Dispatch from New Jersey: Town Hall and Legislative Visits!

In an effort to get the local South Asian community engaged around immigration reform, SAALT-NJ, along with community partners, held a  ‘Town Hall for South Asians on Immigration & Civil Rights’ in Jersey City on July 27th at the Five Corners Library.   The event, part of the One Community United campaign, was the second in a series of community forums that will be held nationwide as a part of the campaign.

The town hall brought together not only a diverse group of folks within the community, but also a diverse coalition of local community partners, including: American Friends Service Committee, Andolan, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), Govinda Sanskar Temple, Manavi, New Jersey Immigrant Policy Network, and the Sikh Coalition.

Although the focus of the discussion at large was around immigration reform, the conversation covered a variety of issues, such as the effects of visa limitations and backlogs on low-income workers and women facing violence in the home; and detention centers and the growing number of detained immigrants. The conversation was at once challenging and emotional, as participants shared personal stories illustrating how immigration laws have negatively impacted their lives and the lives of their loved ones.   Nevertheless, the conversation ended on a positive note with ways to stay involved with the campaign, and to get more civically engaged around the immigration reform conversation.

In fact, on August 19th, SAALT members, along with coalition members from NJIPN and New Labor, conducted an in-district meeting with Representative Donald Payne’s office in Newark, New Jersey.  Participants met with a senior staff member at the Representative’s office to discuss issues around immigration and healthcare reform.

The delegation highlighted key concerns to both the South Asian community and the immigrant community at large, such as (1) the increase in detention and deportations post 9-11 and its impact on immigrant families in the US; (2) family- and employment-based visa backlogs and the need for just and humane immigration reform to prevent families from being torn apart in the process; and  (3) more concrete measures in place for immigrant integration to address issues such as linguistic and cultural barriers in accessing services, and, as a result, becoming active and participating members of the community.

The meeting was a great experience – it illustrated to the members present the significance of civic engagement, and how important it is to reach out to our respective representatives about issues concerning us. In a political and economic climate that seems so anti-immigrant, it was certainly refreshing to be able to sit down with the Representative’s office to actively advocate for issues that deeply impact the immigrant community.  I look forward to meeting with other local offices in the coming month and encourage others to try to schedule meetings with your respective Representatives while they are home for August recess.

To learn more about SAALT-NJ’s work, please email qudsia@saalt.org

Looking for ways to get involved? Here are some ideas:

• Call your member of Congress to express your support for immigration reform and strong civil rights policies. Find out who your member of Congress is by visiting www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

• The Campaign to Reform Immigration for America has launched a text messaging campaign that sends alerts to participants when a call to action, such as calling your Congressman/woman, is urgently needed. To receive text message alerts, simply text ‘justice’ to 69866.

• Stay in touch with local and national organizations that work with the South Asian community.

• Share your immigration or civil rights story with SAALT by filling out this form or sending an email to saalt@saalt.org.

Daily Buzz 3.11.09

1. Bollywood hits college campuses

2. Bobby Jindal: Taking Us Backwards– A South Asian woman says “No thanks”

3. To go with the great Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun, another piece about how detention and deportation hurts immigrant children

4. Dhaka resident describes the BDR mutiny

5. Gambling and the Asian American community

Call out for Guest Bloggers in March for the SAALT Spot – FOCUS ON IMMIGRATION RAIDS AND DETENTION

SAALT wants to hear from activists and community members about the relevant issues of the day through our blog, the SAALT Spot.

For the month of March, we are focusing on the topic of immigration raids and detention and their impact on the South Asian community. You don’t need to be an immigration expert; we are interested in what people throughout the country and community are thinking and talking about.

Things you can consider when composing a blog post:

-Immigration enforcement has been on the rise in recent years and include both workplace and residential raids. In fact, a recent raid, the first since President Barack Obama’s inauguration, took place on February 24th in Bellingham, WA, where 28 workers were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a engine manufacturing plant.

-Immigration raids tear families apart, often separating U.S. citizen children from their immigrant parents.

-There are now approximately 400 detention and deportation facilities all around the country (an interactive map can be found here).

-A group of the Indian guest workers who allege they were exploited by their employer in the Gulf Coast and are engaged in a struggle for justice were caught up in an immigration workplace raid in North Dakota. 23 workers were arrested during that raid.

– Other stories of South Asians in detention and deportation proceedings like Harvey Sachdev, a diagnosed schizophrenic deported to India who has since gone missing

As the issue of workplace raids and immigration detention conditions becomes the topic of Congressional legislation and conversations around the country, blog posts could focus on:

-How have immigration enforcement procedures affected South Asians?

-What issues and provisions should South Asians look for in government legislation and policies that address immigration enforcement?

-How can the South Asian community make our positions heard around immigration enforcement policies?

Ideally, blog posts will be between 1-3 paragraphs and each guest-blogger will write 2-3 entries in the course of the month. If you want to link to interesting articles or blog posts, please include them in the text of the composition. All entries should be emailed to mou@saalt.org on the Tuesday of each week in February that you can contribute. Entries may be edited for length.

Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported back to India 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

This case came to our attention through Dimple Rana at Deported Diaspora. In a tragic turn of event, Harvey Sachdev, who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, was deported to India even though his case is still open on appeal. Unfortunately, Sachdev suffers from schizophrenia and has been missing since his arrival in New Delhi. Read the press release about Sachdev’s case below.

Want to do something to to demand human rights for immigrants who are in detention and who regularly face due process violations? Take a minute to sign this petition to President Obama encouraging him to consider these violations as he staffs and restructures the Department of Homeland Security (the Executive agency that oversees many key operations including Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here <http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/?q=DHSPetition>

PRESS RELEASE:
Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, (213) 389-2077, ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com

Washington DC Area Family of Mentally Ill Man Fears for His Life as He is Missing in India Following Deportation
ICE executes deportation of schizophrenic man on January 22nd, despite his case still being under review, that he is the son, brother and father of U.S. citizens and that his deportation could result in his death.

Washington D.C.  –  January 28, 2009 – The Sachdev family is living a nightmare as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported their family member, Harvey Sachdev, to India on January 22nd. Harvey was a resident of the United States for nearly 40 years, and is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Harvey is a son, a brother and a father of U.S. citizens. His case is still open on appeal before the Fourth Circuit court. Nevertheless ICE deported him to India on January 22nd, 2009.

The trauma of Harvey’s prolonged detention and recent deportation made him highly unstable. He is now missing in New Delhi, India, a city of 11 million people. It is an unfamiliar city to him, where he has no family and no access to medication. According to his brother and sisters, “Our brother’s deportation is likely a death sentence for him, and we also fear our mother’s life. The stress and the worry has put her life in peril.”

Having pushed his deportation date back several times, ICE initially notified the family of the scheduled deportation, but failed to confirm it, so necessary arrangements could be made in India. After repeated calls on the day of his deportation, ICE only told the family he was no longer in detention. The family also repeatedly attempted to get confirmation from the India Consulate Offices and Embassy, which had to issue travel documents, but received no information.

Harvey came to the U.S. with his parents at the age of twelve. He was valedictorian of his high school and earned a scholarship to college. Tragically, in his late teens he developed schizophrenia and has battled mental illness for all of his adult life.

Due to his mental illness, he was convicted of inappropriate and aberrant but non-violent crimes. The most serious was indecent exposure, but he was not guilty of any physical contact with any person, nor of any violence. There is no indication that any court thought that the punishment for his crimes should result in deportation to a country that he can’t remember, where he has no friends or family or any connection whatsoever.

His parents and his family are U.S. citizens. Two of his family members are serving in the military, with one completing two tours of duty in Iraq. He married a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen daughter who is now twenty-two years old.

Mr. Sachdev is mentally ill and requires care, which his family is able and willing to provide. He has no one in India and does not have the ability to survive on his own.

Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. states that “People with mental and developmental disabilities who are deported can also face a grave risk of harassment and even persecution in their home countries – harassment and persecution based solely on their disabilities.”

“Without family or medical support, deportation can become a death sentence. Suicide and attempted suicide are not uncommon among deported people with mental illnesses. Access to medicine can be limited and people are often deported without any information on their medical background.  Deportation of the mentally ill is cruel and unusual punishment,” says Dimple Rana of Deported Diaspora, an organization working with people deported from the U.S.

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev – Harvey Sachdev’s sister, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW – Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. (213) 389-2077 ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, Co-Founder and Director, Deported Diaspora, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com

Night of 1,000 Conversations is here!

Tonight, “conversations” (ie. gatherings of people that meet to share stories) are being held in communities across the country. SAALT is excited to be participating in one such conversation being held in Washington, DC. The ultimate goal of A Night of 1,000 Conversations is to get people talking about how government policies affect the everyday lives of Americans. The focus of the conversation tonight (at the All Souls Church, Unitarian near the Columbia Heights metro, for those of you in the DC area) is sharing the experiences of different immigrant communities around policies and issues like backlogs in the citizenship and naturalization process; inhumane detention and deportation procedures; home and workplace raids and more. SAALT is working with All Souls Unitarian Social Justice Ministries, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CASA de Maryland, Virginia New Majority and Rights Working Group to organize this conversation and we welcome anyone in the Washington, DC area to attend. The event goes from 6:30pm – 9:00pm and begins with iftar/dinner and includes a panel discussion with experts and affected community members followed by small group discussions. One of the featured panelists is journalist Laila Al-Arian, the author of Collateral Damage, who will discuss the detention of her father, Sami Al-Arian. If you would like to attend this event, please join us! The iftar and remarks will begin promptly at 6:30pm.

Map of location

Flyer for Night of 1,000 ConversationsTo learn more about Night of 1,000 Conversations, visit www.nightof1,000conversations.org 

 

. (This website also lists conversations happening in other locations around the country.)