Update on South Asian restaurant workers detained by ICE

July 11, 2019

Washington, D.C.: A community member reached out to SAALT last week alerting staff that several South Asian restaurant employees had been detained by ICE and taken to the Montgomery County Correctional Facility the week before.  

Given that the Trump Administration has announced imminent raids, SAALT issued a community alert to prepare our community members for future ICE raids in the coming days or weeks. 

Over 500 people responded to the alert, volunteering to help community members prepare by offering to assist with legal matters, provide language support, and to distribute Know Your Rights materials  in DC.

A community member providing direct support to the detained South Asian restaurant employees reached out to SAALT and said, “Two weeks ago, nine South Asian restaurant workers were detained by ICE at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility. Four were released the same day and the remaining five individuals were released at a later date.” 

South Asians are increasingly impacted directly by the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant policies and SAALT strives to protect and defend our communities by examining and documenting the impact of these policies, creating educational resources, and making policy recommendations. 

There are over 600,000 undocumented Indians alone in the U.S. Between fiscal year 2015 to 2018, ICE arrested over 2,000 Indian and Pakistani migrants alone within the interior of the United States. The number of Indian migrants apprehended along the Southern border tripled from fiscal year 2017 to 2018Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested over 17,000 South Asians.  South Asians go on to experience civil rights violations and human rights abuses in detention facilities and court rooms at the intersections of racism, islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment. 

SAALT will continue to work to protect and defend South Asian communities in the US, especially at a time when immigrants are being targeted, whether at their workplaces, homes, restaurants, hotels, or along the border.

Restaurant Opportunity Center (ROC-DC), a restaurant workers’ rights organization, issued this statement, in response to the alert about the detained South Asian restaurant employees: 

ICE raids are a serious issue for immigrant workers all of the time but are especially prevalent in light of the most recent threats. There have already been multiple cases of ICE activity in our DC communities and that activity specifically targets restaurants and restaurant workers. Right now we need to come together as workers, employers and community members in DC to educate ourselves on our rights so that we are able to protect ourselves and each other in our workplaces, the streets and in our homes.

We do not want to create a culture of fear around these issues but instead empower people to know what their rights are and who their community is that is here to support them. ROC DC has been working with multiple other community organizations to provide know your rights materials & trainings to workers and employers in DC in preparation for any raids. We must continue to band together and fight back the racist attacks that seek to tear apart our communities and families.

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org 

###

SAALT Marks One Year Anniversary of Supreme Court Ruling Upholding the Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2019

Washington, D.C.: On June 26, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in favor of upholding the Muslim Ban, making it both legal and indefinite. Since the inception of the Muslim Ban, countless families have been separated, individuals have been denied critical medical treatment, family members have been unable to attend weddings, funerals, births; and many more have had no choice but to turn down opportunities of the so-called American dream. 

There is no humanity in the Muslim Ban, despite the Trump Administration’s assertion that waivers are granted in cases of undue hardship. The waiver process itself is a sham.  Only 5.1 percent of waivers requested are granted. The process to obtain a waiver and the way in which waiver requests are evaluated, is extremely opaque, even after numerous FOIA requests on the paltry numbers of waivers that have been granted. 

The Muslim Ban is hurting familes both in the U.S. and abroad. It is a fundamental part of our nation’s violent environment where families are routinely separated at the U.S. Mexico border and white supremacist hate violence thrives. Just this month, the body of six-year old Gurupreet Kaur was found in the Arizona desert, one mile from the nearest port of entry, where she and her mother were part of a group of migrants seeking asylum. As SAALT documented in its Communities on Fire report, 1 out of every 5 perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump Administration policy or a Trump campaign slogan while committing the act of violence. Since November 2016, SAALT has documented over 484 incidents of hate violence and over 252 incidents of xenophobic rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communites around the country. 

It’s increasingly clear that our communities cannot rely on the Executive or Judicial branches of our federal government to protect our rights. But, Congress has the power to terminate this racist and violent policy and has recently introduced legislation that would curtail executive authority for this and future bans.

Call your Member of Congress today (House: 202-225-3121, Senate: 202-224-3121)  and urge them to cosponsor the NO BAN Act (HR 2214/S1123), which will end this cruel policy and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to ensure that no community can ever be targeted for their religion without accountability.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

###

The death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 17, 2019

We are devastated to learn of the death of 6-year-old Gurupreet Kaur.

Gurupreet’s body was found by U.S. Border Patrol agents in a remote desert outside the Lukeville, Arizona point of entry on Wednesday, June 12th, just days before her seventh birthday.

She died of heat stroke in the Arizona desert where temperatures were 108 degrees Fahrenheit, according to U.S. Border Patrol and the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner (PCOME).

Gurupreet and her mother were reportedly among a group of five Indian nationals who were dropped off by migrant traffickers in a remote area on the U.S.-Mexico border. Her mother and another woman went in search of water, leaving Gurupreet with two others from the group. Gurupreet’s mother was found by a U.S. Border Patrol agent 22 hours later. Four hours after that, Border Patrol agents found Gurupreet’s body.

Seven migrant children have died in immigration custody since last year. Hundreds more have died close to ports of entry while attempting to make the perilous journey through the desert along the U.S.-Mexico border.

SAALT is sending a letter of inquiry to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner, Kevin K. McAleenan this week, demanding an investigation into Gurupreet’s death and information about her mother and the other migrants in their group.  

As U.S. Customs and Border Protection has escalated border enforcement and aggressively turned away migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry, deaths have continued to mount. Migrants are forced right back into the dangerous conditions that CBP and other federal agencies often blame on migrant traffickers and smugglers.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “U.S. border militarization, forced migration, and rejection of migrants attempting to cross at ports of entry have created an environment where a child like Gurupreet, can die in the desert, alone. Until this system is completely defunded and a new one is created that upholds the dignity of all migrants – we will continue to see unspeakable tragedies, not withstanding the countless deaths that go undocumented. While ICE and CBP have experienced unprecedented surges in their budgets, their treatment of migrants has plunged to new lows.

SAALT has been tracking both the rise in the number of South Asians crossing the border over the last 5 years and their treatment in detention facilities. Between October 2014 and April 2018, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) arrested over 17,000 South Asians.

Of the South Asians who end up in detention facilities, SAALT has tracked a pattern of abuse including inadequate language access, lack of religious accommodations, medical neglect, use of solitary confinement, and unacceptably high bond amounts.  

We urge our communities to stay engaged and active on this urgent issue.  

Stay updated and active by following our updates and action alerts on Twitter (SAALTweets) and Facebook (facebook.com/talktosaalt).

You can also support by donating to these organizations that provide immediate assistance:

  • The Fronterizo Fianza Fund is a community bond (fianza) fund based in El Paso and serving Far West Texas and New Mexico. Many detained migrants have no chance to be released while they wait the months or years until their trial. When someone does receive a bond, they are often way out of reach for most families, ranging anywhere from $1,500-50,000.
  • The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project is the only organization in Arizona that provides free legal and social services to detained men, women, and children under threat of deportation.
  • The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas.
###

ACTION ALERT: URGE CONGRESS TO PASS THE DREAM AND PROMISE ACT WITH NO HARMFUL ANTI-IMMIGRANT AMENDMENTS

June 3, 2019

Last month’s passage of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6) by the House Judiciary Committee is a historic milestone in the fight for immigrant rights. It is scheduled for a full floor vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow, June 4th.

The Dream and Promise Act offers a pathway to citizenship for thousands of our community members who are Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders.

As this historic legislation goes to the House, we need YOU to urge lawmakers to both support this legislation, which would provide permanent protections and a pathway to citizenship for over two million immigrants, and reject any anti-immigrant amendments or changes to the bill.

Please take a moment to call your Member of Congress and urge them to pass the Dream and Promise Act with NO harmful anti-immigrant amendments.

There are over 15,000 Nepalis with TPS whose protection from deportation will expire on June 24, 2019. NCSO member organization, Adhikaar has been leading the fight to ensure that the thousands of Nepalis on TPS would be able to remain here in the U.S. with their families, rather than being deported at the end of this month.

Over 4,500 South Asians in the U.S. are active DACA recipients (2,550 Indian recipients, 1,300 Pakistani recipients, 470 Bangladeshi recipients, and 120 Sri Lankan recipients). The Dream and Promise Act would give them a permanent path to citizenship and access to in-state tuition and federal financial aid.

It is critical that lawmakers vote against any anti-immigrant changes to the bill, regardless of their substance, including any additional funding for ICE and CBP as well as any further discretionary power to USCIS or DHS that would increase deportations and detention. Any anti-immigrant amendments will serve only to delay the passage of this vital legislation.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT said, “The Dream and Promise Act will give over two million immigrants a fundamental right – the right to build a life and plan for a future in this country. We urge all Members of Congress to act boldly and pass this legislation with no anti-immigrant amendments. It’s time for Congress to chip away at this administration’s racist policies and voting for H.R. 6 without delay is a step in the right direction. It is our hope that this legislation will the be the first of many and lay a strong foundation for immigrant justice. ”

South Asians by the Numbers: Population in the U.S. has grown by 40% since 2010

May 15, 2019

SAALT released its latest South Asian demographic snapshot today, revealing a community in the U.S. that’s growing almost as fast as it is changing.

By 2065, Asian Americans are on track to be the largest immigrant population in the U.S. The South Asian population in the U.S. grew a staggering 40% in seven years, from 3.5 million in 2010 to 5.4 million in 2017.

Key demographic facts:

  • The Nepali community grew by 206.6% since 2010, followed by Indian (38%), Bhutanese (38%), Pakistani (33%), Bangladeshi (26%), and Sri Lankan populations (15%).
  • There are at least 630,000 Indians who are undocumented, a 72% increase since 2010.
  • There are currently at least 4,300 active South Asian DACA recipients.
  • Income inequality has been reported to be the greatest among Asian Americans. Nearly 10% of the approximately five million South Asians in the U.S. live in poverty.
  • There has been a rise in the number of South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. over the last 10 years. ICE has detained 3,013 South Asians since 2017. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol arrested 17,119 South Asians between October 2014 and April 2018 through border and interior enforcement.

The South Asian community in the United States includes individuals who trace their ancestry to Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The community also includes members of the South Asian diaspora – past generations of South Asians who originally settled in other parts of the world, including the Caribbean, Africa, Europe, Canada and the Middle East, and other parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands. South Asian Americans include citizens, legal permanent residents, students, H-1B and H-4 visa holders, DACA recipients, and undocumented immigrants.

SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director Lakshmi Sridaran said, “As we witness this unprecedented growth in our communities, it is more important than ever that the needs of the most vulnerable South Asian populations are met. South Asians are impacted by the full spectrum of federal immigration policies – from detention and deportation to H-4 visa work authorization and denaturalization to the assault on public benefits. An accurate Census 2020 population count is essential to distributing critical federal funding to our communities. A citizenship question on the census would chill thousands of community members, resulting in a severe undercount, with at least 600,000 South Asians in the country not being counted and thousands more deterred. And, this means even fewer resources to the communities who need it the most.”

SAALT’s demographic snapshot is based primarily on Census 2010 and the 2017 American Community Survey. We encourage community leaders, government entities, policymakers, and journalists  to use this data to better understand South Asian Americans and help inform their engagement with this community.

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

# # #

Men who Sustained 80-day Hunger Strike Released from El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 17, 2019

Jasvir Singh and Rajandeep Singh were released from the Otero County Processing Center last week almost three months after initial reports that they were among nine Sikh men on hunger strike whom ICE agents were force feeding in the El Paso Service Processing Center.

El Paso and Las Cruces based community groups and national advocacy organizations launched a coordinated campaign to demand ICE cease force feeding and release the men.   

ICE released both men on bond after consistent pressure from local Rep. Veronica Escobar’s office and local and national advocates, and days after a Congressional Delegation from the House Committee on Homeland Security visited and toured facilities in El Paso where they examined immigration policies and operations along our southern border.

Three of the men who had originally been among the nine on hunger strike remain in detention. While on hunger strike at EPSPC they reported regular physical, verbal, and psychological abuse at the hands of facility guards.

Jasvir and Rajandeep sustained a hunger strike for nearly 80 days to protest their conditions and treatment in detention. They had been held in the EPSPC since November 2018.  Initially they were part of a group of 13 men in the EPSPC, ten from India and three from Cuba, who began hunger striking at the end of December.

Four of the men taking part in the hunger strike were deported and returned to India in early March. A fifth man who agreed to stop his hunger strike in January in return for much needed surgery, was also deported.

Quotes:

Jennifer Apodaca of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee who led advocacy efforts in El Paso said, “ICE always had the discretion to release people but refused to use it. It shouldn’t have taken an angry congressional delegation to secure their release. Instead, they continue to ignore the complaints of abuse and torture and turn a blind eye at the conditions of detention and prison spaces that house more than 52,000 people as they await their fate in our broken and biased immigration courts. All of this could have been avoided. It is time to abolish the detention and deportation machine.

Nathan Craig from Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) visited the hunger strikers regularly in the El Paso facility. He said, “From their initial asylum requests, to their treatment while hunger striking, to their various hearings, all of these men experienced substantial discrimination based on the language they speak and the way they dress. Unfounded value judgements by and prejudices from U.S. government officials and contractors resulted in significant negative consequences for these men’s asylum claims. Inadequate, or complete lack of, interpretation was a chronic problem.  All of the men told me about how they were subjected to frequent racial and ethnic slurs while detained. Sadly, more than the facts of their cases, these men’s asylum claims have been structured by prejudice on the part of immigration officials and their contractors. This must change. Wrongdoing at all stages of the process must be investigated. Justice must be brought for those men still in the US, and those men already deported must be afforded the opportunity to return to the US to pursue justice for what is widely recognized as torturous treatment in detention.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national advocacy organization for South Asians that led national advocacy efforts said,  “We are relieved that Jasvir and Rajandeep have finally been released, but it should not have taken this long. And, we remain deeply concerned for the three men who remain in detention – we fear they could be deported back to India and into the dangerous conditions they fled. We also know there are thousands more people housed in detention facilities across the country, suffering from the same litany of abuse and due process violations that our government refuses to acknowledge and address. It is clear that our nation’s entire understanding of detention must be overhauled. As a start, we need Congress to pass legislation that will hold facilities accountable with penalties and even the threat of shutting down for their repeated patterns of noncompliance.”

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

# # #

Immigration Advocates Warn of Physical and Mental Harm to Hunger Strikers in El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 15, 2019

EL PASO, TX — Immigration advocates and medical experts are deeply concerned over the ongoing hunger strike at the El Paso Service Processing Center and the dire situation facing people held in indefinite detention, especially as their health deteriorates.

The “El Paso 9” have been subjected to brutal force-feedings, mistreatment and retaliatory actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private contractors following their hunger strike, which began in late December 2018. At least two of the “El Paso 9” have entered the 11th week of their hunger strike.  

Of the group of men who were on hunger strike or supporting the hunger strike, two have been deported, three have been transferred to the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, and four remain detained at the El Paso Processing Center, two of whom are still on hunger strike and are in medical isolation.

Nathan Craig, a volunteer with Advocate Visitors in Detention, who recently visited one of the hunger strikers in El Paso, said, “At this point, having not eaten since December, he can barely walk and hold up his head. In his frail state, thinking and talking are slow and laborious. He must be afforded the opportunity to recuperate outside of detention so that he can prepare for his merits hearing and cross-examination.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has long argued that force-feeding against an individual’s wishes is unethical and inhumane, says precautions must be taken to ensure those on hunger strike receive adequate medical attention and accommodations. PHR also recommends that Congress fund alternatives to detention programming that represent a long-term solution to prevent human rights violations documented in immigration detention. Below is an official statement by Physicians for Human Rights:

Hunger striking is a nonviolent form of protest undertaken when other means of expressing grievances are unavailable, and hunger strikers must be protected from any and all reprisals. Physicians for Human Rights calls for all precautions to be taken to ensure that hunger strikers receive needed medical attention, and that accommodations be made to ensure appropriate transport so that they are not injured. Not eating may result in lightheadedness, so wheelchairs should be provided as needed.

“Extensive medical research shows that immigration detention is harmful and strongly correlated with negative mental health outcomes, while prolonged or indefinite detention violates the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

“The U.S. immigration detention system has repeatedly demonstrated a dangerous lack of accountability and transparency, and the recent hunger strikes are just one more example illustrating this dire situation. As a long-term solution, PHR strongly recommends the use of alternatives to detention that are humane and cost-effective and that have been proven to ensure compliance with immigration enforcement.

In a separate comment, Altaf Saadi, MD, a neurologist at UCLA and a member of Physicians for Human Rights’ Asylum Network, said,

Prolonged detention causes significant medical harm to individuals due to both denial and delays in medical care, inadequate staffing, punitive approaches to mental health needs like the misuse of isolation, and harmful conditions of confinement more broadly like poor and overcrowded living conditions. The human toll of detention is compounded for those already vulnerable and suffering from trauma based on persecution they have endured in their home countries. We don’t want more patients joining the list of those whose deaths have been linked to substandard care in detention, nor do we want to see the lasting impacts of detention-related psychological harm.”

ICE has threatened the hunger-striking men with deportation despite the deterioration of their health.

Immigration and civil rights groups are demanding the immediate release of the men and for them to be able to address their asylum cases outside of detention, as they should have been able to do from the beginning.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said, “These asylum seekers, like so many before them, resorted to a hunger strike to draw attention to the litany of abuses they face at the hands of ICE on top of the indefinite delays in adjudicating their asylum cases.  We demand the immediate release of all of the detained individuals so they can be cared for by their community. And, we demand an immediate investigation into the civil rights violations, retaliation, and medical negligence at the El Paso Processing Center, a facility that SAALT and our partners have been monitoring and lodging complaints about over the last five years. We know the treatment of detained individuals in El Paso is a microcosm of conditions across detention facilities in this country.”

Media contact: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org, 202-997-4211

###

Freedom for Immigrants 

Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID), in the Chihuahuan Desert

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Defending Rights & Dissent

National Immigration Project of the NLG

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee

Ruby Kaur –Kaur Law Pllc

La Resistencia

 

ICE officials throw El Paso hunger strikers into solitary confinement after altercation over force-feeding, says attorney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, February 8, 2019

El Paso, Texas — The nine Sikh asylum seekers on hunger strike in the El Paso Service Processing Center (EPSPC) have been thrown into solitary confinement after refusing to be force-fed standing up, reports their attorney after speaking with a family member. Immigrant rights advocates, civil rights organizations, and local community groups are deeply alarmed by this latest development involving the nine Sikh asylum seekers who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days to protest their incarceration at the EPSPC. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has responded with abusive retaliation, including force-feeding at least nine of the asylum seekers, a cruel, degrading and inhumane practice. ICE agents also threatened the asylum seekers with deportation as early as Friday morning.

“They have scars on their arms from IVs, and are suffering from rectal bleeding and blood in their vomit in addition to persistent stomach, chest, and throat pain. They recounted abuse after abuse at the hands of ICE agents and medical staff at the facility. They’ve lost 40 to 50 pounds,” said the attorney for two of the asylum seekers, Ruby Kaur, after visiting the facility on Thursday. “They told me ICE agents have threatened them with deportation as early as today, despite them being in no physical condition to travel.  ICE agents responded that there was nothing that they could do and that they didn’t care.”

Amrit Singh, the uncle to two of the Sikh asylum seekers on hunger strike, attempted to put money into the commissary accounts of three of the strikers and money was returned back to his card.  This development is particularly alarming because ICE frequently cuts off detainees’ phone accounts prior to deportation.

“We demand the immediate release of the hunger strikers and that they receive critical medical care,” said Nathan Craig of AVID. “ICE has a long documented history of abuse, clearly indicating that people are not safe in its custody. We call on Representative Escobar of Texas to stand with the migrant community and demand their release, while insisting on an independent investigation of the facility and ICE Field Office, yielding swift disciplinary consequences over the strikers’ treatment.”

Since May 2015, Freedom for Immigrants has documented nearly 1,400 people on hunger strike in 18 immigration detention facilities. A troubling pattern as President Trump continues to expand the detention system to skyrocketing proportions, leading to an increase in abuse and death. Since March of 2018, AVID volunteers have been collecting reports of large numbers of detained South Asians hunger striking at both EPSPC and the neighboring Otero County Processing Center.

“In the shadow of Trump’s border wall is immigration detention, a system shrouded in secrecy where a culture of violence persists,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of Policy and Advocacy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). “The retaliation and abuse that hunger strikers have been forced to endure underscore the egregious conditions endemic to the detention system nationwide. It also echoes the cases of abuse and torture of South Asian migrants in particular, in detention facilities in the U.S., including most recently at the Adelanto Detention Center in California.”

Sign the petition to support the hunger strikers at the El Paso Processing Center:  https://rightsanddissent.salsalabs.org/ICEForceFeeding/index.html

Media Contacts

Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org 202-997-4211

Liz Martinez, lmartinez@freedomforimmigrants.org 956-572-4349

###

Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chihuahuan Desert works to end the isolation of immigration detention. Our volunteers are from Las Cruces, El Paso, and surrounding communities. We visit and write to migrants who are detained in El Paso, Otero, and West Texas. avid.chihuahuan.org

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) is a community group based in El Paso, TX, that fights to free the border from the criminalization and mass incarceration of migrants. We aim to reach this goal through support services, organizing, and actions that promote more humane public policy and respect for migrants and other marginalized communities.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a national coalition of organizations and individuals working to expose and challenge the injustices of the United States’ immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons. Founded in 1997 by immigrant rights groups, DWN brings together advocates to unify strategy and build partnerships on a local and national level to end immigration detention. Visit www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.

Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) is a national civil liberty organization that strengthens our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression and working to make the promise of the Bill of Rights a reality for everyone.

DRUM – Desis Rising Up & Moving organizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immigrants, workers, and youth in NYC for educational, immigrant, racial, worker, and gender justice.

Freedom for Immigrants is Devoted to abolishing immigration detention, while ending the isolation of people currently suffering in this profit-driven system. Freedom for Immigrants provides support to people in immigration detention and monitors and documents human rights abuses through a national network of visitation programs, a free hotline and community-based alternatives to detention. www.freedomforimmigrants.org

Ruby Kaur – Kaur Law LLC

National Immigration Project of the NLG promotes justice and equality of treatment in all areas of immigration law, the criminal justice system, and policies related to immigration. We provide technical assistance and support to legal practitioners, immigrant communities, community-based organizations, and all advocates seeking and working to advance the rights of noncitizens.

 

Notorious El Paso Facility Continues Abuse of South Asian Asylum Seekers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2019

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is deeply disturbed by reports of staff at the El Paso, TX detention processing center force-feeding mostly Indian and Cuban detainees in the midst of a hunger strike. Up to 30 detainees, the majority of whom have pending asylum claims, went on a hunger strike after verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of ICE and detention center staff at the notorious El Paso facility.

These horrifying reports are only the most recent in a series of unaddressed civil rights violations reported at the El Paso facility since 2015, at which point SAALT, along with other organizations, pursued legal action. In 2015, mostly Bangladeshi asylum seekers at the El Paso facility went on hunger strike to protest the indefinite delays in their cases after passing “credible fear” interviews, an initial and important step in the asylum process. SAALT, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild filed an official civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over treatment of the asylum seekers.

DHS has yet to address the civil rights violations at the El Paso facility reported in 2015, and now more asylum seekers face violence and abuse.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, issued the following statement:
“Individuals should not have to put their bodies and lives on the line to draw attention to their indefinite detention. Our nation’s immigration system should provide protection from violence and persecution, yet current practices create an increasingly punitive asylum process, which only extends the violence and persecution asylum seekers are fleeing.”

Since 2015, SAALT has also documented reports of South Asian detainees in additional facilities in Oregon, California, and Georgia who have gone on hunger strikes to protest prolonged detention, denial of legal counsel, and a range of civil rights violations from providing inadequate medical care to withholding language interpretation to denying religious accommodations.

SAALT is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

Contact:  Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

SOPHIA QURESHI, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

In her 15 year career, Sophia Qureshi has focused on expanding the potential for journalism and storytelling by building bridges between different worlds – journalism, nonprofits, think tanks, grassroots groups, and artistic venues.

Sophia has held positions at the United Nations, CNN, Al Jazeera, and as Director of Communications for The Center for Public Integrity (CPI), establishing journalism partnerships between commercial and non-profit worlds. She joins SAALT off a year of academic study – she completed a communications fellowship at Harvard University where she took courses in public speaking, narrative nonfiction and fiction writing, and diaspora histories.

She is a founder of Subcontinental Drift – a nationwide South Asian American coalition that fosters and provides a supportive and collaborative community for creative expression, engagement, and positive social change.

She is a political science graduate of the University of Georgia, and has a master’s degree from Georgetown University in international development and communications.