SAALT Organizes Congressional Briefing on Hate Violence

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

On March 23, 2017, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian civil rights organization, held a Congressional briefing to address the uptick in hate violence nationwide and highlight recommendations for change, as outlined in our recent report, “Power, Pain, Potential.”  SAALT was joined by eight members of Congressional leadership and community partners in an urgent discussion on combatting the surge in hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans across the country.

“As President Trump continues to test fire Muslim bans, this administration appears intent on intensifying efforts to ignore and provoke hate violence,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “The President has a sworn duty to protect the rights and safety of all Americans.  Today’s briefing with Congressional leaders is an important step in making sure President Trump doesn’t escape his responsibilities.”

Our communities have experienced devastating violence in recent months, including deadly shootings in Kansas and Washington State, numerous arson attacks and vandalism of mosques, businesses, and homes nationwide, and mounting fear by our communities across the country.

These tragedies are building upon the historically divisive Presidential elections, which, as documented in “Power, Pain, Potential,” saw over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against our communities nationwide. Notably, 95% of incidents were animated by anti-Muslim sentiment and 1 out of 5 xenophobic comments emanated from then-candidate Trump.  This is a 34% increase in these incidents in less than a third of the time covered in our 2014 report, “Under Suspicion, Under Attack.”

“SAALT stands ready to work with Congressional leaders to fight hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric impacting our communities across the country,” stated Ms. Raghunathan.  “South Asian Americans are the most rapidly growing demographic group, and we are committed to policies at all levels that reinforce the place our communities have in our nation now and as we continue to grow.”

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Honorary Co-Chairs of the briefing include: Senator Mazie Hirono (HI); Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT); Senator Ben Cardin (MD)

Member Co-Sponsors of the briefing include:  Congressman Keith Ellison (MN-5); Congressman Andre Carson (IN-7); Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3); Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7);  Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6); Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41);  Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7); Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8); Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Members of Congress who joined the briefing include: Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus; Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3), Co-Chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus; Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7); Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41); Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6); Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7); Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8); Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17)

Partner organizations include: Sikh Coalition, Washington Peace Center/D.C. Justice for Muslims Coalition, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Arab American Institute

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: “I have been deeply disturbed by the growing number of religious-based hate incidents across the United States, including the rising tide of hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh Americans nationwide. It is a troubling trend that we must bring to an end. Leaders from the national level to the neighborhood level must make opportunities to speak out forcefully against this kind of intolerance. Religious-based threats, vandalism and potential violence are not only criminal but fan the flames of extremism that tears apart societies. Each threat needs to be treated with the utmost seriousness as we band together to discourage such vicious language and activity.”

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii): “The increase in hate crimes and attacks on minority communities since the election is no coincidence- they are the unfortunate result of individuals who feel newly empowered by an Administration whose top advisors include a noted white supremacist. If we do not stand up against these horrific actions now, we will be complicit in what follows.”

Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-27), Chair, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus: “The disturbing uptick in hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities is appalling and must end. Recent attacks, including the shootings of Srinivas Kuchibotla, Alok Madasani, and Deep Rai, are examples of the very real consequences that anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric have on communities of color. Today’s briefing, which exposes this rising tide of hate, is critical to bring more attention to this urgent crisis. I would like to thank SAALT for bringing us together for this important discussion. We must take proactive steps to ensure that all communities – regardless of faith, race, or national origin – feel safe and welcome in their own country.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva (AZ-3): “Donald Trump campaigned for president on themes of bigotry and intolerance, and sadly, his success has emboldened some of the darkest and most reprehensible pockets of our society. Against this backdrop, I could not be more proud to join CAPAC and SAALT for this briefing on hate violence. In my home state of Arizona, the wounds from SB 1070 – a law entirely predicated on illegal racial profiling – still run deep. We know firsthand what Republicans across the country urgently need to learn: politicians who embrace hate don’t just betray their oath of office – they endanger innocent lives.”

Congressman Ami Bera (CA-7): “As a nation, we must come together to stand up to these disturbing acts of hate violence — starting with the President. I am saddened and outraged when I hear about any American being warned not to speak their language or wear traditional clothing in public out of safety concerns. These hateful attacks do not reflect who we are as a nation of immigrants, but such violence could do irreparable damage to our reputation around the world.”

Congresswoman Grace Meng (NY-6): “Immigrant, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and South Asian American communities continue to be targets of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric. It remains critical for elected officials to speak out early, loudly, and often against hate violence and the policies that fan the flames of violence. I’d like to thank SAALT for its tireless efforts in supporting the South Asian community, and I hope that together, we can reverse the horrible trend of heightened intolerance and violence.”

Congressman Mark Takano (CA-41): “This nation is built on that most powerful and American idea that every person is deserving of dignity and respect. The disturbing rise of hateful rhetorical and violence directed at South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh Americans nationwide threatens the basic premise of our country. Americans of all faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities must come together to ensure we protect the diversity and tolerance that makes us a beacon of hope around the world.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (WA-7): “We will continue to be resilient to counter the fearful, hateful people who think they can control us—they cannot. The resolution that Congressman Crowley and I introduced, along with the work of SAALT are steps in the direction of ending this vitriol, but every single person in this country has a stake in ending hate. This falls on all of us, I would encourage the current administration to remember that.”

Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (IL-8): “The hate-motivated crimes we have witnessed these past months have been an attack on the very spirit of America. As we confront this wave of hate, it is heartening to see so many Americans – from the South Asian community and others – coming together for essential meetings, like this briefing, to speak out and stand up for the values of our country.”

Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17): “I have full confidence that our country will stand together, on a bipartisan basis, against hateful words and actions, and we must prosecute any hate crimes to the full extent of the law.”

Contact:  Vivek Trivedi – vivek@saalt.org