SAALT Resolutely Objects to DHS Memos Creating Blueprint for Mass Deportations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, resolutely objects to the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) memoranda implementing President Trump’s executive orders on interior and border enforcement. We believe these memos further relegate South Asian and all immigrant communities to second-class citizenship, questioning our very place in the quintessential nation of immigrants.

These policies massively expand and accelerate detentions and deportations, trample upon due process by in many cases removing the requirement for hearings and convictions prior to deportation, deputize local law enforcement to serve as immigration enforcement authorities, and increase the profiling and targeting of immigrant communities already under siege in the wake of recent and controversial executive orders released by this administration.

“The scale of the President’s anti-immigrant policies is extreme, and the new administration appears hell-bent on targeting and demonizing immigrant communities through orders that actively undermine safety and public trust in law enforcement,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Short-circuiting due process is not a crackdown on crime, but a crackdown on rights and our very founding values as a nation, and these measures must be opposed by all communities of color.”

The President’s policies deeply affect the South Asian American community, the most rapidly growing demographic group in the United States at over 4.3 million. The undocumented South Asian population has grown significantly in the US in recent decades. India is the country of origin with the greatest increase in unauthorized immigrants to the United States with a 914% increase since 1990. Currently there are 450,000 undocumented Indian-Americans in the US alone, making India the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

As documented in our recent report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” hate violence against our communities has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the backlash immediately after the events of 9/11. At a time when immigrant communities need to feel confident in engaging with local law enforcement to report such incidents, the President’s draconian policies will instead force vulnerable communities to turn inward based upon their fear of profiling and deportation at the hands of the authorities. Overall public safety will likely plunge as a result, as entire communities continue to lose trust in the very law enforcement professionals tasked with keeping them safe. As such, public safety does not increase, but instead cripples under the weight of these short-sighted anti-immigrant policies.

Our communities are at the crosshairs. SAALT will continue to fight for the core rights and protections for our communities at the national, state and local levels with our 55 community partners of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations. We will remain unbowed.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Endorses the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act (ERRPA)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian American advocacy organization, is proud to endorse the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act 2017 (ERRPA), a critical piece of legislation introduced today by Senator Ben Cardin that provides a comprehensive prohibition on profiling by law enforcement that is woefully missing from existing federal law enforcement policies.

“This has been a banner year for hate and we’re only in February, with successive waves of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policies cracking at the notion of equality in our country,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “ERRPA acknowledges the dangerous climate of hate in the United States, the dehumanizing impact profiling has on our communities, and creates mechanisms that seek to protect the civil liberties of all Americans.”

If passed, ERRPA creates a uniform definition of racial profiling, including discriminatory profiling based on religion, ethnicity, or other protected categories, prohibited at all levels. ERRPA mandates training on racial profiling issues, authorizes grants to law enforcement agencies to implement best practices discouraging discriminatory profiling, and requires data collection by these agencies.

ERRPA comes in light of SAALT’s latest report, “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documents the disturbing increase in profiling, surveillance, and hate violence aimed at Muslim, Arab, and South Asian American communities during the 2016 election cycle, with levels rivaling the backlash in the year after 9/11. Issues of mistrust and accountability from law enforcement have plagued communities of color for decades, and particularly since 2001, when Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities have been unjustly targeted, profiled, and surveilled by law enforcement. This legislation is now more important than ever, as the Trump administration continues to embolden law enforcement to target and criminalize communities of color through divisive policies such as the Secure Communities program, as well as through destructive executive orders and cabinet appointments.

The trust deficit continues to grow between the public and law enforcement at a time when public confidence in policing is urgently needed. The passage of ERRPA can have a civilizing effect in our divided society by transforming our police from a force to a service and ensuring that all are equal under the law. In a month of wrong turns, this legislation is the course correction our country needs to uphold and protect the rights of all.

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

SAALT Vehemently Opposes Bill Limiting Legal Immigration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian American advocacy organization, vehemently opposes today’s bill introduced by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) that aims to crackdown on legal immigration. The bill, named the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, would significantly reduce the number of immigrants who can obtain green cards and other visas and would cut the number of legal immigrants allowed in the United States by 40% in the first year and by 50% over a decade.

“This bill is clearly part of an undisguised and coordinated attack on immigrant communities,” stated Lakshmi Sridaran, Director National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT. “The draconian use of legislation and Executive Orders to criminalize and marginalize immigrant communities reveals the inherent xenophobia of this new administration.”

Numbering over 4.3 million, South Asians are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, with the majority our communities foreign born. Senator Cotton’s bill will make reuniting families a draining if not impossible task for South Asian immigrants who already struggle under a woefully outdated immigration system that makes family reunification a burdensome task.

We implore Congress to support and not hinder immigration, to welcome refugees, to not cripple sanctuary cities, and to adopt an accurate and long view of our country’s history that sees immigrants as a fundamental aspect of American life.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi
vivek@saalt.org

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.

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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.

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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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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

We Will Not Be Deterred

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

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Dear Friend,
At South Asians Americans Leading Together (SAALT), we have been alarmed and dismayed by the divisive messages and policies that have typified the election debate over the past year. Our communities, immigrants, Muslims – indeed huge swaths of our nation – have been targeted, scapegoated, and attacked. Our faith and allegiance to the US as well as our very place in the nation has been questioned, yet we are reminded that our communities are vibrant and have a crucial and longstanding place in the US. I am writing to you now to say we will remain undeterred.

Today and in the days, weeks, and months to come, SAALT will continue to fight for racial justice, equality, and civil rights for our communities and indeed for all Americans. We pledge to redouble our efforts to ensure everyone, regardless of their race, real or perceived religion, ethnicity, or immigration status can pray in peace, walk in safety, and live with the liberty and equality enshrined in our Constitution. We will hold the line on justice for our communities in Washington, DC and we will chart a path forward.

South Asians made their voices heard in many ways this election season, including but not limited to the ballot box. Our voices and our priorities will continue to be necessary in the coming weeks, months and years. We are 4.3 million strong, we are the fastest growing demographic group in the United States, and we have real power.

SAALT will continue to work with you, our communities nationwide, and our partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations to unite, amplify the voices of our community and partners, and provide resources to demand our place in this nation. One important way to do so is by connecting with a local South Asian organization in your community, and I encourage you to do so by reaching out to a member of the NCSO close to you.

We remain concerned by the prospect of escalating hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric targeting our communities. We’ve heard from many in our community, particularly Muslim and Sikh-Americans, who have expressed concerns for their safety and for their children at this challenging time. We stand unequivocally with you in the face of these attacks and call on policymakers, government agencies, and law enforcement to ensure that our communities are safe, our concerns are heard, and our rights are protected. We need to hear from you about hate violence incidents and xenophobic political rhetoric as they occur. Report these incidents via our database and social media using #TrackHate.

Finally, we know many of you may want to be in community with other South Asian Americans nationwide. SAALT is ready and willing to provide a space for this national conversation – join this dialogue by reaching out to us on Facebook, Twitter, and our website by using the hashtag #ConverSAsian.

Our country is deeply divided, more than we had thought. Yet we grow even more united in response. We ask you to join us – the time is now to begin the work of the future.

With determination,

Suman Raghunathan,
Executive Director, SAALT

SAALT Calls on President-Elect Trump to Abandon Trickle Down Intolerance, Advance Justice

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 9, 2016
Contact: Vivek Trivedi, vivek@saalt.org

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) joins our community and much of the nation in grappling with the results of one of the most divisive, anti-immigrant, and xenophobic election campaigns in modern American history.  We call on President-Elect Trump to immediately renounce the hate-filled rhetoric used throughout his campaign and commit to safeguarding the rights and freedoms of all Americans, including the 4.3 million South Asians living in the U.S.

“The President-Elect must acknowledge the steady narrative of hate and fear used during his campaign has served as a rallying cry for violence and oppression against our communities,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “At this early and urgent hour, the President-Elect must immediately reverse course and partner with South Asian organizations nationwide to protect our community’s civil liberties, to achieve immigration reform, and to understand that the only way to Make America Great is by ensuring the fundamental freedoms of everyone under the law.”

We’ve heard from many in our community, particularly Muslim and Sikh Americans, who have expressed concerns for their safety in the wake of the elections. Unfortunately, these fears are not misplaced.  SAALT has tracked a disturbing uptick in hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against our communities in the last year, with 200 instances occurring across the country since November 2015.  Of the over 80 incidents of xenophobic rhetoric we’ve tracked, over 25% have been statements by the President-Elect, including calling for a “complete and total shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”.  Our nation as a whole and our communities deserve better.  We call on the President-Elect to partner with SAALT and the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations to prevent, detect, and respond to bias-motivated incidents of violence, and to denounce any hate directed at our communities.

The new administration must also abandon the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric that were hallmarks of the campaign.  Statements about “building a wall”, using a “deportation force”, and “extreme vetting” must be categorically renounced.  The President-Elect must instead prioritize engaging members of Congress to create a roadmap to citizenship, preserve family-based immigration systems, and put an end to the draconian immigration enforcement policies currently in place.  With 450,000 undocumented Indian Americans alone, South Asians have a tremendous stake in fixing our broken immigration system, and we call on the new administration to pass immigration legislation that will defend our rights and expand opportunity for immigrant families.

If the President-Elect governs in the manner in which he campaigned, he must be held accountable to the law and to the people of our country.  Making America Great is only possible by making America better, day by day, together.  SAALT stands ready in this important endeavor and remains undeterred in our demand for South Asian equality.

SAALT relies on your financial support to advocate on behalf of the South Asian community nationwide.  Please consider making a donation today.  An investment in SAALT is an investment in South Asian rights.  We are a 501c (3) non-profit organization.

SAALT Releases Guide for South Asian Voters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 12, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

With exactly 4 weeks left before Election Day, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), the country’s only national South Asian advocacy organization, today released YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: A Guide for South Asian Voters.  The voter guide provides prospective voters with crucial information on the candidates’ stances on priority issues for our community, South Asian voting trends, and important resources to cast informed votes this November.  The guide is also intended to encourage South Asians to come out to vote in significant numbers.

“Our community’s voices and votes have power.  South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group nationwide, with over 4.3 million community members living and working in the U.S.,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “Our new voter guide provides essential information for South Asians as they take their rightful place in our democracy.  We want our community members to make informed decisions at the ballot box, and to know where the candidates stand on the issues.”

The hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric that our community confronts every day came into sharp focus at the second Presidential debate on October 9, when Gorbah Hamed, a Palestinian American, asked both candidates how they would address rising Islamophobia in the U.S. and “the consequences of being labeled as a threat to the country after the election is over?”  The question, sobering in its reality, remains a permanent fixture in the hearts and minds of millions of South Asians nationwide, and for good reason.  SAALT’s September 2014 report, Under Suspicion, Under Attack, tracked a nearly 40% increase in xenophobic political rhetoric from our previous 2010 report.  Over 90% of these comments were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  Our report also documented 76 incidents of hate violence against our communities from January 2011 through April 2014, with over 80% of these incidents motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  SAALT has been tracking incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric for the last two years and will do so through the elections.  SAALT’s voter guide provides where the candidates stand on these important priorities.

These urgent issues underpinned SAALT’s partnership with MTV on the #BeyondTheWall project, a groundbreaking interactive video installation showcased in New York’s Herald Square on October 10.  #BeyondTheWall provided a digital forum to go beyond the current anti-immigrant, xenophobic public discourse and highlight individual stories and perspectives on immigration reform, race and diversity in the United States.  Through celebrities telling stories about the personal challenges they’ve faced with race and immigration, to user-generated submissions on social media, #BeyondTheWall carved a meaningful space for conversation on these important issues.  One such submission was a video of Hina, whose family came to the U.S. for medical treatment for her sister, and who overstayed their visa due to the life-saving treatment she was receiving.  Hina’s challenges as a DACA recipient are unforgettable and touch on the realities thousands of South Asians face nationwide.  SAALT’s voter guide provides the candidates’ positions on this issue as well.

As the fastest growing demographic in the nation, South Asians have an important voice in this year’s elections.  Our voter guide provides vital information for South Asians as they enter the ballot boxes this November, and indeed as they remain a significant feature of the American landscape now and into the future.

SAALT Partners with MTV for the #BeyondTheWall Interactive Exhibition in Herald Square

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 10, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan, suman@saalt.org

On October 10, 2016, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) partnered with MTV and several other organizations on a groundbreaking project called “#BeyondTheWall”, a 10’x35′ interactive video installation standing in the heart of New York’s Herald Square that serves as a digital forum to showcase perspectives on immigration reform, racial diversity, and multiculturalism in the United States. The video wall, metaphoric of the much debated border wall of the 2016 elections, provides visitors an opportunity to see video stories from participants such as Diane Guerrero, Arturo Castro, Amani Alkhat, and Cristela Alonzo, along with real-time user-generated submissions over social media, about how immigration and diversity are at the heart of the American experience.

“The United States is a nation of immigrants, and with a population of more than 4.3 million South Asians, we are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the US,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “A majority of our community is foreign born, which makes immigrant rights and racial justice a top priority for us. Post 9/11, our research shows that South Asians both old and young have faced tremendous hate violence, suspicion, and surveillance, and have heard xenophobic political rhetoric spewing from candidates and politicians across the country. This partnership with MTV gives South Asians and other groups a chance to make their voices heard on their realities and the issues affecting them.”

With October 10 marking Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day, a reminder of the nation’s multicultural origins, this curated interactive forum provides in-person and online audiences a way of listening and adding to the ongoing discussion about immigration and diversity in the US, a central issue in the 2016 elections.

In the run up to the elections, SAALT has released YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: A Guide for South Asian Voters, which provides key election deadlines and resources, South Asian voter priorities and data, as well as the policy positions of the two main Presidential candidates. One such priority for South Asian voters is immigration reform. Recently, the Supreme Court declined to rehear arguments in United States v. Texas, effectively denying millions of immigrants and over 200,000 South Asians the benefits of the Obama administration’s 2014 executive actions of Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and the expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). SAALT’s Immigration Factsheet, available here, explains the current state of the law and provides key resources for those wanting to learn more.

With immigration reform and racial diversity at a high pitch in both the public and political spheres, and with hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric continuously affecting the South Asian community nationwide, the #BeyondTheWall project provides an opportunity for all of us to speak, listen, and engage in a meaningful conversation about the ideals of this country, and how to perhaps one day reach them.