SAALT Staunchly Opposes President Trump’s Separate and Unequal Policies Toward Muslims

January 28, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, staunchly opposes the latest Executive Order in the litany of divisive, un-American measures issued by President Trump this week. Today’s announcement effectively bans Muslims, rejects refugees, and expands surveillance on Muslim-American communities, creating separate and wholly unequal standards of law and justice for millions of Americans.

“The ethos and impact of these Orders contradict America’s founding values and take us further away from our bedrock commitment to freedom and civil liberties for all,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Today’s announcement will criminalize people of color based on their religion and national origin, and reinforces a climate of suspicion and increasing violence aimed at Muslim communities living in the U.S. Our nation is better than this.”

Today’s Executive Orders block refugees entering the U.S. from war-torn Syria indefinitely; suspends refugee admissions from other countries for 120 days; vaguely suspends visa issuance to countries of “particular concern;” bans immigrant and non-immigrant entry of individuals from several Muslim-majority countries; and creates an entry-exit tracking system for all visitors to the United States in addition to requiring in-person interviews for all nonimmigrant visa applicants.

A majority of American voters do not support the measures announced today: in fact, 52% of Americans oppose a ban on immigrants and travelers who are Muslim. President Trump’s decision to transform his divisive and irresponsible campaign rhetoric into policy expressly targets millions of our community members nationwide, and explicitly runs counter to the will of the electorate. The most recent policies will only serve to further divide us as a nation at the very moment when we must all come together as the resounding national message rings of exclusion and racism.

The entry-exit policy in particular has a troubling precedent that devastated South Asian American, Muslim, and Arab communities for much of the last 15 years, and was just dismantled at the end of 2016. Under the guise of “national security,” the 2002 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) forced immigrants from Muslim-majority countries to register at local immigration offices for lengthy interrogations. Over 83,000 individuals registered; over 13,000 were placed into deportation proceedings, resulting in zero terrorism-related convictions. President Trump’s order reopens this wound at a time when our communities are increasingly under attack nationwide.

Just this month, SAALT released “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities during the 2016 election cycle. An astounding 95% of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. President Trump was responsible for 21% of the xenophobic political statements we documented. Just one week into his administration, the President’s rhetoric is now being implemented via destructive policies. It is clear that this administration’s rhetoric and policies serve only to criminalize and dehumanize large segments of our country, and will continue to embolden neighbors to target neighbors, Americans to target Americans-all for the narrow end of “making America great again.”

As Black, Brown, indigenous, immigrant, and Asian American communities who have survived systemic racism, internment, and genocide, we will stand strong as a united front against any policies rooted in discrimination and divisiveness. Working with our partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, we will forge a future driven by the fundamental value that all people must be treated equally under the law. We must be better than this.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi

SAALT Condemns President Trump’s Anti-Immigrant Executive Orders

January 25, 2017

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, is outraged at the latest Executive Orders issued by President Trump. Today’s announcement on immigration effectively shuts down our borders, threatens state and local policies that protect and welcome immigrants, and puts immigrant communities in the crosshairs of policies that tear apart families under the pretext of “making American great.”

“Today’s Executive Orders push the nation further away from core American values of equality and freedom, sow fear in communities of color that already face increasing violence, hostility and attacks, and make us and the country less safe – all under the guise of national security,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT. “Walling off the country will not make us safer. We expect this will be the first in a series of attacks against the freedom of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.”

South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the country, numbering over 4.3 million, with large growth in the undocumented South Asian population in recent years, including 450,000 Indian-Americans alone. India is currently the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We also know there are significant undocumented immigrants originally from other South Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Indo-Caribbean diaspora.

Today’s announcement puts South Asian communities under further scrutiny and attack in the United States, particularly through the alarming revival of the “Secure Communities” program, which deputizes local authorities as immigration agents – a function numerous police chiefs have already spoken out against. The program, previously abandoned due to concerns that it led to racial profiling and other abuse by law enforcement, authorizes local police to check the immigration status of every individual arrested and to enforce immigration laws against the very communities they are sworn to protect. This policy sends a clear message to immigrants that any contact with the police can lead to deportation, and only serves to spur fear in immigrant communities.

Today’s Executive Orders also strip federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to arrest or detain undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Many of these places of refuge are located in California, New York, and Chicago: areas with massive South Asian American populations as well as immigrant communities writ large. The result deprives localities of critical funding necessary to meet the needs of their residents. This crucial federal funding (from taxpayer dollars) is instead being funneled to hire more border patrol agents to criminalize rather than protect immigrant and border communities, all the while fueling an increasingly privatized immigration detention system.

SAALT recently released “Power, Pain, Potential,” the first comprehensive report documenting hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities during the 2016 election cycle. We found skyrocketing violence against our communities nationwide reaching levels only seen in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. President Elect Trump was responsible for over one in five, or 21%, of the xenophobic political rhetoric we tracked.

Due to today’s Executive Orders, our communities – already experiencing the full force of a rising tide of hate violence and the proliferation of white supremacist movements nationwide – will have less recourse for protection from police, diminished options to report incidents aimed at their families, and fewer places to find safety and security. In the face of these devastating policies, SAALT and our partners nationwide will instead draw strength, unity, and resilience from each other, and work closely with our communities to ensure that we have an equal place in the U.S. and that our voices ring clear as we fight for equality, protection, and dignity for all.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi

Ahead of Inauguration, SAALT’s New Report Exposes Alarming Hate Violence and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric During Elections



On January 11, 2017, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a leading national South Asian American advocacy organization, released “Power, Pain, Potential,” the first comprehensive report documenting hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Arab, Sikh, Hindu, and Middle Eastern Americans during the 2016 election cycle.  This report examines the dramatic demographic growth of South Asians across the United States, particularly in the South, and reveals how increases in population are met with increases in intolerance during the most divisive Presidential election in modern American history.

“The unprecedented violence we saw following the September 11 attacks has returned, electrified by a hostile 2016 presidential election,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.  “With over 4.3 million South Asians in the US, policymakers must make it a first priority to address and dismantle the paradox of our communities living at the intersection of growth and hate.”

From November 15, 2015 to November 15, 2016 (between the Paris attacks and the week after the Presidential elections), SAALT documented 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at our communities in an online public database, a 34% increase in less than a third of the time covered in our 2011-2014 report, “Under Suspicion, Under Attack.”

This disturbing data breaks down to 140 incidents of hate violence and 67 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric during the 2016 election cycle.  An astounding 95% of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.  SAALT’s findings are consistent with the FBI’s 2015 hate crimes statistics, which revealed a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims from the previous year. Notably, President-elect Trump was responsible for one in five (21%) xenophobic political statements SAALT documented.

Against the backdrop of this hostility and the resurgence of white supremacist organizations nationwide, South Asian Americans are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the nation.  The largest population growth occurred in the South, where 30% of South Asians currently reside: an increase from half a million to one million since 2000.  Thirty percent of the hate violence incidents we catalogued occurred in the South.

This report also offers policymakers crucial and comprehensive recommendations to address hate crimes underreporting, improve relations between our communities and law enforcement, dismantle policies that promote racial profiling and surveillance, and shift immigration policies to respect and meet our communities’ needs.  The new administration must make these recommendations a first priority in order to heal our deeply divided country.  Anything less will make the transition of power on January 20 simply a transition of pain for our communities.

Contact: Vivek Trivedi; for more information.

Communities on Fire: Resisting Hate Violence and Xenophobic Political Rhetoric

SAALT’s 2018 report documents hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at our communities from Election Day 2016 to Election Day 2017. SAALT documented 302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab communities in the United States, of which an astounding 82% were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. The 302 incidents are a more than 45% increase from the year leading up to the 2016 election cycle, levels not seen since the year after September 11.

SAALT Welcomes Official End of Discriminatory Profiling of South Asian, Muslim, and Arab Individuals via NSEERS Program

December 22, 2016
Contact: Suman Raghunathan,

SAALT applauds today’s announcement from the Department of Homeland Security on a final rule that formally ends the deeply flawed, patently ineffective, and openly discriminatory National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) program (known as special registration) effective immediately.

As a national South Asian organization that has since its inception been fighting the deeply discriminatory NSEERS program as well as racial and religious profiling writ large, SAALT thanks the Department of Homeland Security, White House, and the Obama Administration for their decision to rescind the regulation behind this dormant program.  SAALT in particular salutes the steadfast leadership, organizing, and advocacy of South Asian, Muslim, and Arab individuals directly impacted by the program and grassroots South Asian and Muslim organizations-including members of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO)-who have been involved in longstanding advocacy against NSEERS. The program was discontinued in 2011, but its regulatory framework remained dangerously on the books until today.

NSEERS, first created in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001, required certain non-immigrant male visitors from 25 Middle Eastern, Arab, and South Asian countries and North Korea to appear at local immigration enforcement offices. Over 80,000 men were forced to register and over 13,000 individuals were placed into deportation proceedings, which did not result in one terrorism-related conviction. SAALT and South Asian Americans nationwide have experienced firsthand the ways programs such as NSEERS have decimated our trust in law enforcement.  Today’s announcement begins us on the path to restore some of that trust.

South Asians are the most rapidly-growing demographic group in the United States, and there are an estimated 3.3 million Muslims nationwide.  Even as our communities continue to grow, we are reminded that we are all safer when we refuse to racially and religiously profile individuals.  As an organization with a deep and longtime commitment to racial justice, civil rights, and civil liberties, SAALT will continue fighting to ensure South Asians and indeed all Americans are able to enjoy and exercise the basic rights and liberties enshrined in our Constitution and concordant with our values as a nation.