Oak Creek: Personal reflections 6 months later

August 5, 2012 will always stand out as a day that shaped my work, my goals, and where I want­ed to see my com­mu­ni­ty in the future.  Grow­ing up in a post‑9/11 world, I saw com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers suf­fer­ing ter­ri­ble hate crimes, wit­nessed my broth­er and father con­stant­ly get­ting an extra screen­ing at TSA, and expe­ri­enced a gen­er­al, alien­at­ing mes­sage from Amer­i­can soci­ety that I was per­ceived as dif­fer­ent. This sense of “otherness”had a major impact on the inter­ests I want­ed to pur­sue mov­ing for­ward.

Car­ing so deeply about the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty and back­lash we and oth­er Arab Amer­i­can, Mid­dle East­ern, Mus­lim, and South Asian indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies expe­ri­enced after 9/11 pro­pelled me towards a career path where I could advo­cate and speak on behalf of not only the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty but oth­er minori­ties in this nation that have been the tar­gets of bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion.  This dri­ve brought me to South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT). For me, this was a great way to final­ly put all that pain and frus­tra­tion from 9/11 into actu­al work on behalf of a shared com­mu­ni­ty.  But less than a month into my work at SAALT, the tragedy in Oak Creek took place.  The moti­va­tion and deter­mi­na­tion that result­ed from the frus­tra­tions faced after 9/11 became even more solid­i­fied.  The con­tin­u­ing issues and needs fur­ther high­light­ed by Oak Creek—hate crimes, dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bic rhetoric in pub­lic discourse–lent even more shape to my career path and gave me high­er goals of where I would like to see my com­mu­ni­ty 10 years from now.

As a Sikh woman work­ing at SAALT and a vol­un­teer Advo­cate for The Sikh Coali­tion, I was very involved with the response efforts to the tragedy on August 5, 2012.  On Feb­ru­ary 26, 2013 at DC’s SAALT Cir­cle a group of young pro­fes­sion­als and lead­ers in the com­mu­ni­ty came togeth­er for a dis­cus­sion titled “Revis­it­ing Oak Creek: Where Are We Now?”  This dia­logue explored many thoughts on how we as a South Asian com­mu­ni­ty respond­ed to the attack; how SAALT, The Sikh Coali­tion, and Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) respond­ed in the wake of the attack, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ty cri­sis sup­port, pol­i­cy advo­ca­cy with key offi­cials and gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and media mes­sag­ing; and next steps we can all take to pre­vent anoth­er tragedy.  Many par­tic­i­pants voiced their pain and ini­tial reac­tion to the attack.  But one thing that seemed to res­onate with every­one in the room was con­cern.  There was con­cern on how to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again, con­cern about the response the gov­ern­ment had to the attack, and con­cern about how, as a com­mu­ni­ty, we are mov­ing for­ward.  That con­cern that every­one was feel­ing in the room last night was the same con­cern I felt 11 years ago after 9/11 and 6 months ago on August 5th.

This con­cern is not only felt by the select few who work at these orga­ni­za­tions or who came to the SAALT Cir­cle last night, it is felt by every­one who was affect­ed by this hor­rif­ic tragedy.  How­ev­er , I believe, the most impor­tant thing to do with a con­cern is to act on it.  My con­cerns led me to a place where I can advo­cate and ele­vate the voic­es of South Asians.  Every­one can lend a hand in this bat­tle and take action.  We should all voice our con­cern, but, as a com­mu­ni­ty we are all respon­si­ble to act as well. We can all be agents of change whether it is send­ing a mes­sage to your con­gress­man ask­ing that hate crimes against Sikhs, Hin­dus and Arabs are added to the track­ing form, being an effec­tive spokesper­son in the media on behalf of your com­mu­ni­ty, or join­ing hands with our com­mu­ni­ties as sup­port­ive allies.  Post‑9/11 dis­crim­i­na­tion and the Oak Creek tragedy brought our com­mu­ni­ty togeth­er in pain and con­cern.  Let’s make sure we still stay togeth­er by voic­ing and act­ing on our con­cerns for each oth­er, across race and eth­nic­i­ty, across reli­gion, and across all walks of life.

Manpreet Kaur Teji
Pro­gram Asso­ciate, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Vol­un­teer Advo­cate, The Sikh Coali­tion

Stand Together, Serve Together

Stand Togeth­er, Serve Togeth­er: Over 3,000 vol­un­teers cel­e­brate ser­vice and Gand­hi’s chal­lenge at Be The Change events nation­wide | PDF

For imme­di­ate release:
Octo­ber 6, 2012

Wash­ing­ton, DC — The spir­it of vol­un­teerism and com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice should be tak­en beyond a sin­gle day of ser­vice — that was the mes­sage at the annu­al Be The Change nation­al day of ser­vice host­ed by the DC area-based non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), on Sat­ur­day, Octo­ber 6, 2012, in coor­di­na­tion with over 46 cam­pus and city plan­ning teams around the coun­try.

Inspired by Mahat­ma Gand­hi’s mes­sage, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world,” over 3,000 vol­un­teers includ­ing stu­dents, pro­fes­sion­als, and retirees con­tributed their time and ener­gy to ser­vice activ­i­ties around the coun­try, includ­ing Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chica­go, New Brunswick, Philadel­phia, and Wash­ing­ton, DC. In addi­tion, col­lege cam­pus­es from Hawaii to Okla­homa to New York coor­di­nat­ed Be The Change activ­i­ties.

“For the past 11 years, Be the Change has encour­aged com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, young pro­fes­sion­als and stu­dents to take an active role to build com­mu­ni­ty through ser­vice. With each year, we are increas­ing­ly inspired by the growth in num­bers and ini­tia­tive tak­en by indi­vid­u­als around the coun­try to live the words of Gand­hi as they get involved on this day and tru­ly be the change,” said Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.

“This was Austin’s third year par­tic­i­pat­ing in Be the Change as a core city. It was extreme­ly excit­ing and grat­i­fy­ing for the Austin BTC coor­di­nat­ing team to watch the day unfold as vol­un­teers from all walks of life stood togeth­er in ser­vice,” said Sonia Kotecha, the head of BTC Austin’s plan­ning team. “To think that just a small group of us could inspire, moti­vate and mobi­lize an entire com­mu­ni­ty to ‘be the change’ was hum­bling. It reminds me each year how ordi­nary peo­ple can do extra­or­di­nary things through serv­ing each oth­er.”

This year’s ser­vice activ­i­ties focused on food and hunger, seniors, chil­dren and youth, civic engage­ment, and the envi­ron­ment. Part­ners and spon­sors also affirmed the val­ues of Be the Change. Part­ners ranged from South Asian soror­i­ties and fra­ter­ni­ties to nation­al Asian and Pacif­ic Islander orga­ni­za­tions and South Asian pro­fes­sion­al net­works. Be the Change 2012 was sup­port­ed by Nation­al Spon­sors Sodexo, Devel­op­ment & Train­ing Ser­vices, Inc., North Amer­i­can South Asian Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, and Iota Nu Delta.

“Sodexo is once again thrilled to be a part of the nation­wide Be The Change events which align with our cor­po­rate val­ues and reflect our Busi­ness Resource Groups’ com­mit­ment to com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment,” said Cas­san­dra Chin Muh Loh, Sodexo Senior Train­ing Man­ag­er and Nation­al Co-Chair of Com­mu­ni­ty Engagement/Cultural Aware­ness of Sodex­o’s Pan Asian Group.

This event was tweet­ed under #BTC2012. For more infor­ma­tion and addi­tion­al pho­tographs, please con­tact info@saalt.org or 301–270-1855.

Diverse Organization Hold Press Conference After Senate Hate Crimes Hearing

Diverse Orga­ni­za­tions Hold Press Con­fer­ence After Sen­ate Hate Crimes Hear­ing | PDF

For Imme­di­ate Release:
Sep­tem­ber 19, 2012

Today, the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civ­il Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Sen­a­tor Dick Durbin (D‑IL), will hold a hear­ing on “Hate Crimes and The Threat Domes­tic Extrem­ism” in the Hart Sen­ate Office Build­ing Room 216 at 2:30 p.m. Fol­low­ing the hear­ing today, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from civ­il rights and inter­faith orga­ni­za­tions will hold a brief press con­fer­ence. Over 200 com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are expect­ed to attend the hear­ing, which comes in the wake of the trag­ic, hate-moti­vat­ed shoot­ings at a Sikh gur­d­wara in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin that killed six peo­ple. Sad­ly, since Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001, South Asians, Arab Amer­i­cans, Sikhs and Mus­lims have endured pro­fil­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and hate vio­lence at unprece­dent­ed lev­els. “As his­to­ry has proven, the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment can be very effec­tive in set­ting a frame­work to pre­vent hate crimes and the threats posed by vio­lent extrem­ists,” says Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er. “The lead­er­ship of our gov­ern­ment was cru­cial to counter the cri­sis that emerged dur­ing the attacks on African Amer­i­can church­es in the 1990s. We are at a sim­i­lar moment in his­to­ry now and we, as a soci­ety, need the gov­ern­ment to assist us in mov­ing for­ward towards a safer Amer­i­ca.” Read more about SAALT’s pol­i­cy asks on our State­ment for the Record, sub­mit­ted to the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee. Please join us for this time­ly and impor­tant hear­ing, as well as the press con­fer­ence that fol­lows so that we can begin a dia­logue on these issues.

For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact Nas­reen Hosein at nasreen@saalt.org, (301) 270‑1855, or Deepa Iyer at deepa@saalt.org, (301) 270‑1855. This event will be tweet­ed from @SAALTweets using #anti­hate.

Diverse Community Organization Applaud Senate Hearing on Hate Violence Next Week

Diverse Com­mu­ni­ty Orga­ni­za­tions Applaud Sen­ate Hear­ing on Hate Vio­lence Next Week | PDF

For imme­di­ate release:
Sep­tem­ber 13, 2012

(New York, New York) Sep­tem­ber 12, 2012 — In the wake of the trag­ic, hate-moti­vat­ed shoot­ings in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin, a Unit­ed States Sen­ate Sub­com­mit­tee announced that it will hold a hear­ing on the threat posed by hate and extrem­ist groups in the Unit­ed States.

The hear­ing, enti­tled “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domes­tic Extrem­ism,” will be held before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civ­il Rights, and Human Rights, chaired by Sen­a­tor Dick Durbin (D‑IL), on Wednes­day, Sep­tem­ber 19, 2012 in Dirk­sen Sen­ate Office Build­ing Room 226 start­ing at 2:30 p.m.  Fol­low­ing the brief­ing, lead­ing civ­il rights and inter­faith orga­ni­za­tions that have spent the past decade work­ing on com­mu­ni­ty and pol­i­cy chal­lenges per­tain­ing to hate crimes, will hold a brief press con­fer­ence high­light­ing reac­tions to the hear­ing and out­lin­ing next steps.

On August 21, a diverse group of more than 150 orga­ni­za­tions, led by the Sikh Coali­tion, request­ed a Sen­ate hear­ing on hate crimes and domes­tic extrem­ism. The imme­di­ate response by the Sen­ate to this request indi­cates the sever­i­ty of this prob­lem and the impor­tance of polit­i­cal lead­er­ship part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ties of all faiths and races to iden­ti­fy pol­i­cy solu­tions that will make our coun­try safer.

“We com­mend Sen­a­tor Durbin’s lead­er­ship in call­ing for this unprece­dent­ed hear­ing,” said Amardeep Singh, Co-founder and Pro­gram Direc­tor for the Sikh Coali­tion, the nation’s largest Sikh civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion. “As the tragedy in Oak Creek remind­ed us, the threat of domes­tic extrem­ist hate vio­lence is real, ever-present, and grow­ing.  The top­ic of domes­tic extrem­ist hate vio­lence cer­tain­ly needs a Sen­ate plat­form. We expect that the hear­ing will bring this prob­lem to light and explore the solu­tions need­ed to pre­vent anoth­er Oak Creek from hap­pen­ing.” Reach Mr. Singh at amar@sikhcoalition.org.

“SAALT wel­comes next week’s hear­ing and com­mends Sen­a­tor Durbin’s lead­er­ship in address­ing hate vio­lence and bias against all Amer­i­cans.  We join our part­ner orga­ni­za­tions in bring­ing light to the issue of hate vio­lence which is on the rise, and in pro­vid­ing pol­i­cy solu­tions that can make our coun­try a safer place,” said Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT).  Reach Ms. Iyer at info@saalt.org.

“The Anti-Defama­tion League wel­comes Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee hear­ings on response to hate crimes and the imple­men­ta­tion of the Matthew Shep­ard James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA),” said Michael Lieber­man, ADL Wash­ing­ton Coun­sel. The ADL was the lead­ing orga­ni­za­tion that fought for pas­sage of the Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act.  “The hor­ri­ble bias-moti­vat­ed mur­ders of Sikhs in their house of wor­ship in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin last month demon­strate, once again, the trag­ic impact of hate vio­lence — and the crit­i­cal impor­tance of part­ner­ships between gov­ern­ment and com­mu­ni­ty groups to pre­vent these crimes and respond effec­tive­ly.” Reach Mr. Lieber­man at MLieberman@adl.org.

“No one should live in fear of wor­ship­ing freely, express­ing affec­tion with one’s part­ner or spouse, or sim­ply lead­ing their day-to-day lives,” said Wade Hen­der­son, Pres­i­dent and CEO of The Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence on Civ­il and Human Rights, the largest civ­il and human rights coali­tion in the Unit­ed States. “Pass­ing the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act was a his­toric step toward end­ing bias crimes, and this hear­ing marks an impor­tant oppor­tu­ni­ty to revis­it the law’s impact on pro­tect­ing diverse com­mu­ni­ties, ensure its full and effec­tive enforce­ment, and refine our tech­niques for pre­vent­ing these crimes from occur­ring in the first place.” Reach Mr. Hen­der­son at Simpson@civilrights.org.

“The Nation­al Urban League com­mends Sen. Dick Durbin for hold­ing hear­ings to shine a light on the threat of domes­tic extrem­ism and hate crimes,” said Marc Mor­i­al, Pres­i­dent and Chief Exec­u­tive Offi­cer of the Nation­al Urban League.  “Rad­i­cal, vio­lent rhetoric and behav­ior in the pur­suit of any ide­ol­o­gy, polit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy or social agen­da can­not be tol­er­at­ed in a free and civ­il soci­ety.    Indeed, a hate crime against even one cit­i­zen is a threat to all Amer­i­cans, and we stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty with SAALT and the Oak Creek Com­mu­ni­ty as they look for answers and a peace­ful path for­ward.” Reach Mr. Mor­i­al at pruckersprings@nul.org.

“We join with peo­ple from all back­grounds who stand unit­ed against hate crimes and domes­tic extrem­ism. No one should live in fear while going about their dai­ly busi­ness, whether it be attend­ing a wor­ship ser­vice, hold­ing the hand of the per­son they love, or sim­ply being who they are. Les­bian, gay, bisex­u­al and trans­gen­der peo­ple, espe­cial­ly those of col­or, under­stand all too well what it’s like to be tar­get­ed for being who they are,” says Rea Carey, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Nation­al Gay and Les­bian Task Force.  The Task Force has led nation­al advo­ca­cy on gay civ­il rights issues. “The Sen­ate is doing the right thing by shin­ing a light on the con­tin­u­ing scourge of hate vio­lence. One of Amer­i­ca’s great­est assets is its rich diver­si­ty, and intim­i­da­tion and vio­lence against any­one should not be tol­er­at­ed.” Reach Ms. Carey at rcarey@theTaskForce.org.

“We com­mend the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Sub­com­mit­tee on the Con­sti­tu­tion, Civ­il Rights & Human Rights for its time­ly hear­ing to exam­ine hate crimes,” said Jose Perez, Lati­no­Jus­tice Asso­ciate Gen­er­al Coun­sel and Legal Direc­tor.  Lati­no­Jus­tice has led advo­ca­cy on behalf of Lati­no hate crime vic­tims. “We join with our fel­low civ­il rights col­leagues and hope the hear­ing will iden­ti­fy the caus­es for such extrem­ist behav­ior, and devel­op poten­tial solu­tions to again make the U.S.A. the wel­com­ing haven it has his­tor­i­cal­ly been for all immi­grants.” Reach Mr. Perez at jperez@latinojustice.org.

“The attack on the Sikh tem­ple in Wis­con­sin marked a deeply dis­turb­ing esca­la­tion of hate vio­lence against Sikh, Mus­lim, South Asian and Arab Amer­i­cans,” said Farhana Khera, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Mus­lim Advo­cates, a lead­ing Mus­lim civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tion.  “Hate vio­lence has now reached a cri­sis point in our nation requir­ing the atten­tion and lead­er­ship of the Pres­i­dent and con­gres­sion­al lead­ers, and we com­mend Sen­a­tor Durbin for hold­ing a hear­ing that sheds light on the hate and dis­crim­i­na­tion that is fuel­ing the vio­lence against inno­cent Amer­i­cans.”  Reach Ms. Khera at Fatima@muslimadvocates.org.

“The tragedy in Oak Creek calls upon us to have a nation­al con­ver­sa­tion about how to com­bat hate in Amer­i­ca,” said Valar­ie Kaur, Direc­tor of Groundswell at Auburn Sem­i­nary. Ms. Kaur has spent con­sid­er­able time with vic­tims of the Oak Creek mas­sacre. “As peo­ple from many faith tra­di­tions — Chris­t­ian, Jew, Mus­lim, Sikh, Bud­dhist, Hin­du and Human­ist — we believe that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us   We wel­come this con­gres­sion­al hear­ing as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cat­alyze intro­spec­tion and action not only in our halls of pow­er but also in our schools, work­places, hous­es of wor­ship, and com­mu­ni­ties. ” Reach Ms. Kaur at vkaur@auburnseminary.org.

“Since the events of 9/11 there has been a fix­a­tion on extrem­ism and rad­i­cal­iza­tion in the Mus­lim Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty which has blind­ed us to real and immi­nent domes­tic threats of vio­lence from oth­er groups includ­ing white suprema­cists,” said Lin­da Sar­sour, Nation­al Advo­ca­cy Direc­tor, Nation­al Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC). “This hear­ing is an oppor­tu­ni­ty to look at hate crimes and extrem­ism through a broad­er lens. We com­mend Sen­a­tor Durbin on his lead­er­ship once again.” Ms. Sar­sour has led the com­mu­ni­ty response to spy­ing by the New York City Police Depart­ment on Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in New York City.  Reach Ms. Sar­sour at lsarsour@accesscommunity.org.

“The Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League com­mends the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee for hold­ing this vital hear­ing on hate crimes and domes­tic extrem­ism. Our orga­ni­za­tion has always stood stead­fast against attacks and vio­lence fueled by hatred and looks for­ward to the pub­lic dis­cus­sion on strong mea­sures that the gov­ern­ment, com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers, and the pub­lic can take to end big­otry in this coun­try,” said Priscil­la Ouch­i­da, Nation­al Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Japan­ese Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens League.

The Sikh Coali­tion has set up an RSVP link for peo­ple to indi­cate whether they can attend the hear­ing.

Sikh Coali­tion Con­tact:

Amardeep Singh, amar@sikhcoalition.org, 212–655-3095 x83
Rajdeep Singh, rajdeep@sikhcoaliton.org, (202) 747‑4944
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er Con­tact:
Deepa Iyer, deepa@saalt.org, (301) 270‑1855

Rights Groups Continue to Call for Dismantling of NSEERS and Criticize Department of Homeland Security’s Refusal to Repudiate This Discriminatory Program and Provide Relief to Those Unjustly Profiled

Rights Groups Con­tin­ue to Call for Dis­man­tling of NSEERS and Crit­i­cize Depart­ment of Home­land Security’s Refusal to Repu­di­ate This Dis­crim­i­na­to­ry Pro­gram and Pro­vide Relief to Those Unjust­ly Pro­filed | PDF

For imme­di­ate release:
May 7, 2012

Wash­ing­ton, D.C. – South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) joins the Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Union (ACLU), Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR), Nation­al Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC), Rights Work­ing Group, and The Sikh Coali­tion in express­ing seri­ous dis­ap­point­ment regard­ing the Oba­ma administration’s announce­ment last month that it will not ful­ly ter­mi­nate the Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Entry-Exit Reg­is­tra­tion Sys­tem (NSEERS), which, in the after­math of Sep­tem­ber 11th, required cer­tain non­im­mi­grant men from pre­dom­i­nant­ly Mus­lim nations to reg­is­ter with the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. In addi­tion, the admin­is­tra­tion has indi­cat­ed that it will not pro­vide redress to all peo­ple impact­ed by the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­gram.

Last month, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) issued a mem­o­ran­dum about indi­vid­u­als impact­ed by the noto­ri­ous NSEERS pro­gram. NSEERS was a coun­ter­pro­duc­tive response to Sep­tem­ber 11th requir­ing cer­tain non-immi­grants to reg­is­ter at ports of entry and local immi­gra­tion offices. Those required to reg­is­ter were from pre­dom­i­nant­ly Arab, South Asian, or Mus­lim coun­tries. The specifics of NSEERS revealed it to be a clear exam­ple of dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and arbi­trary pro­fil­ing. The Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion has itself found that NSEERS “does not pro­vide any increase in secu­ri­ty.” DHS’ own Office of Inspec­tor Gen­er­al has called for the full ter­mi­na­tion of NSEERS. In April 2011, DHS mod­i­fied the pro­gram by “delist­ing” the coun­tries whose nation­als were sub­ject to reg­is­tra­tion require­ments, yet indi­vid­u­als still face harsh immi­gra­tion con­se­quences result­ing from the pro­gram, includ­ing depor­ta­tion and denial of immi­gra­tion ben­e­fits for which they are oth­er­wise eli­gi­ble.

The administration’s most recent announce­ment on NSEERS did not ful­ly ter­mi­nate and dis­man­tle the pro­gram. Instead, DHS offers lim­it­ed relief to some indi­vid­u­als neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by this dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­gram. Favor­able con­sid­er­a­tion is lim­it­ed to nar­row cir­cum­stances, such as indi­vid­u­als who could not com­ply with the pro­gram because they received inac­cu­rate infor­ma­tion from the gov­ern­ment or those who were hos­pi­tal­ized. The mem­o­ran­dum does not address relief for the many indi­vid­u­als who com­plied with the pro­gram but were found to lack immi­gra­tion sta­tus nor those who were deport­ed through secret pro­ceed­ings that took place with­out due process of law.

“While the ini­tial mea­sures out­lined in this pol­i­cy could poten­tial­ly ben­e­fit a sub­set of indi­vid­u­als affect­ed by NSEERS, it does not go near­ly far enough. Despite the advo­ca­cy community’s years of engage­ment with DHS on NSEERS, the new announce­ment reveals the administration’s fail­ure to grasp the wide­spread fear this pro­gram caused in South Asian, Arab, Mid­dle East­ern and Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties in Amer­i­ca and how NSEERS has torn fam­i­lies apart,” stat­ed Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT).

“The recent issuance of the NSEERS memo by DHS miss­es the mark and fails to pro­vide redress to all indi­vid­u­als who have been harmed by NSEERS,” stat­ed Mar­garet Huang, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Rights Work­ing Group. “Fur­ther, the announce­ment leaves the pro­gram intact and states that infor­ma­tion obtained through the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry NSEERS pro­gram can con­tin­ue to be used against indi­vid­u­als. The admin­is­tra­tion, yet again, has failed to address uncon­sti­tu­tion­al pro­fil­ing based on race, reli­gion, eth­nic­i­ty and nation­al ori­gin,” con­tin­ued Huang.

The mem­o­ran­dum does not direct­ly grant relief or ben­e­fits to indi­vid­u­als impact­ed by NSEERS but rather asks DHS agen­cies to devel­op guid­ance to imple­ment the mem­o­ran­dum. The groups call on DHS to engage with advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions in devel­op­ing this guid­ance to ensure that it grants mean­ing­ful relief. The groups also urge DHS to dis­man­tle NSEERS com­plete­ly and dis­con­tin­ue using infor­ma­tion obtained through the pro­gram.

Statement About Oak Creek Tragedy from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

State­ment about Oak Creek tragedy from South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) | PDF

For imme­di­ate release:
August 5, 2012

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is deeply sad­dened by the tragedy that occurred today at the Sikh Tem­ple of Wis­con­sin in Oak Creek, Wis­con­sin. SAALT con­demns the shoot­ing that occurred Sun­day morn­ing that has left, accord­ing to news reports, 6 peo­ple and the gun­man dead, at least 3 oth­ers in crit­i­cal con­di­tion, and many oth­ers injured. We extend our deep­est sym­pa­thy to the vic­tims, who includ­ed priests, con­gre­gants, and law enforce­ment per­son­nel, and their loved ones.

Details regard­ing the moti­va­tion of the per­pe­tra­tor are cur­rent­ly unknown. Law enforce­ment, includ­ing local police and the FBI, is inves­ti­gat­ing the inci­dent as an act of domes­tic ter­ror­ism.

While the facts are still emerg­ing, this event serves as a trag­ic reminder of vio­lence in the form of hate crimes that Sikhs and many mem­bers of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty have fre­quent­ly endured since Sep­tem­ber 11th, 2001.

SAALT is in touch with the White House and fed­er­al law enforce­ment agen­cies, as well as with Sikh orga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ty groups with­in and out­side the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. We will con­tin­ue to mon­i­tor this sit­u­a­tion and send out alerts. Please con­tact us at info@saalt.org to pro­vide or obtain infor­ma­tion.

Resources and Infor­ma­tion

Sikh Coali­tion          
Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund 

  • Resources on com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty at places of wor­ship:

Com­mu­ni­ty safe­ty resources from the Anti-Defama­tion League
Mus­lim Com­mu­ni­ty Safe­ty Kit from Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions

Everything is Bigger in Texas: Sonia Kotecha

SAALT Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Deepa Iyer, trav­eled to Austin, Texas in Jan­u­ary to engage with the local Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. She par­tic­i­pat­ed in events such as a Brown Bag dis­cus­sion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Austin, a Repub­lic Day event spon­sored by the Indi­an Amer­i­can Coali­tion of Texas, and a com­mu­ni­ty round­table dis­cus­sion.

Below is a blog post by Sonia Kotecha, SAALT mem­ber and Austin-based com­mu­ni­ty leader, reflect­ing on the com­mu­ni­ty round­table.

We like to say every­thing is big­ger in Texas includ­ing the grow­ing Asian Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion. In Austin, the cap­i­tal of Texas, the Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty makes up around 6% of the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion with South Asians mak­ing up one the largest Asian sub­groups. City of Austin demog­ra­ph­er, Ryan Robin­son, pre­dicts that by 2015, the Asian pop­u­la­tion in Austin will sur­pass the African Amer­i­can pop­u­la­tion becom­ing the sec­ond largest minor­i­ty group after His­pan­ics. In the spring of 2013, the City of Austin will open the first ever Asian Amer­i­can Resource Cen­ter. As our com­mu­ni­ty grows and diver­si­fies so does our need to mobi­lize, unite and build sol­i­dar­i­ty. So last week­end we called upon SAALT (South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er) to facil­i­tate an ini­tial con­ver­sa­tion through a com­mu­ni­ty round­table on how best to uti­lize our exist­ing resources and the resources of SAALT to ele­vate our voic­es and empow­er us to more effec­tive­ly engage in our local com­mu­ni­ty.

Although many of us in the com­mu­ni­ty see each oth­er on a reg­u­lar basis and col­lab­o­rate on pro­gram­ming from time to time, the round­table was an oppor­tu­ni­ty for us to step back and reflect on the strengths and needs of our com­mu­ni­ty. It was help­ful to have SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Deepa Iyer, serve as our facil­i­ta­tor – as an out­sider look­ing in. Over 25 peo­ple rep­re­sent­ing var­i­ous seg­ments and sec­tors of the Austin com­mu­ni­ty attend­ed the round­table.

Through the process of iden­ti­fy­ing our com­mu­ni­ty assets, issues and gaps, I was impressed at how far advanced we were in hav­ing estab­lished net­works and an infra­struc­ture of strong cul­tur­al, social and polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tions. The list of com­mu­ni­ty assets in the room far exceed­ed the list of issues and gaps that were addressed. Need­less to say, we all agreed that there are many in our com­mu­ni­ty who are dis­en­fran­chised and their voic­es often go unheard.

We iden­ti­fied sev­er­al oppor­tu­ni­ties to improve our out­reach and engage those we defined as ‘invis­i­ble’ seg­ments of our Asian com­mu­ni­ty (i.e. seniors, refugees, low-income gas station/convenient store clerks). Sev­er­al strate­gies includ­ed con­duct­ing a work­shop using exist­ing SAALT mate­r­i­al on “Know­ing Your Rights & Respon­si­bil­i­ties” for new immi­grants and refugees in places of wor­ship, host­ing “Asian Com­mu­ni­ty 101” infor­ma­tion ses­sions for city/county gov­ern­ment agen­cies includ­ing law enforce­ment, and devel­op­ing a polit­i­cal lead­er­ship edu­ca­tion pro­gram to encour­age more civic par­tic­i­pa­tion of Asian Amer­i­cans in city/county gov­ern­ment.

The ideas that came out of our round­table were con­crete and attain­able. SAALT has the resources and train­ing mate­ri­als and the indi­vid­u­als and orga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sent­ed at the round­table have the con­nec­tions and capac­i­ty to exe­cute. It is my hope that we con­tin­ue to build on the syn­er­gy from the round­table and con­tin­ue to meet quar­ter­ly. My biggest take away from the event was pride in Austin’s Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. Giv­en our exist­ing foun­da­tion, we can only go big­ger – Texas size – in our pur­suit to cul­ti­vate a more inclu­sive and just soci­ety.