Standing with the Victims and their Families in Sri Lanka

April 22, 2019

At least 290 peo­ple in Sri Lan­ka were killed and more than 500 injured from the hor­rif­ic attacks on East­er Sun­day in St. Anthony’s Shrine in Colom­bo, Zion Church in Bat­ticaloa, and three hotels in the cap­i­tal city of Colom­bo: the Shangri-La, the Cin­na­mon Grand and the Kings­bury.

Our hearts are aching for the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies. We are stand­ing with them in this time of immense tragedy and with all of our Sri Lankan com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers here in the U.S.

Mur­der is wrong. Tar­get­ing peo­ple because of how they choose to wor­ship is wrong.  This is true whether it be church­es in Sri Lan­ka, mosques in New Zealand, or a syn­a­gogue in Pitts­burgh.  

The Sri Lankan gov­ern­ment has said that Nation­al Thowheed Jamath is respon­si­ble for the mur­ders. As the inves­ti­ga­tion ensues, it is crit­i­cal that Mus­lims are not crim­i­nal­ized in the process.

No one should lose their life or loved ones from acts of hate. We must stand strong and unit­ed against hate in all its forms.

 

Men who Sustained 80-day Hunger Strike Released from El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 17, 2019

Jasvir Singh and Rajan­deep Singh were released from the Otero Coun­ty Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter last week almost three months after ini­tial reports that they were among nine Sikh men on hunger strike whom ICE agents were force feed­ing in the El Paso Ser­vice Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.

El Paso and Las Cruces based com­mu­ni­ty groups and nation­al advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tions launched a coor­di­nat­ed cam­paign to demand ICE cease force feed­ing and release the men.   

ICE released both men on bond after con­sis­tent pres­sure from local Rep. Veron­i­ca Escobar’s office and local and nation­al advo­cates, and days after a Con­gres­sion­al Del­e­ga­tion from the House Com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­ri­ty vis­it­ed and toured facil­i­ties in El Paso where they exam­ined immi­gra­tion poli­cies and oper­a­tions along our south­ern bor­der.

Three of the men who had orig­i­nal­ly been among the nine on hunger strike remain in deten­tion. While on hunger strike at EPSPC they report­ed reg­u­lar phys­i­cal, ver­bal, and psy­cho­log­i­cal abuse at the hands of facil­i­ty guards.

Jasvir and Rajan­deep sus­tained a hunger strike for near­ly 80 days to protest their con­di­tions and treat­ment in deten­tion. They had been held in the EPSPC since Novem­ber 2018.  Ini­tial­ly they were part of a group of 13 men in the EPSPC, ten from India and three from Cuba, who began hunger strik­ing at the end of Decem­ber.

Four of the men tak­ing part in the hunger strike were deport­ed and returned to India in ear­ly March. A fifth man who agreed to stop his hunger strike in Jan­u­ary in return for much need­ed surgery, was also deport­ed.

Quotes:

Jen­nifer Apo­da­ca of the Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee who led advo­ca­cy efforts in El Paso said, “ICE always had the dis­cre­tion to release peo­ple but refused to use it. It shouldn’t have tak­en an angry con­gres­sion­al del­e­ga­tion to secure their release. Instead, they con­tin­ue to ignore the com­plaints of abuse and tor­ture and turn a blind eye at the con­di­tions of deten­tion and prison spaces that house more than 52,000 peo­ple as they await their fate in our bro­ken and biased immi­gra­tion courts. All of this could have been avoid­ed. It is time to abol­ish the deten­tion and depor­ta­tion machine.

Nathan Craig from Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID) vis­it­ed the hunger strik­ers reg­u­lar­ly in the El Paso facil­i­ty. He said, “From their ini­tial asy­lum requests, to their treat­ment while hunger strik­ing, to their var­i­ous hear­ings, all of these men expe­ri­enced sub­stan­tial dis­crim­i­na­tion based on the lan­guage they speak and the way they dress. Unfound­ed val­ue judge­ments by and prej­u­dices from U.S. gov­ern­ment offi­cials and con­trac­tors result­ed in sig­nif­i­cant neg­a­tive con­se­quences for these men’s asy­lum claims. Inad­e­quate, or com­plete lack of, inter­pre­ta­tion was a chron­ic prob­lem.  All of the men told me about how they were sub­ject­ed to fre­quent racial and eth­nic slurs while detained. Sad­ly, more than the facts of their cas­es, these men’s asy­lum claims have been struc­tured by prej­u­dice on the part of immi­gra­tion offi­cials and their con­trac­tors. This must change. Wrong­do­ing at all stages of the process must be inves­ti­gat­ed. Jus­tice must be brought for those men still in the US, and those men already deport­ed must be afford­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to return to the US to pur­sue jus­tice for what is wide­ly rec­og­nized as tor­tur­ous treat­ment in deten­tion.”

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a nation­al advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion for South Asians that led nation­al advo­ca­cy efforts said,  “We are relieved that Jasvir and Rajan­deep have final­ly been released, but it should not have tak­en this long. And, we remain deeply con­cerned for the three men who remain in deten­tion — we fear they could be deport­ed back to India and into the dan­ger­ous con­di­tions they fled. We also know there are thou­sands more peo­ple housed in deten­tion facil­i­ties across the coun­try, suf­fer­ing from the same litany of abuse and due process vio­la­tions that our gov­ern­ment refus­es to acknowl­edge and address. It is clear that our nation’s entire under­stand­ing of deten­tion must be over­hauled. As a start, we need Con­gress to pass leg­is­la­tion that will hold facil­i­ties account­able with penal­ties and even the threat of shut­ting down for their repeat­ed pat­terns of non­com­pli­ance.”

Con­tact: Sophia@saalt.org

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Statement of Concern Regarding April 9 Congressional Hearing on Hate Crimes and White Nationalism

April 8, 2019

Dear Chair­man Nadler and Rank­ing Mem­ber Collins,

We write to share our con­cerns with you and mem­bers of the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee regard­ing the April 9 hear­ing on Hate Crimes and The Rise of White Nation­al­ism. We believe these are urgent issues and that Con­gress should be pay­ing close atten­tion, espe­cial­ly in light of the rise of hate crimes in the Unit­ed States and the role that domes­tic white nation­al­ist groups have here at home, and on a glob­al scale.

On Tues­day, April 9, Con­gress is hold­ing a hear­ing on hate vio­lence and white nation­al­ism.  Accord­ing to the announce­ment, the House Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee plans to “exam­ine hate crimes, the impact white nation­al­ist groups have on Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties and the spread of white iden­ti­ty ide­ol­o­gy.” We believe these are urgent issues and that Con­gress should be pay­ing close atten­tion, espe­cial­ly in light of the rise of hate crimes in the Unit­ed States and the role that domes­tic white nation­al­ist groups have here at home, and on a glob­al scale.

As orga­ni­za­tions work­ing with Mus­lim, South Asian, Sikh, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties, we are deeply aware of how hate vio­lence has become a per­va­sive issue affect­ing our com­mu­ni­ties and oth­er mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties. We are heart­ened to know that the wit­ness list for Tuesday’s hear­ing includes Dr. Abu Sal­ha whose two Mus­lim daugh­ters and son-in-law were mur­dered in a bru­tal hate crime in Chapel Hill, North Car­oli­na in 2015.

How­ev­er, Tuesday’s hear­ing fails to com­pre­hen­sive­ly address the scope and mag­ni­tude of hate vio­lence that dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly impacts Black, Mus­lim, Sikh, South Asian, and Arab Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. Nor does the hear­ing uti­lize an oppor­tu­ni­ty  to unearth the com­plex moti­va­tions behind white nation­al­ism or its effects, includ­ing hate vio­lence. Apart from Dr. Abu Sal­ha, it is not sur­vivor-cen­tered, and the GOP wit­ness list includes sev­er­al indi­vid­u­als whose actions and insti­tu­tions have helped cat­alyze hate crimes, not abate them. For exam­ple, the wit­ness list includes Can­dace Owens, Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Turn­ing Point USA, who tweet­ed “LOL” after the Christchurch mas­sacre and who was list­ed as an inspi­ra­tion in the man­i­festo released by the white suprema­cist who is respon­si­ble for the mas­sacre of at least 50 Mus­lims in New Zealand. The list also includes Mor­ton Klein, pres­i­dent of the Zion­ist Orga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­ca who used the slur “filthy Arabs” just last year. It is impor­tant that white nation­al­ism and white suprema­cy are not treat­ed as redeemable ide­olo­gies.

It is unfath­omable as to why wit­ness­es who espouse hate­ful posi­tions and rep­re­sent racist insti­tu­tions would be includ­ed giv­en their active dis­crim­i­na­tion  against Mus­lims and Arabs. Addi­tion­al­ly, the hear­ing does not  thor­ough­ly exam­ine  the var­i­ous and dom­i­nant strands of white nation­al­ism, includ­ing zion­ism; the con­nec­tion between polit­i­cal rhetoric, state poli­cies, and the rise in hate crimes; nor does it include sur­vivors who expe­ri­enced hate vio­lence since the 2016 elec­tion; or gov­ern­ment offi­cials who should be held account­able for how fed­er­al agen­cies and law enforce­ment enti­ties are active­ly address­ing white nation­al­ism and hate vio­lence.

We demand that Con­gress hold sub­stan­tive hear­ings that cen­ter sur­vivors and that unequiv­o­cal­ly reject white nation­al­ism, white suprema­cy, Islam­o­pho­bia, racism, and hate vio­lence in all its forms. Sim­i­lar Con­gres­sion­al hear­ings have fall­en short of exam­in­ing the depth of white suprema­cist hate vio­lence and our com­mu­ni­ties con­tin­ue to pay the price. The 2017 FBI hate crimes sta­tis­tics revealed an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row, a 17% increase from the pri­or year. This is an alarm­ing upward trend in hate crimes – now con­sis­tent­ly sur­pass­ing the spike imme­di­ate­ly after Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. Sur­vivors of hate vio­lence and big­otry deserve hon­est inquiries and true jus­tice from their elect­ed offi­cials. Con­gress must hold sub­se­quent hear­ings that com­pre­hen­sive­ly con­front and address the pro­lif­er­a­tion of white suprema­cist and white nation­al­ist hate vio­lence.

Signed,

Amer­i­can — Arab Anti-Dis­crim­i­na­tion Com­mit­tee (ADC)

Arab Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion of New York (AAANY)

Arab Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion

Arab Resource and Orga­niz­ing Cen­ter (AROC)

Asian/Pacific Islander Domes­tic Vio­lence Resource Project (API DVRP)

Cen­ter for Con­sti­tu­tion­al Rights (CCR)

Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR)

DRUM — Desis Ris­ing Up & Mov­ing

HEART Women & Girls

Jus­tice For Mus­lims Col­lec­tive

Mus­lim Anti-Racism Col­lab­o­ra­tive

Mus­lim Social Jus­tice Ini­tia­tive

Nation­al Net­work for Arab Amer­i­can Com­mu­ni­ties (NNAAC)

Nation­al Queer Asian Pacif­ic Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

Project South

Sikh Coali­tion

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)

South Asian Work­ers’ Cen­ter Boston

The Part­ner­ship For The Advance­ment of New Amer­i­cans (PANA)

Unit­ed We Dream

PRESS RELEASE: SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing “Detention, Hunger Strikes, Deported to Death”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAESE

April 2, 2019

On April 2, SAALT and immi­grant jus­tice part­ners UndocuBlack Net­work, Deten­tion Watch Net­work, Unit­ed We Dream, Free­dom for Immi­grants, Sikh Coali­tion, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) host­ed a Con­gres­sion­al Brief­ing on Capi­tol Hill to draw imme­di­ate atten­tion to the rise in South Asians seek­ing asy­lum in the U.S. to escape vio­lence, per­se­cu­tion, and repres­sion along­side migrants from African, South­east Asian, Cen­tral Amer­i­can, and Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Inter­im Co-Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT opened the brief­ing say­ing, “We are all here today to say loud and clear that immi­gra­tion is a Black issue, immi­gra­tion is a Lat­inX issue, immi­gra­tion is a South Asian issue, immi­gra­tion is an LGBTQ issue. It is the prac­tice of sol­i­dar­i­ty and local orga­niz­ing that we hope to uplift today for Capi­tol Hill to see, to under­stand immi­grant deten­tion, and to address the litany of vio­la­tions and abus­es faced by detained indi­vid­u­als.”

A pan­el of expert com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers and advo­cates includ­ing Jen­nifer Apo­da­ca, of the Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Com­mit­tee in El Paso; Ruby Kaur, an attor­ney for two of the #ElPaso9; Deep Singh, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Jakara Move­ment; Patrice Lawrence, Nation­al Pol­i­cy Direc­tor of UndocuBlack Net­work; Car­los Hidal­go, Immi­gra­tion Rights Activist and mem­ber of Free­dom for Immi­grants lead­er­ship coun­cil; and Sanaa Abrar, Advo­ca­cy Direc­tor of Unit­ed We Dream high­light­ed a series of abus­es and civ­il rights vio­la­tions doc­u­ment­ed in deten­tion facil­i­ties from Ade­lan­to, CA to El Paso, TX. They cit­ed cas­es of med­ical neglect, inad­e­quate lan­guage access, denial of reli­gious accom­mo­da­tions, retal­i­a­tion for hunger strikes, and the prac­tice of soli­tary con­fine­ment. Advo­cates urged Mem­bers of Con­gress and their staff to take imme­di­ate action through spe­cif­ic leg­is­la­tion, over­sight, and appro­pri­a­tions rec­om­men­da­tions.

Quotes from Mem­bers of Con­gress:

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Chu (CA-27): “I want to com­mend SAALT for putting togeth­er today’s brief­ing to high­light the diverse com­mu­ni­ties impact­ed by the xeno­pho­bic poli­cies of the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion and our bro­ken immi­gra­tion and deten­tion sys­tem. Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in the num­ber of indi­vid­u­als seek­ing asy­lum from India, Bangladesh, Pak­istan, and Nepal who have suf­fered from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own fed­er­al gov­ern­ment. This is unac­cept­able. As Chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus, I will con­tin­ue to work with my col­leagues to push for greater trans­paren­cy, account­abil­i­ty, and over­sight of these facil­i­ties.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus: “The sep­a­ra­tion of immi­grant fam­i­lies is a vio­la­tion of human rights. This out­ra­geous pol­i­cy along with the Trump Administration’s attempt to deport indi­vid­u­als liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, many of whom now know the U.S. as their home, must be addressed imme­di­ate­ly. I look for­ward to work­ing with my col­leagues and the Tri-Cau­cus on a per­ma­nent solu­tion and a path to cit­i­zen­ship for many of the fam­i­lies impact­ed by these poli­cies.”

Rep Suzanne Bonam­i­ci (OR‑1) said: “Far too often, I hear from Amer­i­cans who are hor­ri­fied by the Trump administration’s treat­ment of peo­ple seek­ing safe­ty at our bor­der. I am grate­ful to South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er and oth­ers for bring­ing con­tin­ued atten­tion to the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s ter­ri­ble deten­tion and enforce­ment poli­cies. I saw first­hand how these poli­cies are hurt­ing peo­ple when I vis­it­ed detainees at a fed­er­al prison in Sheri­dan, Ore­gon. We must do every­thing we can to pro­tect the human rights of every indi­vid­ual. When I learned about the hunger strikes in El Paso, I joined Rep. Esco­bar in call­ing for an inves­ti­ga­tion of the con­di­tions at ICE deten­tion facil­i­ties. My col­leagues and I will con­tin­ue push­ing for strong over­sight that holds this admin­is­tra­tion account­able for its appalling treat­ment of those seek­ing refuge and asy­lum.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Grace Meng (NY‑6): “I want to thank SAALT for its lead­er­ship in stand­ing up for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, and I thank all the part­ner orga­ni­za­tions that are fight­ing tire­less­ly for those who have been unjust­ly abused in deten­tion facil­i­ties through­out the Unit­ed States. The U.S. has always been a nation of immi­grants but Pres­i­dent Trump’s poli­cies and rhetoric toward those who came to our coun­try in search of a bet­ter life has been cru­el and un-Amer­i­can. He has made the tar­get­ing of immi­grants a cen­tral part of his admin­is­tra­tion while per­sis­tent­ly lob­bing big­ot­ed, ver­bal attacks at immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties. From sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies to feed­ing only pork sand­wich­es to a Mus­lim detainee, the administration’s actions have been abhor­rent. Our found­ing fathers would be repulsed by what has been tak­ing place over the past two years. As a Mem­ber of the House Appro­pri­a­tions Sub­com­mit­tee on Home­land Secu­ri­ty, I will con­tin­ue to hold Pres­i­dent Trump and his admin­is­tra­tion account­able for the immi­gra­tion poli­cies that they have imple­ment­ed. My pri­or­i­ty is to end these inhu­mane immi­gra­tion enforce­ment prac­tices, and ensure that every­one is treat­ed with dig­ni­ty and respect.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Takano (CA-41): “I’m grate­ful for this strong coali­tion of immi­grant rights groups work­ing togeth­er to shed light on the injus­tices and cru­el­ty immi­grants are fac­ing under this Admin­is­tra­tion. I share with them extreme con­cern about how immi­grants, refugees, and asy­lum seek­ers are being treat­ed at the hands of our gov­ern­ment. Con­gress must con­tin­ue to exert its over­sight pow­ers to hold the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion account­able and bring human­i­ty back to our immi­gra­tion sys­tem.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Veron­i­ca Esco­bar (TX-16): “For the past two years, our coun­try has wit­nessed an unprece­dent­ed attack against our immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty. From sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies to force-feed­ing detainees, the Trump admin­is­tra­tion has con­stant­ly imple­ment­ed poli­cies that vio­late our laws and Amer­i­can val­ues. That is why, now more than ever, we need to raise our voic­es and share the sto­ries of those impact­ed by cru­el­ty in order to hold the admin­is­tra­tion account­able and ensure this pat­tern of abuse comes to an end.”

For a record­ed stream of the Brief­ing, please click here.

In Col­lab­o­ra­tion with:

Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus (CAPAC) | Con­gres­sion­al Black Cau­cus (CBC) | Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Cau­cus (CHC) | Con­gres­sion­al LGBT Equal­i­ty Cau­cus | Con­gres­sion­al Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus (CPC) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Suzanne Bonam­i­ci (OR‑1) |Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Gil Cis­neros (CA-39) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Judy Chu (CA-27)| Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Veron­i­ca Esco­bar (TX-16) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Prami­la Jaya­pal (WA‑7) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Bar­bara Lee (CA-13) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Grace Meng (NY‑6) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Alexan­dria Oca­sio-Cortez (NY-14) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Pocan (WI‑2) | Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mark Takano (CA-41)

Hon­orary Co-hosts:

Sen­a­tor Ben Cardin (MD) | Sen­a­tor Kamala Har­ris (CA) | Sen­a­tor Jeff Merkley (OR)

Con­tact: sophia@saalt.org