AAPIs say, “Immigrants and Refugees Deserve Better than a Harmful Bill and a Fake National Emergency”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, February 15, 2019

Washington, DC – The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) are gravely concerned by the steps taken last night by the United States Congress and the president.

First, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrant families are deeply disappointed with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 in both the House and Senate yesterday.

We understand the immense pressure that negotiators were under to prevent another government shutdown. We similarly need to keep our government operating. Nevertheless, our organizations are alarmed at the inclusion of $1.375 billion for a physical barrier (a total of 55 miles), an 11% increase in funding for 45,274 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds, and more enforcement agents. AAPI communities have made clear that any bill including any of these measures is unacceptable. A full list of measures that AAPI communities will not stand for can be found in this letter to congressional leaders.

Both the border wall and the presence of ICE are sources of terror for all immigrant communities. The wall is a symbol of hate for any immigrant living within and outside of the United States, and it directs billions of taxpayer dollars to separating families. Furthermore, the bill does not place a limit on the number of ICE detention beds nor does it restrict the authority of the Department of Homeland Security from transferring or reprogramming funding internally, which enables ICE to continue expanding immigrant incarceration and deportation at will.

Second, President Trump intends to declare a “national emergency” at the border in order to justify the need for his border wall. Make no mistake, there is no national emergency happening at the border. Rather, there is a humanitarian crisis happening at the border, and it is a crisis that President Trump and his Administration caused in its entirety. The president’s intention to declare a “national emergency” is a unilateral rebuke of our democratic process driven by an irrational desire to fund an anti-immigrant unnecessary, and unpopular border wall after Congress would not approve the $5.7 billion the president initially demanded. Two-thirds of Americans do not support a national emergency.

Suman Raghunathan, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), said:

“In just the last 10 days we’ve been hearing firsthand about the cruel treatment towards nine South Asian men currently on hunger strike in a detention facility in El Paso. Despite their asylum requests, they’ve been subject to violent force-feeding, solitary confinement, and constant threats of deportation.  What’s particularly devastating is that we’ve seen similar treatment occur previously in this same facility and we have received accounts of abuse of detainees in several facilities across the country. This bill does nothing to address the systemic issues with our detention system, and only serves to perpetuate abusive situations like the ones we are witnessing now.”

Jonathan Paik, director of the Korean Resource Center, a NAKASEC affiliate, stated: “This is a reckless move and endangers the future of our country. Our democracy is in incredible danger- this is the true national emergency. We call on all our fellow Americans to resist these abuses of power and reclaim our democracy!”

Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC, expressed:

“The Southeast Asian American refugee community has been devastated by the expansion of our detention and deportation system, and our families continue to be torn apart at unprecedented rates. Our organizations understand that this is a difficult position for our policymakers to be in, and none of them should be forced to make this choice. But our communities elected our policymakers to represent our interests, and Asian Americans have declared in no uncertain terms that we oppose the passage of this bill and the president’s unconstitutional and falsely justified national emergency. We remain vigilant and committed to working with our Congressional partners to protect the rights of our refugees and immigrants.”

 

Contact: Sophia Qureshi | sophia@saalt.org | 202-997-4211

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

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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.