Celebrating 5 Years! Take Two!

Continuing our series commemorating the fifth anniversary of the opening of SAALT’s first staffed office, let’s hear from two SAALT Board members, Lavanya Sithanandam and Anouska Cheddie (respectively).

“Five years ago SAALT opened its first office and hired staff in New York City.  In that short time, SAALT has grown tremendously.  My involvement with SAALT began during those same five years, and what this organization has given me is invaluable.   SAALT has provided me with the inspiration and the tools to speak up as a physician activist, advocating on behalf of immigrants both inside and outside of my medical practice.   I continue to be inspired and motivated by the hard work of the staff, the dedication of the NCSO members, and the vision of the organization.  I feel confident that SAALT will continue its wonderful work over the next five years and will become an even stronger voice both within and outside our South Asian community.”

“SAALT is community. It’s about collaboration.  SAALT is trust. It’s about participation.  SAALT is empowerment. It’s about representation. SAALT is inclusive. It’s about including the diaspora.

With SAALT, I know that local grassroots groups have a national organization that they can work with to ensure our community has a strong progressive voice that is heard in DC and around the country.

This is just the beginning.”

SAALT in May: Community Events, New Faces, SAALT Speaks

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SAALT Community Connection – May 2009

In This Issue

SAALT Speaks

New Faces in SAALT

Community Calendar

Be the Change

Summit Wrap-Up

Support SAALT in 2009!

The SAALT Community Connection is a monthly e-newsletter that focuses on community news and events. To learn more about SAALT’s community and policy work, contact us at saalt@saalt.org

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, non-profit dedicated to fostering full and equal participation by South Asians in all aspects of American civic and political life through a social justice framework that includes advocacy, coalition-building, community education, and leadership development.

SAALT Speaks on First 100 Days, Immigration, and Citizenship

  • lavPriya Murthy, Policy Director, appeared as a guest on WPFW Pacifica Radio in April to discuss immigration and civil rights issues affecting South Asians.
  • Deepa Iyer, Executive Director, appeared as a guest on Beneath the Surface radio show on KPFK 90.7FM in Los Angeles, CA with Hamid Khan to discuss citizenship and immigration reform on April 23rd.
  • Deepa Iyer spoke on the Applied Research Center’s “Race in Review: First 100 Days” conference call on April 28th.
  • Lavanya Sithanandam, SAALT Board Member, appeared on “That Fresh Radio Piece” on May 18th on WMUC 88.1FM in College Park, MD to discuss the effects of recent immigration enforcement efforts and raids on the children she sees as a pediatrician in Takoma Park.

Upcoming:

  • Deepa Iyer will be speaking at Georgia State University at the Immigration & Human Rights Symposium on June 17th, 2009.
  • Deepa Iyer will be speaking at the “Know Your Community: A Discussion of Issues and Trends Affecting Asian Pacific Americans in Washington DC and Beyond” sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Bar Association – Washington DC on June 3rd.

New Faces at SAALT

SAALT welcomes Aaditi Dubale as the new SAALT Fellow! She will be working on Be the Change 2009, our National Day of Service, as well as supporting fundraising and development efforts. Aaditi can be reached at aaditi@saalt.org.

SAALT also welcomes our summer interns:

Ashley Vij from George Washington University
Niralee Shah from Williams College
Zara Haq from American University Washington College of Law

SAALT bids a fond farewell to Aparna Kothary, Fundraising and Development Assistant. Aparna’s work at SAALT advanced the development of an individual member base, helped us to identify new fundraising opportunities, and expanded Be the Change – our National Day of Service.

Community Calendar

BTC09May 30th – New Jersey SAALT Circle Service project
Join the SAALT Circle for a community service project with ‘The Sharing Place’, a food pantry at St. Pauls’ Lutheran Church in Jersey City.  We’ll be preparing, packing, and serving breakfast and lunch to the local community.  Come out and BE THE CHANGE!


The Sharing Place – St. Lutherans Church

440 Hoboken Avenue (five corners) in Jersey City, NJ


Please RSVP by May 26th at
qudsia@saalt.org. Space is limited – sign up now!

August 14th – August 16th: Transgress, Transform, Transcend – A National Conference of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) Asian Americans, South Asians and Pacific Islanders (API)

University of Washington in Seattle, WA
Registration information is available online at: http://www.nqapia.org

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presents The Asian American Vote 2008

During the 2008 Presidential Elections, 16,665 Asian American voters were surveyed as part of AALDEF’s national multilingual exit poll.  The exit poll was the largest nonpartisan survey of its kind in the nation and was conducted in twelve Asian languages and English across 39 cities in 11 states.  At these special presentations across the country, comparative information will be given about the Asian American vote in the Presidential and Congressional elections, concerns about key issues, first-time voters, and profiles of the Asian American vote by ethnicity, party enrollment, nativity, age, and English proficiency.  For more information or to attend any of these presentations, contact jyang@aaldef.org or call 800.966.5946, www.aaldef.org

  • June 8 at 12:30 PM – The Massachusetts Asian American Vote (Boston, MA)
  • June 8 at 5:30 PM (Lowell, MA)
  • June 11 at 6:30 PM – The Maryland Asian American Vote (co-sponsored by SAALT) (Rockville, MD)
  • June 12 at 2:00PM – The Asian American Vote (multistate) (co-sponsored by SAALT)(Washington, DC)
  • June 17 and 18 at 6:30 PM- The Virginia Asian American Vote (co-sponsored by SAALT) (Richmond, VA)
  • June 18 at 11:30 AM (co-sponsored by SAALT) (Annandale, VA)
  • August 8 (time TBA) – The Chinese American Vote (San Francisco, CA)

Check out events on SAALT’s Community Calendar.calendar

SAALT staff are available to speak at your student organization meetings, conferences, and community events on topics including immigrant rights, South Asians in America, civic engagement, and immigration. Please email us at saalt@saalt.org for more information.

Get Ready for Be the Change 2009 – National Day of Service!

BTC09What are you doing on Saturday, October 3rd?

1) Host a Be the Change event on your campus – If your campus traditionally hosts a Be the Change event or if you would like to start one on your campus, please fill out this form by May 30th and we will send you a planning guide and connect you to the national event.

2) Host a Be the Change event in your city– Join or start a planning team in your city. As a member of the planning team, you will be coordinating service events, recruiting volunteers, and connecting with other planning teams around the country. Please fill out this form by May 30th and we will connect you with others in your city who are interested in planning a Be the Change event.  Our core cities this year are: Washington DC, New York City, South Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Boston. We also welcome other cities to hold Be the Change events.

3) Join SAALT as a National Partner for Be the Change– If your organization, professional association, or youth group would like to partner with SAALT, locally or nationally, please email us at btc2009@saalt.org by May 30th.

South Asian Summit Roundup

summitDid you miss the Summit?

  • Listen to podcasts of the sessions here
  • View pictures from the Summit here
  • Hear from participants in Summit Snapshots here
  • Read entries from the SAALT Spot about the Summit here

Make A Donation to
Support SAALT’s Work in 2009 Today!

Are you a SAALT member yet?


If not, we urge you to become a member today. By becoming a SAALT member, you not only receive benefits (such as our annual newsletter and discounts at events and gatherings), but the satisfaction of being part of a national non-profit organization that addresses civil and immigrant rights issues facing South Asians in America.

Do you know someone who would be interested in learning about SAALT? Forward them this email by clicking here:

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South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, non-profit organization dedicated to fostering full and equal participation by South Asians in all aspects of American civic and political life through a social justice framework that includes advocacy, coalition-building, community education, and leadership development.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

“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.