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 —