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

“Failing Families” op-ed in Baltimore Sun

Montgomery County, MD, where the SAALT offices are located, is a vibrant community with immigrants from around the world. This op-ed from Dr. Lavanya Sithanandam, a pediatrician and travel doctor based in Takoma Park, shows how immigration raids have negatively impact this community, particularly its most vulnerable members: children. Read the excellent piece here:

Failing Families

Immigration enforcement policies unfairly hurt many children who are citizens

by Lavanya Sithanandam

When I walked into the exam room, I knew something was wrong. My 8-year old patient, usually an extroverted, charming boy, was angry. He sat with his arms crossed and refused to look at me. His exhausted mother recounted how one week ago, her husband, after arriving home from a 12-hour shift at work, had been arrested in front of his children and taken away in handcuffs. He was now sitting in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in Frederick. The mother asked me to evaluate her son for a one-week history of poor appetite, difficulty with sleeping, and wheezing.

As a pediatrician working in Montgomery County, home to the largest immigrant community in Maryland, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that aggressive immigration enforcement policies can have on families. Many of these children are citizens, born in the United States to at least one undocumented parent. Yet these children often experience what no U.S. citizen (or any child, for that matter) should. They live in constant fear of abandonment because they have seen and heard of neighbors and family members being picked up and deported within days.

My patient, a “citizen child” himself, was exhibiting symptoms of depression, and like other children who have lost a parent to detention centers, he perceives his father’s arrest as somehow being his fault. His mother, who must now take over her husband’s 15-year role as the family’s breadwinner, is struggling to pay the bills, to make the lengthy drive to see her husband, and to take her son to the doctor. These parents are good people: hardworking and honest immigrants from West Africa who pay their taxes and take good care of their children. They struggle to make a decent life for their family, despite a grueling, 70-hour workweek.

Unfortunately, their story is not unique. There are more than 5 million citizen children in this country – and sadly, the likelihood that one or both of their parents will be deported is increasing. In order to meet arrest quotas, ICE agents are increasingly going after “soft targets”: immigrants such as my patient’s father, with no criminal record and for whom ICE had not issued a deportation order. Some of these people are picked up by chance, at work or at home. Some are victims of “residential raids” where immigration authorities knock on door after door with no evidence that the inhabitants are undocumented until they can get someone to admit that he or she is here illegally.

Sometimes, racial profiling is an issue – as in the case, recently revealed, of a January 2007 raid on a 7-Eleven in Baltimore. Officers detained 24 Latino men, few of them with criminal records, in an apparent effort to meet a quota for arrests.

The future for families like my 8-year-old patient’s looks grim. My patient’s suffering will probably have no influence on his father’s deportation proceedings, given the high legal standards of “extreme hardship” that must be met in order for his father to stay with his family. The boy will most likely be forced to start a new life in a country he has never even visited.

Immigration policy is complicated and emotionally charged, but punishing citizen children should be at the bottom of ICE’s priorities. It is time to once again consider a fair and comprehensive approach to immigration reform. One promising proposal is the “Child Citizenship Protection Act” (introduced this year by Rep. Jose Serrano of New York), which would authorize an immigration judge to prevent deportation of an immigrant when it is in the best interest of his or her citizen children.

It is essential to enact laws that will promote family reunification, fairness and dignity over current enforcement tactics that tear families apart.

Dr. Lavanya Sithanandam, a pediatrician in Takoma Park, immigrated to this country from India at the age of 4. She is a member of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a social justice and advocacy group. Her e-mail is drsithanandam@gmail.com.

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.