SAALT Calls On Law Enforcement To Investigate Bias As Motivation in Latest South Asian American Killings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 

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.”

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org

Statement on San Bernardino Shooting

We express our deepest condolences for the victims of Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, CA during a holiday party at the Inland Regional Center that left 14 people dead and 21 people wounded. The two suspects named by local authorities as Syed Rizwan Farook, 28 and Tashfeen Malik, 27 were killed by police yesterday.

Second Mistrial Declared South Asians Must Be Vigilant and Engaged

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 5, 2015
Contact: Lakshmi Sridaran, lakshmi@saalt.org

SAALT is outraged that a second mistrial was declared on November 4, 2015 after a deadlocked jury once again failed to convict Madison, AL police officer, Eric Parker, on a civil rights charge brought against him by the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year. Parker was captured on video beating Indian grandfather, Sureshbhai Patel, to the point of partial paralysis in February after Patel, initially identified by a neighbor as a “suspicious Black man,” repeatedly told the officer he could not speak English. The U.S. Department of Justice re-tried the case after the first mistrial was declared in September.

“While the trial was supposed to focus on the unreasonable use of force that Parker used on Patel, it was Patel’s immigration status and English proficiency skills that were really on trial,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy at SAALT. Indeed, in his opening remarks, Parker’s attorney said: “When you come to the U.S. we expect you to follow our laws and speak our language. Mr. Patel bears as much responsibility for this as anyone.”

“We continue to believe in the strength of the evidence and that the defendant’s actions violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiff,” said Bhavani Kakani, President of AshaKiran.

As we see time again with police brutality cases in this country, particularly with Black victims, the message of this case is loud and clear: that police brutality rarely warrants punishment. Dante Barry, Executive Director of Million Hoodies United, noted: “It is absolutely devastating to hear the news from Alabama as it reflects a deep pattern of unfairness for people of color. Although grounded in anti-blackness, police brutality by law enforcement and immigration enforcement is no stranger to South Asian communities and it is indicative of this political moment to be on the path to justice.”

SAALT encourages South Asian Americans to be vigilant and engaged in the efforts of the movement for Black lives to draw attention to the ways in which Black communities in particular, as well as other communities of color, are facing state violence. “The case of Mr. Patel provides an opportunity for South Asians to become active participants in the demands of the movement for Black lives,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.

14 Years Later: Still Under Suspicion, Under Attack

Today, the 14th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11th, South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the country numbering over 4.3 million. Yet, as our communities continue to grow in new, unexpected, and longtime destinations, we are increasingly the targets of hate violence, suspicion, and surveillance. Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and those perceived as Muslim have borne the brunt of a continued post-9/11 backlash, reflected in policies that cast our communities as un-American, disloyal, and suspect. Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities were swiftly targeted for “special registration” through the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program just months after the events of September 11th. Through NSEERS, more than 80,000 men were required to register with the federal government; thousands more were subjected to additional interrogation, detention, and deportation. Nevertheless, this extensive and misguided program did not result in a single known terrorism-related conviction. A surveillance system first deployed against the Black Freedom Struggle, adapted for NSEERS, and then evolved to spy on Muslim communities through FBI mapping programs is now in the third stage of its evolution through the current Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, which single-mindedly focuses on Muslims to identify and crack down on violent extremism.  The same system continues full circle today to surveil  Black Lives Matter movement leaders.
The current political debate continues to poison and inform the national discourse about our communities and immigrant communities at large. SAALT captured this troubling dynamic in our September 2014 report, Under Suspicion, Under Attack,which tracked a nearly 40% increase in xenophobic political rhetoric from our previous 2010 report. Furthermore, over 90% of these comments were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  Some of the most egregious political rhetoric from presidential candidates Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, among others has currently labeled immigrants as “illegals” and “anchor babies.”  This wholesale and unacceptable language implies some do not have the right to be in the United States, the quintessential nation of immigrants.
Fourteen years after increasingly xenophobic political rhetoric and misguided federal policies painted our communities as disloyal, monolithic, and suspicious with no results, Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities appear to increasingly be the targets of hate violence. SAALT’s report, Under Suspicion, Under Attack, also documented 76 incidents of hate violence against our communities from January 2011 through April 2014. Over 80% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. In fact, the most recent FBI hate crime statistics released last year show that anti-Islamic hate crimes are at their highest since 2001. 2015 has seen a wave of violent incidents aimed at Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities. In February,three Arab Muslim students at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill were gunned down execution-style, apparently due to their religion. Later that month, a  Pakistani Muslim man and father of three in Kentucky was shot and killed in his car after dropping his daughter off at school. This week a Sikh man in Chicago was approached by another driver who yelled “terrorist go back to your country” and violently beat him in his own car, requiring hospitalization. And we cannot forget when a known white supremacist walked into a Sikh house of worship, or gurdwara, and shot and killed six Sikh community members in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012. Earlier this year a vicious and deadly attack by a white supremacist in Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine Black community members dead. We join other communities of color to address the growing threat of white supremacy that has burgeoned nationwide. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of white supremacist groups in the United States has grown over 54% from 2000 to 2014.
Now more than ever, South Asian communities need and deserve trust with law enforcement at multiple levels as we grow in number and continue to be targets of violence. In response, SAALT developed a proposal and successfully advocated for the creation of the White House Interagency Task Force on Hate Violence last year. We are working to ensure the task force focuses on the unique barriers our communities face with law enforcement to report and prevent hate crimes, particularly after the revised Department of Justice Profiling Guidance was released last year, including exemptions for national security, border security, and state and local law enforcement. We have seen what happens when our communities are victimized rather than protected by law enforcement: earlier this year Sureshbhai Patel, an Indian grandfather in Madison, Alabama, was beaten to the point of partial paralysis by a local police officer in his son’s neighborhood. He was mistaken for Black, recognized later as a South Asian immigrant with limited English ability, and ultimately brutalized by law enforcement.
To truly realize our values as a nation, everyone is entitled to equal protection under the law. Our communities deserve to know their rights, feel empowered to report hate violence, address xenophobic political rhetoric that will certainly surge further in this election cycle, and build meaningful relationships with government and law enforcement. In order for our communities to flourish as we grow, we must advance policies that uphold our core American values of diversity, inclusion, equal rights, and protection for all.

Father Gunned Down After Dropping Daughter off at School

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 4, 2015

Contact: Lakshmi Sridaran
lakshmi@saalt.org
301-270-1855

SAALT and the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA) note with sadness and alarm yet another incident of violence against Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and South Asian communities.

Last Friday, February 28, Mukhtar Ahmed, a Pakistani Muslim man in Louisville, KY, was gunned down and killed after dropping his daughter off at school. Local police have made an arrest, but have not yet released information on a possible motive. We must place this incident in the context of the troubling number of recent attacks against Muslim, South Asian, Sikh, Hindu, and Arab community members and institutions in the last few months alone.

These include:

  • The hit and run killing of a Somali Muslim boy in front of a mosque in Kansas City last December 4, 2014;
  • An attack on a Florida Iraqi business owner on February 6, 2015;
  • The police beating of an Indian grandfather in Madison, AL also on February 6, 2015;
  • The execution-style murder of three Arab-Muslim students in North Carolina on February 10, 2015;
  • A likely arson attack on the Houston Islamic Institute on February 13, 2015;
  • Vandal attacks on two Hindu temples in Washington State on February 14, 2015 and February 28, 2015

This steady stream of violent incidents reminds us that our communities remain under attack—as SAALT detailed in our September 2014 report, Under Suspicion, Under Attack.

Unfortunately, these attacks occur as the dominant rhetoric that posits Muslim Americans as suspect and under suspicion continues—through programs such as the FBI’s efforts to map Muslim American communities and the recent White House Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Summit, which focused exclusively on Muslims as perpetrators of “violent extremism.”

Federal, state, and local law enforcement must all address domestic hate violence incidents targeting Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and South Asian communities. We all deserve to feel safe.

UPDATE: Some H-4s to be Eligible for Work Authorization

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 24, 2015

Contact: Lakshmi Sridaran
301.270.1855
lakshmi@saalt.org

SAALT applauds the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for announcing this morning that DHS will extend work authorization, effective May 26, 2015, to some H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. An estimated 179,600 H-4 dependent spouses will be eligible to apply for employment authorization in the first year of implementation, and an estimated 55,000 H-4 spouses will be eligible to apply in subsequent years.

Not all H-4 dependent spouses will be eligible to work under the new rule. Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

Numerous South Asians enter the U.S. through the H-1B visa program, and figures from the State Department show that approximately 76% of those who received H-4 status in 2013 were from South Asian countries. Many H-4 dependent spouses have found themselves to be involuntary homemakers upon their arrival to the U.S., which not only impacts their family income and sustainability, but also diminishes their ability to expand upon professional skills.

SAALT has called on USCIS to allow all employment authorization for all H-4 visa holders, as H-1B workers and their families are most successful when H-4 visa holders have the ability to contribute to their household income and our economy, and pursue their goals. Today’s announcement is a welcomed first-step that will dramatically help some families in the U.S., but the success of H-1B workers, their families, and our nation’s economic growth is limited when only some H-4 visa holders are eligible for work authorization.

SAALT on the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)

With the opening of the White House Summit on the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program this week, SAALT continues to stand in opposition to this program. CVE is centered around the problematic concept of requiring Muslim individuals, institutions, and community organizations to question, spy, and report members of their own community for alleged terrorist activity. It is also based on the dominant and flawed narrative of violence and terrorism being patently attached to Islam, which is inaccurate and divisive. This narrative is especially troubling in the face of growing hate violence in this country targeted at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslim, and communities of color at large. SAALT documented many of these incidents, including those that are underreported or ignored in mainstream media, in our recent report Under Suspicion, Under Attack and many more have been in the news in just the last few months. The execution-style murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, is the latest in these egregious attacks on Muslims in the United States. It is time to have a richer and deeper discussion on the breadth of violent extremism in this country, one that honors the slew of victims of domestic extremism.

Temporary Halt to Implementation of Expanded DACA & DAPA

For immediate release | February 17, 2015

SAALT stands firmly against the misguided U.S. District Court Judge’s ruling to award a temporary injunction on the expanded DACA and DAPA programs. We continue to stand with immigrants who deserve the right to stop living in second-class status, attend college, work above the table for fair wages, and be reunited with their families. Even though there have been previous attempts to derail the President’s critical executive actions on immigration, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill with amendments that attempt to defund the programs, it is more important now than ever that the programs are implemented. While attempts to stop implementation of the President’s executive actions are largely symbolic and hold no merit—and we are confident the Department of Justice will successfully appeal the injunction in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals—implementation of the expanded DACA and DAPA programs will now be delayed. Millions stand to benefit from expanded DACA and DAPA, including approximately 40 percent of the over 500,000 undocumented South Asians. President Obama is fully within his legal authority to implement his executive actions on immigration, and it is essential that these programs be permitted to proceed, especially due to Congress’ failure to act on immigration.