attacks on our communities, and his failure to name white supremacy as a clear and present danger to our country all combine to signal the lack of necessary interest, will, and leadership to address these fundamental issues.”
SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern American communities during the divisive 2016 elections. While we know this number accounts for only a fraction of actual incidents aimed at our communities, 95% of the incidents documented were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.
Successive waves of hate continue to crash against our communities. On June 10 ACT for America, a noted hate group, is hosting a series of multi-city anti-Muslim rallies to manufacture fear and hatred of our communities. SAALT and our partners call on all national, state, and local leaders to denounce fear-mongering and xenophobia as unacceptable and demand the vigorous enforcement of our civil rights and liberties. These responsibilities are not optional.
With tragedy upon tragedy accumulating rapidly in our national memory, the time for our leaders to respond must be now.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian racial justice and civil rights organization, applauds today’s ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit to uphold a nationwide injunction on President Trump’s “Muslim Ban 2.0” executive order.
“SAALT and our allies nationwide have called for a total and complete shutdown of the ‘Muslim Ban’ since day one, and today the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit answered that call,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Through his divisive policies and rhetoric, the President and other irresponsible elected and appointed officials have amplified an appetite for discrimination and hostility we’ve seen borne out in surges in hate violence against our communities nationwide. Today’s ruling reaffirms our place in this country, that we are not going anywhere, and no one, not even the President, can negotiate that truth away.”
Cosmetic changes to the President’s original “Muslim Ban” did not beguile the 13 judges of the 4th Circuit. The court stated that the evidence “creates a compelling case that [the President’s second travel ban’s] primary purpose is religious” and that the President’s anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric “provides direct, specific evidence” of “President Trump’s desire to exclude Muslims from the United States.”
While the President’s anti-Muslim orders continue to be blocked, SAALT continues to be deeply concerned these policies fan the flames of violence against our communities nationwide. From tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State to ongoing arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes across the country, South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu communities continue to experience a rising tide of hate and fear throughout the United States that only appears to continue growing.
In January SAALT released “Power, Pain, Potential,” a report documenting over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 election cycle. While we know this number accounts for only a fraction of actual incidents aimed at our communities, 95% of the incidents documented were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic rhetoric we tracked. Even as Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric energized his base during his campaign, it has stymied his administration’s efforts to enact and defend the “Muslim Bans” as evinced by several federal court rulings.
Today’s judgment nullifies, at least temporarily, one of this administration’s openly discriminatory policies targeting our communities. Despite this ruling, the struggle continues to ensure our communities enjoy the rights, freedoms, and protections we all deserve.
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Washington, DC – On April 21-24, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) welcomed hundreds of activists, organizations, students, and community members from across the country to the 10-year anniversary of the National South Asian Summit in Washington, D.C., a four-day event where participants raised their voices on urgent issues for our communities.
“Our communities continue to live in various states of shock as a panorama of hate violence, civil rights violations, and anti-immigrant policies continue to impact South Asian Americans nationwide,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “At this challenging moment, the National South Asian Summit offered a platform for our communities to seek and find spaces for solidarity while also providing an opportunity for thought leaders, activists, students, and community members from across the country to collectively examine our diverse priorities. Under the theme United for Action, we ambitiously, disruptively, and compassionately engaged in a critical struggle for justice and full inclusion for all.”
This year’s participants were a diverse group, including students and seniors, thought leaders and social workers, techies and teachers, poets, filmmakers, lawyers, counselors, and organizers who reflected the rich diversity, experiences, religions, ethnicities, and national origins of our communities. The Summit provided an opportunity to connect through a sense of collective identity, commitment to strengthening our communities, and a deep belief in the power of uniting for action in the pursuit of justice.
The National South Asian Summit 2017 kicked off on Friday, April 21 at the National Press Club with the ChangeMakers Awards, an event that recognized individuals and organizations that have catalyzed social justice within the South Asian American community. This year’s ChangeMakers honorees included Vanita Gupta, former Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General and future President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights; Equality Labs, the first South Asian women, gender non-conforming, queer, and trans-led technology project whose leadership is from South Asian cultural and religious minority communities; Jayesh Rathod, professor of law at American University Washington College of Law and founding Director of the law school’s Immigrant Justice Clinic who also served on SAALT’s Board of Directors for 10 years; Daya, Inc., a Houston non-profit that supports South Asian women who are trying to break the cycle of domestic and sexual violence and which in 2015 became a BIA-accredited agency providing immigration services to clients in need; Zahra Billoo, leading civil rights attorney and the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR); Gurbani Kaur, a student activists, founder of the Sikh Student Association at Harvard, and alumnus of SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute; and Ravi Ragbir, fearless immigrant rights advocate and Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition who is currently fighting against his own possible deportation. The evening also provided a opportunity for SAALT to express our deep appreciation to outgoing Board Chair Sunil Oommen, who served on SAALT’s Board of Directors with distinction for 10 years. A musical performance by award winning artists Kiran Ahluwalia and Rez Abassi closed out the ChangeMakers reception.
Over 300 attendees gathered for the four-day Summit, including two full days at Trinity Washington University where 40 dynamic sessions conceived and led by community members explored the diverse needs and priorities of our communities. “The National South Asian Summit is crucial because we are now coming together from across the country to discuss creating and changing the institutional racism that we face here in America,” stated Ravi Ragbir, Executive Director of the New Sanctuary Coalition. ASATA member Sabiha Basrai believes “The National South Asian Summit allows for a healthy controversy in the room and does not expect everyone to have political alignment on everything, which allows us to push each other with love and respect.” Fahd Ahmed, Executive Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), noted, “The opportunity to bring people together and to learn about the issues that people are facing, how they are responding to those issues, how they are succeeding, and what continue to be their challenges is a very important learning ground. For DRUM, that’s always been the most important aspect of the Summit.”
On the evening of April 22 the Summit participants took to the streets for the South Asian Americans Marching For Justice event, a rally that began at Freedom Plaza and concluded with a march to the White House. From speeches to chants demanding civil rights, civil liberties, and immigration justice for all, we marched for all those fighting for a socially just country, and we demanded the support of policymakers towards that vision.
The National Summit garnered strong media coverage from numerous national and ethnic outlets. A feature in Scroll examined the Summit and the power of cross-racial organizing. NPR’s Arun Venugopal attended the National Summit and interviewed SAALT’s Executive Director and allies for this piece on the national realities of hate crimes.. SAALT was also honored by HuffPost as one of the five South Asian American organizations every woke person should know.
Thank you to our sponsors, The Four Freedoms Fund, Comcast, Savan Kotecha, Garcia Hernandez, Sawhney, LLP, South Asian Bar Association of North America, Sunil Oommen, and Mansi and Archit Shah for their generous support of the National South Asian Summit.
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South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, mourns the loss of life in separate killings of South Asian Americans last week in California and Michigan, and demands that law enforcement investigate whether racial or religious animus motivated any of these incidents.
On May 4, Dr. Ramesh Kumar was found shot dead in his car on a highway near Detroit, Michigan. Hours later in a separate incident in Modesto, California, Jagjeet Singh, a convenience store clerk, was stabbed to death by a customer outside his shop. Racial motivations have been alleged in both cases.
“Our communities have faced a hostile climate of hate for years, with particular intensity since President Trump took office. This makes race as a possible motivation in these tragic killings a very real possibility,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “The President’s divisive rhetoric and policies have fanned the flames of violence against our communities since his campaign, and now in his Presidency. Unfortunately, broad swaths of our nation’s residents face hostility and violence as a result of the xenophobic and anti-Muslim rhetoric advanced by President Trump.”
2017 has been a deadly year for our growing communities, including tragic shootings in Kansas and Washington State, numerous arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes nationwide, and mounting fear experienced within our communities across the country. The nation has seen a groundswell of violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim and immigrant communities, with numerous perpetrators hurling epithets before committing acts of violence against community members. South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group nationwide.
These relentless and numerous tragedies build upon the historic violence of the 2016 presidential elections. In our latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” SAALT documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern American communities during the divisive elections, 95% of which were animated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Notably, 1 in 5 xenophobic comments came from then-candidate Trump.
The President’s rhetoric has been implemented with devastating effect via divisive policies such as two attempts at a “Muslim Ban”, both of which have been halted by the courts. This week the administration is appealing a nationwide restraining order on the latest “Muslim Ban” in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia. SAALT and our allies rallied in staunch opposition to the “Muslim Ban” as part of the #NoMuslimBanEver week of resistance. Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy of SAALT, stated, “The President may be a businessman at heart, but civil rights do not belong at the negotiation table. SAALT, our allies, and our communities will continue to be at the vanguard of efforts to resist this and any administration’s efforts to strip us of our dignity and justice.”
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South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian American advocacy organization, opposes yesterday’s Executive Order “Buy American, Hire American,” the latest in President Trump’s crackdown on legal immigration. We reject the premise that U.S. born and foreign workers should be pitted against each other to “ensure the integrity” of the immigration system and serve the national interest.
Over 70% of H-1B visas and nearly 84% of H-4 visas were granted to individuals from South Asian countries in FY 2016. Foreign workers are able to receive temporary employment in specialty occupations through the H-1B visa program. Spouses and children (under age 21) of H-1B visa holders are eligible for H-4 visas, which historically did not include work authorization. Under President Obama’s 2014 Executive Order on immigration, some H-4 visa holders were finally granted the ability to work.
President Trump’s Executive Order will continue to increase immigration enforcement presence by encouraging immigration raids at businesses and other places of employment, further underscoring this administration’s commitment to criminalizing immigrants. In addition to the singular focus on gutting the H-1B visa program through this Executive Order, we also find the Trump Administration’s recent court motion to revoke the hard fought employment authorization for some H-4 visa holders very disturbing. Both policies run contrary to core American values of respect for work and the right to participate in the workforce.
SAALT is disturbed by the intensifying efforts of this administration to profile, ban, and deport our community members whenever possible by leveraging the full power of every federal agency, including the Department of Justice, to do so. South Asian Americans, immigrants, and communities of color have worked hard to power our nation’s economy and contributed to the wealth of this nation. Yesterday’s Executive Order denies this fact and dishonors the legacy of immigrant workers in this country, past and present. The idea that the economic challenges of working class Americans stems from immigrant work, innovation, and entrepreneurship is nothing but a lie to us all and must be opposed.
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- A Know Your Rights PowerPoint presentation against deportation prepared by the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition
- A pocket guide from the Council on American-Islamic Relations: “Knowing Your Rights and Responsibilities as an American Muslim”
- SAALT’s Community Guide on Hate Crimes
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Know Your Rights pocket cards (prepared by Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta, Sikh Family Center, and Maitri) in Bengali, Burmese, Gujarati, Hindi, Nepali, Punjabi, and Urdu languages.
For additional information on the town hall and how to host one in your community, email us at email@example.com.