In partnership with We Can Do This, a campaign run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, SAALT is sharing in-language public education tools, translated by our allies at Respond: Crisis Translation, that you and your community can use to advocate for #VaccinEquity and ensure our collective safety from the coronavirus.
Want to learn more? Visit www.vaccines.gov.
- Toolkit for People with Disabilities
- Getting Vaccinated…
- Protects You and Those You Care For
- Should Be Prioritized, and Can Be Easily Scheduled
- Can Be Made More Accessible to Those Most Marginalized in Your Neighborhood
- A Social Story: How Do I Get My Vaccine?
- Accessing Free Child Care When You Get Vaccinated
- On-Site Vaccination Clinic Toolkit
- Protection for Unvaccinated Agricultural Field Workers
As an organization that works with South Asians in the United States, SAALT calls upon the Biden Harris Administration and Congress to take immediate action to address the global health crisis unfolding in India and across South Asia as a result of the COVID–19 pandemic. India has been averaging over 2,000 reported COVID-19 related deaths daily since late March. On Saturday, April 24th, India reported 324,000 new infections – a global record. Whatever existing medical infrastructure has collapsed, as documented by haunting images of hospitals running out of beds, desperate pleas for oxygen on social media, and news of overwhelmed crematoriums and graveyards. And this is just what is being reported. The Indian government’s ongoing mistreatment of minority populations in India makes it clear that marginalized communities are at an even greater risk of dying due to the pandemic.
South Asians in the United States have deep concerns about what is unraveling across India. SAALT joins the calls to action being made by many in the US and around the world to ask the Biden Harris Administration to:
- Ensure access to and equal distribution of any raw materials needed for vaccine production, without threat of sanction
- Ensure the immediate and equitable export and distribution of oxygen, oxygen generators, and other desperately needed medical supplies.
- Ensure that the Indian government is practicing ethical leadership that centers public health including equitable care, and access to vaccines and testing for all people. Individuals historically marginalized and excluded in India, including Dalit, Pasmanda, Adivasi, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, and Kashmiri communities, must receive equal access.
This statement is also endorsed by:
18 Million Rising
Americans for Kashmir
Another Gulf Is Possible
Apna Ghar, Inc.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Justice (San Antonio)
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Philadelphia
Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council (A3PCON)
Asian Solidarity Collective
Association of Chinese Americans, Inc.
Center for Ideas, Equity, and Transformative Change
COOLJC Region 8 (SJEREC)
Dalit Solidarity Forum
Friends of Human Rights
Human Rights Cities Alliance Steering Committee
Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity
India Civil Watch International
Indian American Muslim Council
International Commission for Dalit Rights
Land Loss Prevention Project
The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
The Mississippi Farm to School Network
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF)
National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA)
North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers
Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE)
Rise Up India
South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA)
South Asian Public Health Association (SAPHA)
South Asian Sexual and Mental Health Alliance (SASMHA)
South Asia Solidarity Initiative (SASI)
Yale Environmental Law Association
Yale Law Latinx Law Students Association
Yale Law School Asian Pacific American Law Students’ Association
Yale Law School OutLaws
Yale Law School South Asian Law Students’ Association
Yale Law School Yale Law Women
Yale School of Management
Today, SAALT grieves the loss of life in the latest mass shooting in Indianapolis, Indiana: On Thursday, April 15th, 2021, the Indiana community lost Matthew R. Alexander (32), Samaria Blackwell (19), Amarjeet Johal (66), Jasvinder Kaur (50), Jaswinder Kaur Singh (70), Amarjit Sekhon (49), Karli Smith (19), and John Weisert (74). Our hearts are heavy and mourn with the victims’ families and community members, who are undoubtedly reeling from the trauma of losing their loved ones. Of particular note, four of the eight victims were our Sikh siblings and fellow community members.
Just after 11:00 PM EDT on April 15th, a now-identified gunman entered an Indianapolis Fedex facility where he was previously employed, and opened fire, taking the lives of those mentioned above and injuring several others, before taking his own life. Since the investigation into the incident and the gunman’s motive is ongoing, and we are awaiting more detailed facts, we must prioritize those currently in recovery. Of utmost importance are those left behind tending to both their physical wounds and the deep trauma of having to return to a workplace and community where fellow community members were so tragically taken.
Such an act of mass violence sends reverberations across Sikh and South Asian communities, evoking past pain and grief rooted in decades of similar violent acts. Though the motive is still unclear, understandably this type of event triggers fear and uncertainty — much like what the community faced after 9/11 and in the aftermath of the killing of six Sikhs at a gurdwara in Oak Creek in 2012. SAALT stands in solidarity with our Sikh community, in Indianapolis and across the country, as we move towards healing.
We are struck by the trend of violence against immigrant workers, who have not only taken on essential work during a global pandemic, but have also been particularly vulnerable to its health and economic consequences as a result of their work. SAALT stands in solidarity with immigrant and essential workers, and honors the care they have poured into our community despite widespread bigotry.
We are also disheartened by the loss of both elders, who were pillars of strength and resilience, and of young people, who were beacons of hope and life. As SAALT stands in solidarity with our elders and young folks, we are reminded of the practice of chardi kala: a Sikh spiritual practice that reminds us to center compassion, optimism, and courage, even in times of adversity and grief. For decades, the Sikh community has shown that resilience is possible even as they continually face tragedy, and our solidarity honors, centers, and uplifts that always; this is the thread we hope our community can center as we continue to process our grief. If you are looking to support Sikh siblings at this time of strife, please consider directing your resources to the following organizations:
- Sikh Coalition
- Sikh American Legal Defense & Education Fund (SALDEF)
- Jakara Movement
- Kaur Life
From Atif Akhter
The tragedy of 9/11 and the following War on Terror has deeply affected South Asian, Arab, and Muslim Communities across the globe. Recently, through exploring the work done by organizations such as the Justice for Muslims Collective (JMC) as well as South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), I can better vocalize the pain I have felt as a member of both of these communities. Their work encourages us, as young people who do not remember a world before Muslims were considered a permanent enemy. State-sponsored violence has taken a toll on my people as we have been brutalized and villainized over the course of 20 years due to policies which systematically and explicitly target us. These decades have not slowed the onslaught of surveillance that is almost tangible and this concurrent demand that we prove that we are patriotic, even if we were born here and after the attack on the Twin Towers. We desire not only safe spaces and healing, but also to see such discriminatory and racist policies repealed and condemned.
Islamophobia is deeply ingrained into our culture now. Even today on the streets of the most diverse city in the world, women who wear the hijab fear retaliation from Islamophobes. But beyond this vilfication of our customs and traditions has been an effort to spy on our families in an effort to validate law enforcements’ pre-existing ignorant assumptions. In the years immediately following 9/11, without cause, authorities came frequently to our mosques and New York City universities’ Muslim Student Associations. We realized intuitively that allyship could often be superficial, or more dangerously, covert monitoring.
As a South Asian and Muslim student at Cornell University, it also became quickly clear that if there was any positive outcome from these years of censure, it has been that our sense of community had expanded to others who are not Muslim or not South Asian, but have shared experiences because of how Islamophobia often affects people because of how they are perceived. In many ways, there is new solidarity amongst Sikh, Hindu, and Jain youth as well as with Black and Arab Muslims.
We have lost too many people to senseless attacks, endured too much scrutiny and harassment, and had to tell our parents that in spite of their American Dreams, we still face challenges that they never could have imagined would affect us still. Not a single successive generation should have to live under the War on Terror.
From Hassan Javed
I am a Muslim Pakistani-American. To present myself in this identity is a testament to the strength I’ve build over the years. Ever since I was a child, my peers tried to teach me the hard way that this society warrants your American identity to be a complete recluse from your identities. Muslim-American, Pakistani-American, or whatever else was on the left side of your hyphenated identity, my peers told me that it was only the American that mattered and was worthy of their respect. I grew up hearing America was a melting pot — but what good was this melting pot if a few ingredients dominated all others?
Perhaps, it wasn’t even just the “American” that was worthy of their respect — it was the only identity safe from their hatred. Every other identity was cause for my teacher to ask me inconsiderate questions about my identities…my parents’ workplace to get its windows smashed in an act the police was adamant not to call a hate crime…the unhinged man with a knife on the subway to loop around me yelling slurs. America had accepted that my other identities could trivialize my survival. I had accepted that it could not have been any other way.
And, who was pulling the strings if none other than the American governments, both at the federal and state levels. From just 2010–2016, 194 anti-sharia bills were introduced in legislation, and they are a testament to how the government views and portrays Islam. As Professor Tisa Wenger of Yale University has said best, these legislations “represent a demonization of Islam” and invent “a spectrum of damage that doesn’t actually exist.” And this faux “spectrum of damage” is all the government needs to make Islamophobic mainstream.
What my peers said to me at school and what I faced outside of my home was just a microcosm of the racial profiling the government made commonplace. My people were subject to surveillance, detention, and deportation solely on the basis of their religious identity. The Muslim Students Association I am involved in here at Columbia was surveilled extensively; what was it about us praying and opening our fasts together that threatened America… that caused America to look at us under a microscope? How do I, along with every Muslim-American youth, reel from our government treating us as if we’re bacteria in their pondwater?
You stereotyped me. Your media misportrayed me. You taught against me in your schools. You jailed me over unjustified suspicion. You treated me as a lesser. So, the teenage me replied with faux patriotism. If what it took for you to stop treating me like an outsider was to be patriotic, or rather, accept your American ignorance and hatred without a word,teenage me did it. But I am no longer my teenage self. I am no longer afraid of your hatred. I am no longer faux patriotic.
If all you ever wanted was to make me feel like an outsider, then let me reclaim being an American. Let me take pride in being Muslim-American. Let me take pride in being Pakistani-American. Let me color America with the identities you can’t stand the existence of. I am reflective of the power in my communities. I am reflective of the strength of my people. Use surveillance, detention, or whatever you can to make us feel like we do not belong, we will organize and rise against your de facto and de jure injustice. My ancestors overcame your imperialism and colonialism; now, their child will overcome your Islamophobia and racism.
This week’s news revolves around two truths: Our Afghan communities, both here in the U.S. and in Afghanistan, are in dire need of immediate and sustained support that ensures their and their loved ones’ safety in a time of crisis – and the Biden administration’s current rushed withdrawal plan from Kabul has compromised this.
As families and individuals leave Afghanistan, many are landing in our inhumane detention centers alongside the growing number of Haitian refugees, and additionally facing the numerous and entrenched injustices of this cruel system.
What is most unfortunate is that our Afghan siblings could have experienced far less harm, had the evacuation process begun earlier – whether it was on May 6, when refugee rights advocacy groups (including Human Rights First, the International Refugee Assistance Project, No One Left Behind, and the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service) met with White House officials and called for a mass evacuation plan that did not rely on a severely backlogged SIV program, or later on June 24th, when Representative Seth Moulton unveiled a detailed evacuation plan to ensure safety for over 17,000 Afghans to Guam.
As a country with the resources to support evacuation and evacuees, we can and must move now to mitigate harm. Most importantly, this is compounded by the truth that our intervention and continued presence in Afghanistan, driven foremost by the desire to uphold U.S. occupation, has destabilized the country and directly put Afghans at further risk. As such, we have the responsibility to change our course of action.
If we want to ensure the end of a long, violent, and terrible war, we must move with an unwavering commitment to human rights. We at SAALT, following the leadership of Afghan community members and allies in the Evacuate Our Allies coalition, are calling on President Biden to prioritize safe for all Afghans by:
- Keeping the Kabul airport open for as long as necessary, and allowing military, charter, and commercial airflight.
- Working with the Department of Defense and the State Department to ensure safe passage for Afghans to and through the airport, and onto flights.
- Putting out a call for individuals certified for consular services, while continuing consular processing.
- Providing necessary information to evacuees in as many culturally-relevant languages as possible, including Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Arabic.
- Centering the evacuation of vulnerable populations, including refugees, SIV applicants and their families, immigrant visa applicants and their family members (beyond spouses and minor children), P2 referrals, Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), women’s rights activists and other human rights defenders, religious minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups.
- Expedite the processing of visas for all of the populations listed above and waive all associated fees.
- Ensure safe arrival of Afghans in the U.S. by facilitating humanitarian parole using DHS parole authority – whether at ports-of-entry or in advance.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the news may rightfully focus on the U.S.’s imperial history and haste of this war, but what President Biden does today and tomorrow can ensure that next week’s news also speaks to our nation’s willingness to recognize the consequences of this “War on Terror” and the cost that our South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, and Arab communities have paid as a result both here and abroad, and actively work to dismantle the racism and militarism baked into all systems of our federal government.
On Tuesday, January 26, the Department of Homeland Security withdrew its proposal to rescind H‑4 work authorizations (EADs). This means that more than 100,000 H‑4 EAD recipients, the majority of whom are women of color, keep their ability to work. This move to preserve the program signals the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to supporting immigrant women workers who play an essential role as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite this hopeful news, SAALT continues to hear from community members who have been adversely impacted by significant delays in the processing of H‑4 work authorization documents. These people must be protected, and the Biden administration must unilaterally extend the validity period of all expired H‑4 EADs and resolve USCIS processing delays.
Hopefully, we will see these extensions come with the introduction of the Citizenship Act of 2021 in the coming weeks. It seeks to formalize work authorization for H‑4 EAD visa recipients, create an accessible and equitable pathway to citizenship (especially for undocumented essential workers), and commit to a structural transformation of our broken immigration system that addresses and resolves backlogs. President Biden and Congress must work together to pass clean immigration and essential worker bills.
Learn more about the current status of the H‑4 EAD rule, and take action:
- Watch this video testimonial from community member and ally, Neha.
- Read Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman’s letter urging the immediate extension of H‑4 EAD expiration dates.
- Share your own experiences with H‑4 EAD processes by posting on social media with the hashtag #ProtectH4EAD.
This is a long overdue moment of hope for immigration policy; let’s make it count and #ProtectH4EAD.
This week’s news revolves around two truths: Our Afghan communities, both here in the U.S. and in Afghanistan, are in ...
In partnership with We Can Do This, a campaign run by the US Department of Health and Human Services, SAALT is sharing in-language ...
From Atif Akhter
The tragedy of 9/11 and the following War on Terror has deeply affected South Asian, Arab, and
This week’s news revolves around two truths: Our Afghan communities, both here in the U.S. and in Afghanistan, are in ...