Letters to Congress from Community Members

From Atif Akhter

The tragedy of 9/11 and the fol­low­ing War on Ter­ror has deeply affect­ed South Asian, Arab, and Mus­lim Com­mu­ni­ties across the globe. Recent­ly, through explor­ing the work done by orga­ni­za­tions such as the Jus­tice for Mus­lims Col­lec­tive (JMC) as well as South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), I can bet­ter vocal­ize the pain I have felt as a mem­ber of both of these com­mu­ni­ties. Their work encour­ages us, as young peo­ple who do not remem­ber a world before Mus­lims were con­sid­ered a per­ma­nent ene­my. State-spon­sored vio­lence has tak­en a toll on my peo­ple as we have been bru­tal­ized and vil­lainized over the course of 20 years due to poli­cies which sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly and explic­it­ly tar­get us. These decades have not slowed the onslaught of sur­veil­lance that is almost tan­gi­ble and this con­cur­rent demand that we prove that we are patri­ot­ic, even if we were born here and after the attack on the Twin Tow­ers. We desire not only safe spaces and heal­ing, but also to see such dis­crim­i­na­to­ry and racist poli­cies repealed and con­demned.

Islam­o­pho­bia is deeply ingrained into our cul­ture now. Even today on the streets of the most diverse city in the world, women who wear the hijab fear retal­i­a­tion from Islam­o­phobes. But beyond this vil­fi­ca­tion of our cus­toms and tra­di­tions has been an effort to spy on our fam­i­lies in an effort to val­i­date law enforce­ments’ pre-exist­ing igno­rant assump­tions. In the years imme­di­ate­ly fol­low­ing 9/11, with­out cause, author­i­ties came fre­quent­ly to our mosques and New York City uni­ver­si­ties’ Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tions. We real­ized intu­itive­ly that ally­ship could often be super­fi­cial, or more dan­ger­ous­ly, covert mon­i­tor­ing.

As a South Asian and Mus­lim stu­dent at Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, it also became quick­ly clear that if there was any pos­i­tive out­come from these years of cen­sure, it has been that our sense of com­mu­ni­ty had expand­ed to oth­ers who are not Mus­lim or not South Asian, but have shared expe­ri­ences because of how Islam­o­pho­bia often affects peo­ple because of how they are per­ceived. In many ways, there is new sol­i­dar­i­ty amongst Sikh, Hin­du, and Jain youth as well as with Black and Arab Mus­lims.

We have lost too many peo­ple to sense­less attacks, endured too much scruti­ny and harass­ment, and had to tell our par­ents that in spite of their Amer­i­can Dreams, we still face chal­lenges that they nev­er could have imag­ined would affect us still. Not a sin­gle suc­ces­sive gen­er­a­tion should have to live under the War on Ter­ror.

From Has­san Javed

I am a Mus­lim Pak­istani-Amer­i­can. To present myself in this iden­ti­ty is a tes­ta­ment to the strength I’ve build over the years. Ever since I was a child, my peers tried to teach me the hard way that this soci­ety war­rants your Amer­i­can iden­ti­ty to be a com­plete recluse from your iden­ti­ties. Mus­lim-Amer­i­can, Pak­istani-Amer­i­can, or what­ev­er else was on the left side of your hyphen­at­ed iden­ti­ty, my peers told me that it was only the Amer­i­can that mat­tered and was wor­thy of their respect. I grew up hear­ing Amer­i­ca was a melt­ing pot — but what good was this melt­ing pot if a few ingre­di­ents dom­i­nat­ed all oth­ers?

Per­haps, it wasn’t even just the “Amer­i­can” that was wor­thy of their respect — it was the only iden­ti­ty safe from their hatred. Every oth­er iden­ti­ty was cause for my teacher to ask me incon­sid­er­ate ques­tions about my identities…my par­ents’ work­place to get its win­dows smashed in an act the police was adamant not to call a hate crime…the unhinged man with a knife on the sub­way to loop around me yelling slurs. Amer­i­ca had accept­ed that my oth­er iden­ti­ties could triv­i­al­ize my sur­vival. I had accept­ed that it could not have been any oth­er way.

And, who was pulling the strings if none oth­er than the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ments, both at the fed­er­al and state lev­els. From just 2010–2016, 194 anti-sharia bills were intro­duced in leg­is­la­tion, and they are a tes­ta­ment to how the gov­ern­ment views and por­trays Islam. As Pro­fes­sor Tisa Wenger of Yale Uni­ver­si­ty has said best, these leg­is­la­tions “rep­re­sent a demo­niza­tion of Islam” and invent “a spec­trum of dam­age that doesn’t actu­al­ly exist.” And this faux “spec­trum of dam­age” is all the gov­ern­ment needs to make Islam­o­pho­bic main­stream.

What my peers said to me at school and what I faced out­side of my home was just a micro­cosm of the racial pro­fil­ing the gov­ern­ment made com­mon­place. My peo­ple were sub­ject to sur­veil­lance, deten­tion, and depor­ta­tion sole­ly on the basis of their reli­gious iden­ti­ty. The Mus­lim Stu­dents Asso­ci­a­tion I am involved in here at Colum­bia was sur­veilled exten­sive­ly; what was it about us pray­ing and open­ing our fasts togeth­er that threat­ened Amer­i­ca… that caused Amer­i­ca to look at us under a micro­scope? How do I, along with every Mus­lim-Amer­i­can youth, reel from our gov­ern­ment treat­ing us as if we’re bac­te­ria in their pond­wa­ter?

You stereo­typed me. Your media mis­portrayed me. You taught against me in your schools. You jailed me over unjus­ti­fied sus­pi­cion. You treat­ed me as a less­er. So, the teenage me replied with faux patri­o­tism. If what it took for you to stop treat­ing me like an out­sider was to be patri­ot­ic, or rather, accept your Amer­i­can igno­rance and hatred with­out a word,teenage me did it. But I am no longer my teenage self. I am no longer afraid of your hatred. I am no longer faux patri­ot­ic.

If all you ever want­ed was to make me feel like an out­sider, then let me reclaim being an Amer­i­can. Let me take pride in being Mus­lim-Amer­i­can. Let me take pride in being Pak­istani-Amer­i­can. Let me col­or Amer­i­ca with the iden­ti­ties you can’t stand the exis­tence of. I am reflec­tive of the pow­er in my com­mu­ni­ties. I am reflec­tive of the strength of my peo­ple. Use sur­veil­lance, deten­tion, or what­ev­er you can to make us feel like we do not belong, we will orga­nize and rise against your de fac­to and de jure injus­tice. My ances­tors over­came your impe­ri­al­ism and colo­nial­ism; now, their child will over­come your Islam­o­pho­bia and racism.

Lis­ten to our Con­gres­sion­al Brief­ing below!

SAALT Demands An Action Plan That Protects All Afghans

This week’s news revolves around two truths: Our Afghan com­mu­ni­ties, both here in the U.S. and in Afghanistan, are in dire need of imme­di­ate and sus­tained sup­port that ensures their and their loved ones’ safe­ty in a time of cri­sis – and the Biden administration’s cur­rent rushed with­draw­al plan from Kab­ul has com­pro­mised this. 

As fam­i­lies and indi­vid­u­als leave Afghanistan, many are land­ing in our inhu­mane deten­tion cen­ters along­side the grow­ing num­ber of Hait­ian refugees, and addi­tion­al­ly fac­ing the numer­ous and entrenched injus­tices of this cru­el sys­tem. 

What is most unfor­tu­nate is that our Afghan sib­lings could have expe­ri­enced far less harm, had the evac­u­a­tion process begun ear­li­er – whether it was on May 6, when refugee rights advo­ca­cy groups (includ­ing Human Rights First, the Inter­na­tion­al Refugee Assis­tance Project, No One Left Behind, and the Luther­an Immi­gra­tion and Refugee Ser­vice) met with White House offi­cials and called for a mass evac­u­a­tion plan that did not rely on a severe­ly back­logged SIV pro­gram, or lat­er on June 24th, when Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Seth Moul­ton unveiled a detailed evac­u­a­tion plan to ensure safe­ty for over 17,000 Afghans to Guam. 

As a coun­try with the resources to sup­port evac­u­a­tion and evac­uees, we can and must move now to mit­i­gate harm. Most impor­tant­ly, this is com­pound­ed by the truth that our inter­ven­tion and con­tin­ued pres­ence in Afghanistan, dri­ven fore­most by the desire to uphold U.S. occu­pa­tion, has desta­bi­lized the coun­try and direct­ly put Afghans at fur­ther risk. As such, we have the respon­si­bil­i­ty to change our course of action. 

If we want to ensure the end of a long, violent, and terrible war, we must move with an unwavering commitment to human rights. We at SAALT, following the leadership of Afghan community members and allies in the Evacuate Our Allies coalition, are calling on President Biden to prioritize safe for all Afghans by:

  • Keeping the Kabul airport open for as long as necessary, and allowing military, charter, and commercial airflight.
  • Working with the Department of Defense and the State Department to ensure safe passage for Afghans to and through the airport, and onto flights.
  • Putting out a call for individuals certified for consular services, while continuing consular processing.
  • Providing necessary information to evacuees in as many culturally-relevant languages as possible, including Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Arabic.
  • Centering the evacuation of vulnerable populations, including refugees, SIV applicants and their families, immigrant visa applicants and their family members (beyond spouses and minor children), P2 referrals, Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), women’s rights activists and other human rights defenders, religious minorities, women, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups.
  • Expedite the processing of visas for all of the populations listed above and waive all associated fees.
  • Ensure safe arrival of Afghans in the U.S. by facilitating humanitarian parole using DHS parole authority – whether at ports-of-entry or in advance.

As we approach the 20th anniver­sary of 9/11, the news may right­ful­ly focus on the U.S.’s impe­r­i­al his­to­ry and haste of this war, but what Pres­i­dent Biden does today and tomor­row can ensure that next week’s news also speaks to our nation’s will­ing­ness to rec­og­nize the con­se­quences of this “War on Ter­ror” and the cost that our South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, and Arab com­mu­ni­ties have paid as a result both here and abroad, and active­ly work to dis­man­tle the racism and mil­i­tarism baked into all sys­tems of our fed­er­al gov­ern­ment.

#WeCanDoThis

In part­ner­ship with We Can Do This, a cam­paign run by the US Depart­ment of Health and Human Ser­vices, SAALT is shar­ing in-lan­guage pub­lic edu­ca­tion tools, trans­lat­ed by our allies at Respond: Cri­sis Trans­la­tion, that you and your com­mu­ni­ty can use to advo­cate for #Vac­cinEquity and ensure our col­lec­tive safe­ty from the coro­n­avirus.

Want to learn more? Vis­it www.vaccines.gov.

SAALT Urges Coronavirus-Related Support for India

As an orga­ni­za­tion that works with South Asians in the Unit­ed States, SAALT calls upon the Biden Har­ris Admin­is­tra­tion and Con­gress to take imme­di­ate action to address the glob­al health cri­sis unfold­ing in India and across South Asia as a result of the COVID–19 pan­dem­ic.  India has been aver­ag­ing over 2,000 report­ed COVID-19 relat­ed deaths dai­ly since late March. On Sat­ur­day, April 24th, India report­ed 324,000 new infec­tions – a glob­al record.  What­ev­er exist­ing med­ical infra­struc­ture has col­lapsed, as doc­u­ment­ed by haunt­ing images of hos­pi­tals run­ning out of beds, des­per­ate pleas for oxy­gen on social media, and news of over­whelmed cre­ma­to­ri­ums and grave­yards. And this is just what is being report­ed. The Indi­an gov­ern­men­t’s ongo­ing mis­treat­ment of minor­i­ty pop­u­la­tions in India makes it clear that mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties are at an even greater risk of dying due to the pan­dem­ic. 

South Asians in the Unit­ed States have deep con­cerns about what is unrav­el­ing across India. SAALT joins the calls to action being made by many in the US and around the world to ask the Biden Har­ris Admin­is­tra­tion to:

  • Ensure access to and equal dis­tri­b­u­tion of any raw mate­ri­als need­ed for vac­cine pro­duc­tion, with­out threat of sanc­tion
  • Ensure the imme­di­ate and equi­table export and dis­tri­b­u­tion of oxy­gen, oxy­gen gen­er­a­tors, and oth­er des­per­ate­ly need­ed med­ical sup­plies.
  • Ensure that the Indi­an gov­ern­ment is prac­tic­ing eth­i­cal lead­er­ship that cen­ters pub­lic health includ­ing equi­table care, and access to vac­cines and test­ing for all peo­ple. Indi­vid­u­als his­tor­i­cal­ly mar­gin­al­ized and exclud­ed in India, includ­ing Dalit, Pas­man­da, Adi­vasi, Chris­t­ian, Mus­lim, Jew­ish, Sikh, Bud­dhist, Jain, and Kash­miri com­mu­ni­ties, must receive equal access.

Any and all that are inter­est­ed in sup­port­ing the Indi­an peo­ple can direct their resources and sup­port here or here, and sign on to sup­port efforts here

This state­ment is also endorsed by:
18 Mil­lion Ris­ing
Amer­i­cans for Kash­mir
Anoth­er Gulf Is Pos­si­ble
Apna Ghar, Inc.
Asian Amer­i­cans and Pacif­ic Islanders for Jus­tice (San Anto­nio)
Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Labor Alliance, Philadel­phia
Asian Pacif­ic Pol­i­cy & Plan­ning Coun­cil (A3PCON)
Asian Sol­i­dar­i­ty Col­lec­tive
Asso­ci­a­tion of Chi­nese Amer­i­cans, Inc.
Cen­ter for Ideas, Equi­ty, and Trans­for­ma­tive Change
COOLJC Region 8 (SJEREC)
Dalit Sol­i­dar­i­ty Forum
Equi­ty Mat­ters
Friends of Human Rights
Human Rights Cities Alliance Steer­ing Com­mit­tee
Immi­grant Alliance for Jus­tice and Equi­ty
India Civ­il Watch Inter­na­tion­al
Indi­an Amer­i­can Mus­lim Coun­cil
Inter­na­tion­al Com­mis­sion for Dalit Rights
Laal
Land Loss Pre­ven­tion Project
The Light­house | Black Girl Projects
Mal­colm X Grass­roots Move­ment
The Mis­sis­sip­pi Farm to School Net­work
Mis­sis­sip­pi Votes
MP Asso­ciates
Nation­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Wom­en’s Forum (NAPAWF)
Nation­al Coun­cil of Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­cans (NCAPA)
North Car­oli­na Asso­ci­a­tion of Black Lawyers
Reviv­ing the Islam­ic Sis­ter­hood for Empow­er­ment (RISE)
Rise Up India
Sap­na NYC
Sikh Coali­tion
South Asian Bar Asso­ci­a­tion of North Amer­i­ca (SABA)
South Asian Pub­lic Health Asso­ci­a­tion (SAPHA)
South Asian Sex­u­al and Men­tal Health Alliance (SASMHA)
South Asia Sol­i­dar­i­ty Ini­tia­tive (SASI)
Yale Envi­ron­men­tal Law Asso­ci­a­tion
Yale Law Lat­inx Law Stu­dents Asso­ci­a­tion
Yale Law School Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Law Stu­dents’ Asso­ci­a­tion
Yale Law School Out­Laws
Yale Law School South Asian Law Stu­dents’ Asso­ci­a­tion
Yale Law School Yale Law Women
Yale School of Man­age­ment

SAALT Stands in Solidarity with Sikh Siblings

Today, SAALT grieves the loss of life in the lat­est mass shoot­ing in Indi­anapo­lis, Indi­ana: On Thurs­day, April 15th, 2021, the Indi­ana com­mu­ni­ty lost Matthew R. Alexan­der (32), Samaria Black­well (19), Amar­jeet Johal (66),  Jasvin­der Kaur (50),  Jaswinder Kaur Singh (70), Amar­jit Sekhon (49), Kar­li Smith (19), and John Weis­ert (74). Our hearts are heavy and mourn with the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, who are undoubt­ed­ly reel­ing from the trau­ma of los­ing their loved ones. Of par­tic­u­lar note, four of the eight vic­tims were our Sikh sib­lings and fel­low com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. 

Just after 11:00 PM EDT on April 15th, a now-iden­ti­fied gun­man entered an Indi­anapo­lis Fedex facil­i­ty where he was pre­vi­ous­ly employed, and opened fire, tak­ing the lives of those men­tioned above and injur­ing sev­er­al oth­ers, before tak­ing his own life. Since the inves­ti­ga­tion into the inci­dent and the gunman’s motive is ongo­ing, and we are await­ing more detailed facts, we must pri­or­i­tize those cur­rent­ly in recov­ery. Of utmost impor­tance are those left behind tend­ing to both their phys­i­cal wounds and the deep trau­ma of hav­ing to return to a work­place and com­mu­ni­ty where fel­low com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers were so trag­i­cal­ly tak­en. 

Such an act of mass vio­lence sends rever­ber­a­tions across Sikh and South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, evok­ing past pain and grief root­ed in decades of sim­i­lar vio­lent acts. Though the motive is still unclear, under­stand­ably this type of event trig­gers fear and uncer­tain­ty — much like what the com­mu­ni­ty faced after 9/11 and in the after­math of the killing of six Sikhs at a gur­d­wara in Oak Creek in 2012. SAALT stands in sol­i­dar­i­ty with our Sikh com­mu­ni­ty, in Indi­anapo­lis and across the coun­try, as we move towards heal­ing.

We are struck by the trend of vio­lence against immi­grant work­ers, who have not only tak­en on essen­tial work dur­ing a glob­al pan­dem­ic, but have also been par­tic­u­lar­ly vul­ner­a­ble to its health and eco­nom­ic con­se­quences as a result of their work. SAALT stands in sol­i­dar­i­ty with immi­grant and essen­tial work­ers, and hon­ors the care they have poured into our com­mu­ni­ty despite wide­spread big­otry.

We are also dis­heart­ened by the loss of both elders, who were pil­lars of strength and resilience, and of young peo­ple, who were bea­cons of hope and life. As SAALT stands in sol­i­dar­i­ty with our elders and young folks, we are remind­ed of the prac­tice of char­di kala: a Sikh spir­i­tu­al prac­tice that reminds us to cen­ter com­pas­sion, opti­mism, and courage, even in times of adver­si­ty and grief. For decades, the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty has shown that resilience is pos­si­ble even as they con­tin­u­al­ly face tragedy, and our sol­i­dar­i­ty hon­ors, cen­ters, and uplifts that always; this is the thread we hope our com­mu­ni­ty can cen­ter as we con­tin­ue to process our grief. If you are look­ing to sup­port Sikh sib­lings at this time of strife, please con­sid­er direct­ing your resources to the fol­low­ing orga­ni­za­tions:
- Sikh Coali­tion
- Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense & Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF)
- Jakara Move­ment
- Kaur Life

SAALT Mourns the Murder of Eight in Atlanta and Calls for Investment in Community-Led Responses

On the night of Tues­day, 16 March, a 21-year-old white man attacked three spas in the metro Atlanta area, shoot­ing and killing eight peo­ple. Six of the eight vic­tims were Kore­an Amer­i­can women. This attack is the worst pos­si­ble out­come of the rise in coro­n­avirus-dri­ven anti-Asian hatred – anoth­er mass shoot­ing root­ed in white suprema­cy and goad­ed by politi­cians’ xeno­pho­bic rhetoric. 

The inci­dent is a hor­rif­ic peak in the big­otry we’ve all wit­nessed over the past year: once again, mar­gin­al­ized work­ing-class immi­grants are tar­get­ed at a time of glob­al cri­sis; once again, we wit­ness our nation’s inabil­i­ty to rec­og­nize the dom­i­nance of gen­dered white suprema­cist vio­lence and racism in all of its struc­tures; once again, our heal­ing is dis­rupt­ed.

Still, local police are not cat­e­go­riz­ing this mass shoot­ing as a hate crime, nor rec­og­niz­ing the sig­nif­i­cant role of both race and gen­der in the shap­ing of this tragedy. But we must be clear: sev­en of the eight vic­tims were women; six of the eight vic­tims were Asian Amer­i­can. It is clear the shoot­er (who has cit­ed “sex­u­al deviance” as his moti­va­tion for mur­der) also had some bias in his tar­get­ing, whether explic­it or implic­it. This, in turn, demands that we – as Asian and Pacif­ic Islander Amer­i­cans, as Amer­i­cans of col­or, as Amer­i­cans gen­er­al­ly – ques­tion how embed­ded anti-Asian rhetoric is in Amer­i­can cul­ture and how Amer­i­can cul­ture ben­e­fits from patri­ar­chal white suprema­cy and era­sure. And more specif­i­cal­ly, these inter­sec­tions point to the clear his­to­ry of dan­ger­ous sex­u­al­iza­tion of Asian women in the U.S. Last night’s shoot­ing can only be under­stood and approached as an act of race‑, class‑, and gen­der-based sex­u­al vio­lence.

Con­sid­er­ing these com­plex­i­ties, it is our respon­si­bil­i­ty as mem­bers and allies of the broad­er APIA com­mu­ni­ty to push for an inter­sec­tion­al analy­sis that under­stands the racism fac­ing Asian and Pacif­ic Islander Amer­i­cans, as well as the vio­lent and sex­u­al­ized misog­y­ny aimed at our East Asian and South­east Asian sis­ters. Our role in this moment is to both remem­ber the pain of our past com­mu­ni­ty expe­ri­ences with mass vio­lence, and hon­or and move towards the point of heal­ing and repa­ra­tion.

Below are some allies who have ties to the vic­tims, their fam­i­lies, and their com­mu­ni­ties; please fol­low them to stay updat­ed on calls to action and news.
- Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice (AAAJ) — Atlanta
- Red Canary Song
- Sur­vived & Pun­ished
- Nation­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Wom­en’s Forum (NAPAWF)

If you’d like to direct resources and sup­port to vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as well as orga­niz­ers on the ground, please use this form (https://bit.ly/georgiaAAPIcommunitycare).

SAALT mourns the loss of our Kore­an Amer­i­can sib­lings’ lives, and in their hon­or, reaf­firms our respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect­ing oth­ers from sim­i­lar harm.

SAALT Statement on the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021

Yes­ter­day marked the intro­duc­tion of the U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship Act of 2021, by Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Sanchez (D‑CA-38) and Sen­a­tor Menen­dez (D‑NJ). The bill is a his­toric piece of leg­is­la­tion that pro­pos­es a path­way to cit­i­zen­ship for 11 mil­lion immi­grants, includ­ing more than 650,000 undoc­u­ment­ed South Asians. 

Among oth­er things, this bill address­es issues that are fun­da­men­tal to the well­be­ing of South Asian com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing lan­guage that:

  • Creates an earned roadmap to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, pro­vid­ing  Dream­ers, TPS hold­ers, and some farm­work­ers with an expe­dit­ed three-year path to cit­i­zen­ship, and giv­ing all oth­er undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants an eight-year path.
  • Reforms the family-based immigration system to keep families together by recap­tur­ing visas from pre­vi­ous years to clear back­logs, includ­ing spous­es and chil­dren of green card hold­ers as imme­di­ate fam­i­ly mem­bers, and increas­ing per-coun­try caps for fam­i­ly-based immi­gra­tion. It also elim­i­nates dis­crim­i­na­tion against LGBTQ+ fam­i­lies, pro­vide pro­tec­tions for orphans, wid­ows and chil­dren, and allows immi­grants with approved fam­i­ly-spon­sor­ship peti­tions to join fam­i­ly in the U.S. on a tem­po­rary basis while they wait for green cards.
  • Updates the employment-based immigration system, elim­i­nat­ing per-coun­try caps, improv­ing access to green cards for work­ers in low­er-wage indus­tries, giv­ing depen­dents of H‑1B hold­ers work autho­riza­tion, and pre­vent­ing chil­dren of H‑1B hold­ers from aging out of the sys­tem. The bill also cre­ates a pilot pro­gram to stim­u­late region­al eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment, and incen­tivizes high­er wages for non-immi­grant, high-skilled visas to pre­vent unfair com­pe­ti­tion with Amer­i­can work­ers. 
  • Supports asylum seekers and other vulnerable populations by elim­i­nat­ing the one-year dead­line for fil­ing asy­lum claims, reduc­ing asy­lum appli­ca­tion back­logs, increas­ing pro­tec­tions for U visa, T visa, and VAWA appli­cants, includ­ing by rais­ing the cap on U visas from 10,000 to 30,000.

We look for­ward to the pos­si­bil­i­ties this leg­is­la­tion presents. How­ev­er, we also urge Con­gress to address some of its harm­ful pro­vi­sions that exclude immi­grants who have been harmed by the racist crim­i­nal legal sys­tem, and hin­der immi­grants from access­ing health care and oth­er vital ser­vices on their path to cit­i­zen­ship. 

Pres­i­dent Biden and his admin­is­tra­tion must not only fol­low through with the above com­mit­ments but also trans­form the immi­gra­tion sys­tem to explic­it­ly account for cli­mate change, reli­gious per­se­cu­tion, and grow­ing right-wing fas­cism in South Asia. 

Amid mass depor­ta­tions of Black immi­grants, the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, and ongo­ing inte­ri­or enforce­ment threats, SAALT will con­tin­ue to advo­cate to strength­en the bill and ensure that all immi­grants and their fam­i­lies have access to a humane immi­gra­tion sys­tem. A thought­ful immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy lifts us all. 

Statement on H‑4 EADs

On Tues­day, Jan­u­ary 26, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty with­drew its pro­pos­al to rescind H‑4 work autho­riza­tions (EADs). This means that more than 100,000 H‑4 EAD recip­i­ents, the major­i­ty of whom are women of col­or, keep their abil­i­ty to work. This move to pre­serve the pro­gram sig­nals the Biden-Har­ris administration’s com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing immi­grant women work­ers who play an essen­tial role as we con­tin­ue to bat­tle the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic.

Despite this hope­ful news, SAALT con­tin­ues to hear from com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who have been adverse­ly impact­ed by sig­nif­i­cant delays in the pro­cess­ing of H‑4 work autho­riza­tion doc­u­ments. These peo­ple must be pro­tect­ed, and the Biden admin­is­tra­tion must uni­lat­er­al­ly extend the valid­i­ty peri­od of all expired H‑4 EADs and resolve USCIS pro­cess­ing delays.

Hope­ful­ly, we will see these exten­sions come with the intro­duc­tion of the Cit­i­zen­ship Act of 2021 in the com­ing weeks. It seeks to for­mal­ize work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 EAD visa recip­i­ents, cre­ate an acces­si­ble and equi­table path­way to cit­i­zen­ship (espe­cial­ly for undoc­u­ment­ed essen­tial work­ers), and com­mit to a struc­tur­al trans­for­ma­tion of our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem that address­es and resolves back­logs. Pres­i­dent Biden and Con­gress must work togeth­er to pass clean immi­gra­tion and essen­tial work­er bills. 

Learn more about the cur­rent sta­tus of the H‑4 EAD rule, and take action: 

This is a long over­due moment of hope for immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy; let’s make it count and #ProtectH4EAD.

#ByeBan: SAALT Statement on the Rescission of the Muslim & African Bans

Since Jan­u­ary 27th, 2017, count­less fam­i­lies have been sep­a­rat­ed, detained, and refused fair treat­ment under the Mus­lim Ban – but as of yes­ter­day, hope and jus­tice feel near­er, as Pres­i­dent Biden has signed an exec­u­tive order to end the Ban, repeal­ing an explic­it­ly racist immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy and stand­ing with Arab, Black, and Mus­lim Amer­i­cans.

SAALT spent the last four years as a part of the No Mus­lim Ban Ever cam­paign, mobi­liz­ing com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and elect­ed offi­cials to stand against the Ban, and stand up for our com­mu­ni­ty. Yesterday’s vic­to­ry is the fruit of our col­lec­tive resis­tance to white suprema­cy, and our con­tin­ued defense of (im)migrant rights.

With the rescis­sion of the anti-Black, xeno­pho­bic, and Islam­o­pho­bic pol­i­cy, SAALT and our allies now have a clear­er path to fight for the pro­tec­tion of all migrants and immi­grants, regard­less of their back­ground. Still, of course, the Mus­lim Ban is just one cog in a high­ly flawed immi­gra­tion sys­tem, which must be trans­formed in its entire­ty; the enact­ment of the Mus­lim Ban only high­light­ed the entrench­ment of Islam­o­pho­bia and xeno­pho­bia in Amer­i­can cul­ture. Therefore, it is critical that the 118th Congress pass and enact the No Ban Act to limit executive authority from issuing future discriminatory bans based on religion and national origin.

It’s equal­ly cru­cial for our com­mu­ni­ty to rec­og­nize that Pres­i­dent Biden’s rescis­sion of the Ban only marks the begin­ning of an ardu­ous heal­ing process – a chal­lenge which we must come togeth­er to address. This is why SAALT is pri­or­i­tiz­ing and prac­tic­ing restora­tive jus­tice strate­gies in our con­tin­ued fight against insti­tu­tion­al­ized Islam­o­pho­bia and xeno­pho­bia. Our col­lec­tive abil­i­ty to hold space for heal­ing will deter­mine the sus­tain­abil­i­ty of our move­ment, and we ask our com­mu­ni­ty to rec­og­nize the harms that these dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies have on the men­tal and phys­i­cal well-being of impact­ed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers for gen­er­a­tions to come.

As hope and jus­tice draw near­er, we call on Pres­i­dent Biden and his admin­is­tra­tion to con­tin­ue show­ing sup­port for Black, Indige­nous and all oth­er com­mu­ni­ties of col­or, and con­tin­ue to con­demn and act against white suprema­cy and hatred.

SAALT staff and allies at a #NoMus­lim­Ban­Ev­er ral­ly out­side the Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States in April 2018.

Please reach out to sruti@saalt.org with any ques­tions or requests.

SAALT Statement on January 6th Events

Yes­ter­day, white suprema­cy was on full dis­play at the US Capi­tol and at gov­ern­ment build­ings across the nation. These attacks rep­re­sent a bla­tant and ille­gal attempt to deter democ­ra­cy and pro­mote white suprema­cist beliefs ​— which harm every­one. All of us have a duty to respond, not only with con­dem­na­tion, but with sus­tained action against the insti­ga­tors and their sup­port­ers.

Though Con­gress has cer­ti­fied the results of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, they must do more. They must call for the removal of Pres­i­dent Trump and begin impeach­ment pro­ceed­ings ​imme­di­ate­ly. Repub­li­can lead­er­ship must ensure there is a peace­ful tran­si­tion of pow­er on and past Inau­gu­ra­tion Day​, and all mem­bers of Con­gress who incit­ed, encour­aged, or par­tic­i­pat­ed in this attack must be expelled for break­ing their Oaths of Office. Those respon­si­ble for yesterday’s attacks must be held ​equal­ly account­able under the law.  

We must also be care­ful about how to char­ac­ter­ize yesterday’s events. SAALT’s work on nation­al secu­ri­ty and immi­gra­tion issues since 9/11 has made it clear that label­ing acts of extrem­ist vio­lence as ter­ror­ism is dan­ger­ous and paves the way for the tar­get­ing of Black and Brown communities​, as seen through the War on Ter­ror frame­work. We can ​and must stand vig­i­lant against yesterday’s attacks with­out resort­ing to such char­ac­ter­i­za­tions by demand­ing that what hap­pened yes­ter­day is ​char­ac­ter­ized as white suprema­cist vio­lence. SAALT stands with our Black allies, who are right­ful­ly point­ing out the dou­ble stan­dards in how the white suprema­cists behind yesterday’s events are being treat­ed, as com­pared to the peace­ful pro­test­ers dur­ing last summer’s upris­ings.

“For our own com­mu­ni­ties, who were retrau­ma­tized by yesterday’s events, we are with you. The past four years have been a relent­less surge of poli­cies and attacks against the bod­ies and rights of so many com­mu­ni­ties, ours includ­ed. SAALT will con­tin­ue to press for the rever­sal of these xeno­pho­bic and racist poli­cies from the Trump era and push for bold solu­tions that will improve the lives of every­one.”

Sim­ran Noor, SAALT Board Chair

As South Asians, we also have work to do with­in our com­mu­ni­ties. There are reports of Indi­an Amer­i­cans being present at ​and encour­ag­ing yesterday’s attempt­ed  coup. Giv­en what we wit­nessed from the ​2020 Howdy Modi event in Texas fea­tur­ing Trump and Modi, this is no sur­prise. We have work to do with­in our own com­mu­ni­ties to raise aware­ness about the links between Hin­du nation­al­ism and white suprema­cy, and the dan­gers of ally­ing with the ele­ments who orches­trat­ed yesterday’s events. Sim­ply put: We can­not con­demn one fas­cist and excuse anoth­er. SAALT calls on its entire com­mu­ni­ty to hold these truths and stand unit­ed against nation­al­ism, fas­cism, and impe­ri­al­ism on all its fronts.

SAALT will con­tin­ue to share news and cov­er­age of the vio­lence, as well as help con­nect those affect­ed by the chaos with local resources. Please reach out to sruti@saalt.org with any ques­tions or requests.