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

 

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Washington, D.C.: Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over 2 million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMERs and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, states:

We welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act, sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.

Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with NAKASEC, states:

We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”

 

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

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.

Death in Detention: Tanveer Ahmad

Here’s a case for you to ponder about. When you first read it, you might not think it that sympathetic. But, by the time you read the end of this post, maybe you’ll change your mind.

The New York Times recently reported on the story of Tanveer Ahmad. He came to New York City from Pakistan on a visitor’s visa. In 1997, he was arrested for possessing an unlicensed gun. He married U.S. citizens and applied for marriage-based green cards to stay in this country. His wife was threatened with marriage fraud allegations by the government. Immigration authorities later caught him in 2005 for overstaying his visa and detained him because of his gun offense. A few weeks later, he died in detention in New Jersey.

At first blush, you might be thinking, “Hey, the government should be going after these criminals! Why should I care that he got locked up and happened to die?” After all, the latest buzz word within immigration enforcement circles is to go after “criminal aliens”, right? But dig a little deeper into the facts – things aren’t quite that cut and dry.

What’s the most shocking about this case? Is it that Mr. Ahmad showed his gun while preventing a robbery at the gas station where he worked the night shift and that had been held up 7 times in about a month? Is it that following 9/11 his U.S. citizen’s wife’s friends said, “You better watch it. You may be married to a terrorist,” causing him to always watch his back? Is it that he was detained nearly 10 years after his offense even though he paid the requisite $200 fine for the misdemeanor? Is it that his arrest was considered a “collateral apprehension in Operation Secure Commute” as part of the government’s sweep of immigrants overstaying visas following the 2005 terrorist attacks in London? Or is it that when he suffered a heart attack in detention, the jail guard reportedly blocked medical attention for one hour, even after the jail received numerous previous complaints about detainee abuse and neglect?

I’ll leave it to you to decide. But remember that our immigration and detention policies can change to become more humane. In fact, there is a bill in Congress known as the Immigration Oversight and Fairness Act (H.R. 1215) proposed by Congresswoman Roybal-Allard of California that would codify detention standards and improve medical care for immigrant detainees.  In my mind, such a case should not have come to this, but, sadly, it did. And we can let Congress know that through policy reform, hopefully, they won’t happen again.

(Check out this previous article in the NYT on this story, too.)

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.)