ICE initiates force-feeding process for South Asian asylum seekers on hunger strike

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 13, 2019

ICE agents are force-hydrating at least five asylum seekers from India detained at Jena-LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena, Louisiana and force-feeding three South Asian men at the El Paso Processing Center in El Paso, Texas. The eight men have been on prolonged hunger strike, some nearing two months without eating. 

The five men in Louisiana are being subjected to forced hydration, which is carried out by a team of five to six people who hold the person down while an IV is administered. Local advocates say forced-hydration began on Nov. 18 and that the men are expected to face force-feeding by naso-gastric tube any day.

 All three men detained in El Paso, including one man who has been detained for nearly three years, are currently being force-fed via naso-gastric tubes. 

Force-feeding, a practice that has been denounced as torture by the United Nations, Physicians for Human Rights, the American Medical Association, and the World Medical Association, has been occurring in the El Paso facility throughout the year. Since January, local advocates report at least 16 people have been or are currently being subjected to force-feeding practices at that detention facility. All of them have been force-fed with tubes that are nearly twice the size of the tubes denounced internationally that were used in Guantanamo. Some of the men hunger striking were deported without a strict re-feeding protocol, a process which according to Physicians for Human Rights, can lead to death. 

Mr. Singh (whose name has been changed to protect his identity) is an Indian asylum seeker currently in the Jena-LaSalle facility who is fleeing religious persecution. In a written statement he said:

Since January 21st, 2019, I have been imprisoned inside four walls. For almost one year, I have been suffering. I have never in my entire life lived like this inside four walls nor am I accustomed to living in imprisonment. I do not know how long my asylum case will take, which is why I want to fight my case from outside this prison […] I only have one demand: I want freedom and I want to fight my case from outside. 

Over 34,000 South Asian migrants have been apprehended at U.S. borders since 2008. The number of Indian migrants apprehended at the border tripled from almost 3,000 in 2017 to nearly 9,000 in 2018. SAALT and partners tracked a pattern of abuse towards South Asian migrants in detention since 2014 that drove many to hunger strike including: inadequate or non-existent language access, denial of religious accommodations, use of solitary confinement as a form of retaliation, gross medical neglect, and high bond amounts resulting in prolonged detention.

We are extremely disturbed by the patterns of abuse against South Asian asylum seekers in detention. No one should have to go to such great lengths simply to have their cases heard and to gain their freedom. They should not be in detention in the first place and the only legitimate alternative is release, said Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Executive Director of SAALT.

Full press release with coalition partners here.

Media contact: sophia@saalt.org

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FBI Releases 2018 Hate Crimes Report: Hate in the U.S. is getting deadlier

November 12, 2019

Washington, D.C.: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual hate crimes report for 2018 early this morning. The report documented 7,120 hate incidents in 2018, down slightly from 7,175 in 2017. Despite the minor decrease, hate violence was more deadly and violent than it has been since the surge of violence against communities after the September 11th attacks in 2001.

Major findings of the report:

  • 2018 was the deadliest and most violent year for hate since 2001. There were 24 hate crime related deaths and 3,099 violent crime offenses in 2018.
  • Hate crimes towards Sikhs in the U.S. TRIPLED from 20 incidents in 2017 to 60 incidents in 2018.
  • There were 82 Anti-Arab hate crimes recorded in 2018 –  the second-highest total since the FBI added an anti-Arab category in 2015.
  • There were 188 anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded, down slightly from last year but the fifth-highest total on record.
  • There were 14 anti-Hindu hate crimes recorded in 2018 – down from 15 in 2017.
  • Of the known offenders, over 50% identified as white​ 

Data collection and underreporting of hate violence remains a significant problem. The Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics reports an average of 250,000 hate crimes every year in the U.S. That’s 35 times more than what the FBI documented in 2018. Only 13% of the over 16,000 participating law enforcement agencies reported any hate crimes in their jurisdictions. Disturbingly, the murders of Khalid Jabara, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, and Heather Heyer in 2016 and 2017, like so many other hate crimes, have not been included in official FBI statistics. The vast majority of crimes are going unreported.

And as we saw in 2017, white supremacy continues to be a primary motivation behind hate violence in the US. In both 2017 and 2018, over 50% of known offenders of reported hate crimes identified as white.

Of the over 500 incidents of hate violence targeting South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans thatSAALT has documented since November 2016, at least 80% have been motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. In SAALT’s 2018 report “Communities on Fire,” one in every five perpetrators of hate violence referenced President Trump, a Trump administration policy, or Trump campaign slogan.

White supremacist violence, fanned by the flames of racist rhetoric and policies at the federal level like the Muslim Ban and family separation, continues to devastate Black and brown communities. Anti-Black hate crimes accounted for more than 25% of violent hate crimes reported in 2018 and the majority of incidents motivated by race.

The current Administration continues to promote rather than address the root causes of this violence. Comprehensive data collection is a critical component of documenting the problem, but acknowledging and actively combating white supremacy is the most important step to ensuring this violence doesn’t continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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SAALT Hiring Executive Director

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) seeks an Executive Director to advance the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic relationships; serve as primary spokesperson and fundraiser; and work with senior staff to oversee internal operations, staff, programs, partnerships, and other priorities of the organization.

The Executive Director will be responsible for successfully managing the operations and finances of the organization; ensuring that the organization meets programmatic and funding commitments; develops and maintains relationships with coalitions, partners, and key stakeholders; and enhances SAALT’s reputation while expanding its presence. The Executive Director will also be responsible for developing and implementing a fundraising plan, including cultivating relationships with donors and donor prospects, foundations, and corporations. Click here for a full job description and instructions on how to apply.

SAALT Statement on 18th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 11, 2019 

Today, 18 years after September 11, 2001, we mourn the lives lost that day, and the thousands who were and continue to be violently targeted in the ensuing “War on Terror.”

Just four days after 9/11, Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh business owner, was planting flowers outside of his gas station in Mesa, Arizona when he was shot and killed.  We later learned that his shooter had reportedly told a waitress at Applebees “I’m going to go out and shoot some towel heads,” and “We should kill their children, too, because they’ll grow up to be like their parents.” This was the first of 645 incidents of violent backlash aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans in just that first week after 9/11.

Over the last two decades, the federal government has enacted policies repeatedly justifying the racial profiling of South Asian, Muslim, and Arab American communities and those racialized as such. This includes the very creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System, Countering Violent Extremism, and the Muslim Ban to name a few.  These state sanctioned policies were historically perfected on the backs of other communities of color, and we cannot separate them from the continued violence our communities face from organized white supremacist action. 

Earlier this year, a white supremacist killed 51 people at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Just last month, a white supremacist shot and killed 22 people in a Walmart shopping center in El Paso, Texas. SAALT has documented over 500 acts of hate violence targeting our communities and over 270 instances of xenophobic political rhetoric since November 2016 alone.

Despite the parallel efforts to ban, deport, criminalize, and target our communities with violence, we still have opportunities to reclaim our power:

  • Demand that your Member of Congress REJECT the creation of NEW domestic terrorism charges to fight white supremacy. This would only serve to further harm communities of color who have always been the targets of such policies.  
  • Join the fight to repeal the Muslim Ban by supporting the No Muslim Ban Ever campaign and DEMAND Congress to pass the NO BAN Act. Stay tuned for more information on the September 24th Congressional hearing on the Muslim Ban.
  • URGE your Member of Congress to support the Khalid Jabara Heather Heyer NO HATE Act, a comprehensive bill that promotes more accurate hate crimes data collection and would provide support for hate crime victims and their families. It is named in honor of two recent victims of hate crimes, whose deaths were omitted from the FBI hate crimes statistics.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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SAALT Statement on the Rise of Hindu Nationalism

September 10, 2019

SAALT is deeply concerned by the actions of the Narendra Modi government of India and the impact of its Hindu nationalist agenda on not only communities living in the region but also South Asian Americans living in the U.S.  

Religious minorities and vulnerable populations in the region have faced high levels of discrimination and exclusion in India, particularly after Modi’s recent re-election.  In Kashmir, residents are living under a 37 day communications blockade and being stripped of both their political rights and human rights;  in Assam, the government has implemented a citizenship documentation system that deliberately excludes nearly 1.9 million people, mostly Muslims;  and across the country there has been a surge in the number of lynchings of minorities, mostly Muslims, Dalits and Christians, under Modi’s leadership. 

The Modi government is implementing a Hindu nationalist agenda, known as Hindutva, a political ideology that is divergent from the pluralistic practices and beliefs of Hinduism itself.  Hindutva, or right wing Hindu nationalism, is rooted in the alarming notion that Hindus are racially and culturally superior to others. Similar to white supremacy, which South Asians (including Hindus) in the United States contend regularly with, Hindutva threatens the rights, bodies, freedoms, and livelihoods of non-Hindus in India.    

The current situation in India, fueled by nationalism and Hindutva, has global implications. For example, over the past five years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Indian nationals seeking asylum in the U.SPeople seeking asylum from persecution range from Sikh political activists to LGBT activists to those facing caste oppression. They flee to the U.S. seeking refuge from persecution in India, but often face brutal conditions upon arrival to the U.S. SAALT works to support asylum seekers who are caught in a cruel detention system. 

South Asians in the United States have a responsibility to speak up and take action, especially now given the dire situation in Kashmir and the upcoming trip by Prime Minister Modi to the United States. We urge South Asians to raise awareness about the implications and impact of Hindutva, and to lend your voices to the chorus of people raising concerns. We urge South Asian Americans to understand the connections between white supremacy and Hindutva, to unite around human rights, to support policies that uphold dignity and inclusion for all, and to denounce hate violence in all its forms.  

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SAALT Denounces Trump Administration attack on Immigrant Children

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

August 22, 2019

Washington, D.C.: On Wednesday, the Trump Administration announced a new rule that would give the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)  the power to hold immigrant families – including children – indefinitely. The new rule directly undermines the Flores Agreement, which for decades has provided some protections for children including minimum safety and custody standards and a requirement that they be released within 20 days.

The Trump Administration’s new rule would allow DHS to detain children indefinitely without oversight or basic standards of care.   At least seven children alone have died under DHS custody since last year.

The continued and relentless attacks on immigrant families – on immigrant children – are incomprehensible at this point.

Our representatives have repeatedly said they care about our communities while simultaneously funding aggressive immigration enforcement and deadly immigration jails.  Stopping the flow of money is critical to stopping Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda. There is no other humane option but to demand our elected officials #ClosetheCamps and #DefundHate immediately and without delay.

Contact:  sophia@saalt.org

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South Asian Migrants in Detention

South Asian Migrants in Detention Factsheet

This fact sheet provides an overview of trends in South Asian migration along the U.S. Southern border, conditions many South Asian migrants face in detention facilities, specific detention cases SAALT has tracked since 2014,  and numbers of undocumented Indians.

Remembering Oak Creek and all Survivors of Hate Violence

August 5, 2019 

On this day exactly seven years ago, a known white supremacist opened fire with a 9 millimeter semiautomatic handgun in the Oak Creek, WI gurdwara, and killed six people. We are still mourning the devastating impact of this violence today. Just this weekend, white male shooters claimed 31 lives in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH. The El Paso shooter published an online manifesto inspired by the mass murder of Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand and echoing the Trump Administration’s daily onslaught of racist rhetoric and policy.    

There were 2,009 hate crimes in 30 of the country’s largest cities in 2018 – the highest number in the past decade. Last year marked the 5th consecutive increase in hate crimes, the steepest rise since 2015, according to police data analyzed by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

Statements and repeated condemnations are not enough.  White supremacist violence is killing people of color and immigrants. Any elected official refusing to acknowledge this problem and consider legislation that confronts this violence is complicit. We demand our elected officials and law enforcement agencies track the threat of organized white supremacy as a systemic issue and that they address the root causes of hate violence. We refuse to view these as isolated incidents and will continue working to dismantle all systems that perpetuate this violence, fueled by the illegitimate white supremacist claim to our nation’s stolen land.

We send love to our Sikh family and all survivors of hate on this extremely difficult day and fortify our commitment to “Chardi Kala” as we fight for justice.

Here’s what you can do today to support survivors of hate: 

*Donate to help survivors and families of victims. The El Paso Community Foundation is accepting donations here.

*Offer support locally in El Paso here.

*Connect with organizations like Hope Border Institute (@HopeBorder) and NM Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (@OrganizeNM) who are offering resources and organizing vigils for survivors who cannot seek medical treatment due to fear of being targeted by immigration authorities. 

* Write a letter to the editor or essay in your local newspaper about ongoing hate violence and how it affects us all

* Send a message of support to the Oak Creek Gurdwara

* Contact your public official and ask them to support the Khalid Jabara & Heather Heyer NO HATE ACT

#ElPasoStrong #RememberOakCreek

SAALT Joins Allies in Demanding NYPD Investigate attack on Hindu Priest as a Hate Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 22, 2019

SAALT joins Sadhana, CAIR, and faith based allies in calling for the NYPD to investigate the attack on Swami Ji Harish Chander Puri in Queens, NY  as a hate crime.  

Swami Ji Harish Chander Puri was walking down the street wearing his traditional religious clothes in Glen Oaks, Queens not far from the Shiv Shakti Peeth temple around 11am last Thursday.  A man came up from behind him and started beating him.  

Eyewitnesses say the attacker shouted “this is my neighborhood,” during the incident. 

Puri had to be rushed to the hospital because of his injuries.  

This incident happened just days after President Trump tweeted about the four women of color Congresswomen known as “the Squad”:  “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. ” Just days after that, crowds chanted “send her back” about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar at a Trump rally in North Carolina.

“There will be no end to hate violence unless we disrupt and dismantle the racist narratives and policies leading to this violence. This should start from the top, but instead the highest levels of government are encouraging this violence,” said Lakshmi Sridaran, SAALT’s Interim Co-Executive Director.

Racist political rhetoric from this administration is dangerous. It has a direct impact on communities of color across the country. SAALT’s Communities on Fire report found that one in 5 perpetrators of hate violence in the year after President Trump was elected cited Trump’s name, a Trump campaign slogan, or a Trump administration policy while committing the act of violence.

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

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