BLOG: Why You Can’t Be Neutral About Net Neutrality – Civil Rights At Stake

Tomorrow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a plan to reverse its 2015 “Open Internet Order,” which established net neutrality, ensuring that all online content is treated equally by internet service providers. Essentially, net neutrality prevents companies like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from blocking, slowing down, or speeding up online content based on the user and their ability to pay for faster or increased services. Eliminating net neutrality allows internet service providers to charge user fees at their discretion for access to certain content.

In this digital age, the internet has been a way for poor and working class families to connect with critical employment, health services, and even legal assistance. These issues impact all of us, including South Asian Americans. At SAALT, our online intake form for individuals who have experienced hate violence or discrimination is an important internet tool that allows us to direct people to legal services. Creating a “pay to play” environment threatens the ability of the poor and working class to get these important resources. Numerous studies, including a recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity, reveal that families in poor areas are five times less likely to have access to high-speed internet than families in affluent areas. Allowing internet service providers to charge user fees further restrains access to online content and widens this disparity even further, which throttles civil rights..

Black-led media justice organizations like the Center for Media Justice and the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition have defended net neutrality for decades and were instrumental in the FCC’s 2015 decision to codify net neutrality. Their tireless work has shown the importance of an open internet for social justice organizing, healthcare access, rapid response to national disasters, and content creation for artists, just to name a few. All of these reasons should be enough for South Asian Americans to join the fight to preserve net neutrality. But digging further into recent demographic data shows exactly how many poor South Asian Americans would be hurt by the elimination of net neutrality.

According to recently released data from the Pew Research Center, there are currently 5 million South Asian Americans living in the United States. Of those, over 10% or more than half a million live in poverty. For Nepalese and Bangladeshi American communities, this figure is nearly 25%, and for Bhutanese Americans, this figure jumps to 33%. With these staggering levels of poverty and inequality in our community alone, it is critical that we understand net neutrality as more than a politically charged issue, but a fundamental civil rights issue.

We must also consider the backdrop of this poverty, inequality, and unequal access to information. It occurs in a national climate that is fueled by this Administration’s white supremacist agenda, fanning the flames of hate to heights not seen since the year after 9/11. SAALT and our allies regularly document incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Exactly one year since the 2016 presidential election, SAALT documented 213 incidents of hate violence alone against our communities, which is over a 60% increase from the previous year. These stories rarely make news headlines because the victims are disproportionately Muslim or perceived to be Muslim (84%) and often do not have the power of law enforcement or the bully pulpit behind them to get the recourse they deserve.

South Asian American communities and all communities of color are doubly victimized by this Administration’s agenda that both fans the flames of hate and attacks civil rights by issuing Muslim Bans, rolling out mass deportations, and eliminating net neutrality. As we established in our last report “Power, Pain, Potential,” there is a relationship between rolling back civil rights and increasing vulnerability to hate violence. South Asian Americans should be alarmed and activated to speak out now.

Resources to learn and act now

To take action on net neutrality, please see guidance from the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition.

To learn more about SAALT’s efforts, check out our 2017 report “Power, Pain, Potential” that documents incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities in the year leading up to the 2016 presidential election. Stay tuned for an updated 2018 report that documents the year after the 2016 election.

If you have experienced an act of violence or discrimination, you can report it confidentially on SAALT’s intake form here or call our partners at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law at 1-844-9-NO-HATE and get resources and support.

Lakshmi Sridaran
Director, National Policy and Advocacy, SAALT

Last Chance to Force Congress to Vote On and Pass a Clean DREAM Act

Since President Trump terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in September, you have heard about our efforts to speak truth to power. During a 2-day mobilization in Washington, D.C. last month, South Asian DREAMer, leader, and SAALT ally Chirayu Patel asked elected officials at a rally on Capitol Hill, “What is the legacy you want to leave behind?” You heard SAALT’s Executive Director, Suman Raghunathan, demand a clean DREAM Act without any compromises on increased border enforcement that will negatively impact immigrant families.

Over the last three months, DREAMERs have been deported by the thousands, with over 100 DREAMers falling out of status every day because Congress’s failure to act. Additionally, the government is terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for several countries that are still reeling from war, disease, and natural disasters. So far Nicaragua, Honduras, and Haiti have been on the chopping block. Nepal and others could be up next.

We are now at the end of the year and Congress needs to deliver.

Funding for the government expires this Friday, December 8th and Congress plans to pass a short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the lights on. This is likely the last must-pass spending bill of the year, and the last chance for us to get the DREAM Act and TPS legislation through Congress this year.

Here’s what you can do today to force Congress to vote on and pass a clean DREAM Act and TPS legislation now: 

Call your elected officials and tell them why they must include the DREAM Act in the last must-pass spending bill of the year. Urge them to withhold their vote on any spending bill that does not include a clean DREAM Act. It is critical that calls are made this week before a Continuing Resolution is passed on December 8th. Click here to find your Member of Congress.

See below for a sample script!

“I am calling to urge you to sign on to the bi-partisan DREAM Act of 2017. As a South Asian American constituent, I am calling on you to support the DREAM Act now and ensure that it is included in the year-end spending bill. 

This legislation would allow our DREAMers who are as American as you or me to remain in the only country they have ever known or called home. You may be surprised to know that there are at least 450,000 undocumented Indians alone in the U.S. and there are at least 23,000 Indians and Pakistanis who are eligible to remain in the country, be shielded from deportation, and legally work through the DREAM Act.

We need you to exercise courage and leadership on behalf of our families and our communities so we can all thrive. I urge you to sign on to a clean DREAM Act with no border enforcement. Will you commit to voting NO on a year-end spending bill that does not include the DREAM Act? I am happy to share more information if useful or connect you with South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national organization representing our communities in Washington, D.C.” 

Understanding the Muslim Bans

The Muslim Bans are a series of discriminatory executive orders and proclamations that the Trump administration has implemented. While the first version, Muslim Ban 1.0, was signed and went into effect on 1/27/2017, within a day of being signed, thousands of individuals across the country rushed to the airports in protest, and significant portions of it were immediately blocked by the federal courts. The administration has continued to issue different versions of the Muslim Ban, which are working their way through the court system.  Just as with Muslim Ban 1.0, the federal courts have temporarily blocked significant portions of the subsequent Muslim Bans, finding them to be blatantly anti-Muslim, unconstitutional, and an abuse of the President’s power. The fight to challenge the Muslim Bans continues.                                               


Despite intense opposition and criticism from the public, allied legislators, and the federal courts, the Trump administration has also pushed forward other discriminatory policies that share the same goal as the Muslim Bans and target Muslims and other immigrants and communities of Color.

Extreme Vetting (or the Backdoor Muslim Ban) – On 3/15/2017, the Secretary of State called for enhanced screening of nationals of the six countries included in Muslim Ban 2.0. On 5/23/2017, the Office of Management and Budget approved discretionary use of “extreme vetting” questions, including inquiries into social media accounts and extensive biographical and travel information from the last 15 years. Impacts of the policy include a dramatic decline in visa applications; further delays in visa issuance to nationals of Muslim-majority countries targeted by the Muslim Bans; and discriminatory practices while issuing visas.

Ending Temporary Protection Status (TPS) for Sudan – On 9/19/2017, a few days before Sudan was removed from Muslim Ban 3.0, the Trump administration announced an end to TPS for Sudan, effective 11/2/2018. Sudanese TPS holders may be forced to return to a country that is still unstable, despite this being the very reason for originally granting TPS to people from Sudan. These measures raise concerns about what is to come next for over 400,000 people with TPS from different countries.

Slashing Legal Immigration and Cutting Diversity in our Immigration System – On 2/7/2017, Senator Cotton (R-AK) and Senator Purdue (R-GA) introduced a bill that would cut green cards by more than half and end our family-based immigration system. If passed, the Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment (RAISE) Act, would cut current levels of legal immigration by over 50%, and eliminate the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, which provides opportunities for countries that send few immigrants – often those with a majority of Muslim and/or Black populations – to apply for a green card.

Slashing Annual Refugee Admissions – On 9/27/2017, the Trump administration drastically lowered the annual refugee admission cap from 110,000 to 45,000, the lowest cap since 1980, and Muslim Ban 4.0 specifically targets countries that account for approximately 80% of all Muslim refugees resettled in the U.S. in the past two years.


*The information provided in this document is just a basic summary and is not legal advice. Every person’s situation is different. For legal advice please contact an attorney. For any information regarding the Muslim Bans please contact Subha Varadarajan, Muslim Ban Legal and Outreach Fellow: A project of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus, CAIR San Francisco Bay Area, and National Immigration Law Center at *


Ban # Date Issued Targeted Populations[1] Impact on Refugees Duration Key Court Actions Current Status
1.0 1/27/17 All refugees and nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen Halted entire program 90 days for all nationals (not dual citizens) of targeted countries; 120 days for refugees; indefinite for Syrian refugees On 2/9/17, the Ninth Circuit held that the Ban should be blocked Revoked by Muslim Ban 2.0 on 3/6/2017
2.0 3/6/17 All refugees and nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen Halted entire program 90 days for all nationals of targeted countries,

120 days for all refugees

On 6/26/17, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) allowed part of the ban to go into effect, applying it to those lacking a bona fide relationship[2] to the U.S. On 9/24/17, the Ban on nationals from the targeted countries expired and on 10/24/17, the Ban on refugees expired. SCOTUS dismissed the cases challenging the ban as moot.
3.0 9/24/17 Most or all nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen and government officials from Venezuela and their families N/A Indefinite On 10/17/17 the Maryland district court in IRAP v. Trump blocked the Ban for all individuals with a bona fide relationship to the U.S[3]


Pending review:

On 12/6/17, the Ninth Circuit Court of appeals will hear Hawaii v. Trump, and on 12/8/2017, and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear IRAP v. Trump

4.0 10/24/17 Refugees from Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan,

Syria, Yemen and any stateless individuals

Halted program for targeted populations and extreme vetting measures for all other refugees Indefinite Challenge filed district court in Seattle (JFS v. Trump) on 11/13/17 Still in effect, preliminary injunction hearing set for 12/21/2017

[1]  Waivers may be granted under circumstances set in each Executive Order or Proclamation.

[2]  As of December 1, 2017, close familial relationship in the U.S or a formal documented relationship with a U.S entity. Familial relationship includes parents (including in-laws and step- parents), spouses, fiancées, children (including step children), siblings (including step and half-siblings), grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins. Formal documented relationship between students and universities; workers and companies; and lecturer invited to speak; among other examples are required.

[3] The Hawaii district court in Hawaii v. Trump initially blocked the Ban for all individuals, BUT on 11/13/17 the Ninth Circuit limited this ruling to only protect those individuals with a bona fide relationship to the U.S.

SAALT thanks our partners at National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) for this infographic.

SAALT Responds to SCOTUS Decision to Reinstate Muslim Ban


South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is deeply disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision to allow full implementation of “Muslim Ban 3.0″ during the appeals process. In response, Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, released the following statement:

“No one should be discriminated against on the basis of how they look, how they choose to pray, or their country of origin. ‘Muslim Ban 3.0’ remains reprehensible at its core and discriminatory in its intent. While the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the ‘Muslim Ban,’ court after court has consistently rejected it as outright discrimination and a threat to our most fundamental constitutional protections.

The third version of the ‘Muslim Ban’ will only contribute to a worsening climate of hate aimed at our communities. The Supreme Court’s decision comes on the heels of the President tweeting incendiary and irresponsible anti-Muslim videos last week, posts applauded by white supremacists such as David Duke and denounced by the British Prime Minister and civil rights organizations.

Anti-Muslim policies and rhetoric continue to have deadly consequences. The FBI’s 2016 hate crimes statistics reveal that assaults against Muslims have surpassed levels reached in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Since the election, SAALT has documented over 205 incidents of hate violence aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern Americans, a 58% increase from the year prior. Due to a massive underreporting of hate crimes, we know this is just a fraction of the attacks our communities experience regularly.

We will not remain silent in the face of these divisive and un-American policies. Our communities will stand united at airports, marches, and in the courts. The majority of Americans are against the ‘Muslim Ban’ and we will continue to sound the alarm against policies that drag our country backwards. To form a more perfect union, we must begin by standing against the ‘Muslim Ban.’”

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Our ultimate vision is dignity and full inclusion for all.

CONTACT: Vivek Trivedi –