17 Years After 9/11: Detentions, Deportations, Diminished Civil Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sep­tem­ber 11, 2018

Today marks the 17-year anniver­sary of the trag­ic attacks of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001. This anniver­sary falls at a time of ram­pant immi­gra­tion enforce­ment and racial pro­fil­ing poli­cies direct­ed at South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Mid­dle East­ern, and Arab Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, this esca­la­tion of bru­tal and dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies is accom­pa­nied by a ris­ing tide of hate vio­lence impact­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. Near­ly two decades after the events of Sep­tem­ber 11th, hate vio­lence tar­get­ing South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Mid­dle East­ern, and Arab Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties has now sur­passed lev­els only seen imme­di­ate­ly after that tragedy.

SAALT has already doc­u­ment­ed over 400 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric tar­get­ing our com­mu­ni­ties since the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Trag­i­cal­ly, we can now draw a direct link between divi­sive polit­i­cal rhetoric and its role in spurring hate vio­lence: one in five of the hate incidents documented in our 2018 report, Communities on Fire, involved perpetrators who verbally referenced President Trump, one of his administration’s policies, or one of his campaign slogans while committing an act of violence.

Since the events of Sep­tem­ber 11th, suc­ces­sive admin­is­tra­tions have lever­aged a ‘nation­al secu­ri­ty’ lens to advance anti-immi­grant and xeno­pho­bic poli­cies that tar­get our com­mu­ni­ties and our place in this nation. This list of poli­cies that seek to lim­it and exclude our rights includes but is not lim­it­ed to the Patri­ot Act, the Coun­ter­ing Vio­lent Extrem­ism pro­gram, and the Mus­lim Ban. Sev­er­al dev­as­tat­ing poli­cies aimed at immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties have been unveiled in the last year alone. Exam­ples include the deci­sion to ter­mi­nate Tem­po­rary Pro­tect­ed Sta­tus (TPS) for indi­vid­u­als from sev­er­al coun­tries includ­ing Nepal, Hon­duras, El Sal­vador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan; a wave of depor­ta­tions of doc­u­ment­ed and undoc­u­ment­ed res­i­dents; sep­a­rat­ing fam­i­lies and detain­ing chil­dren in cages; and denat­u­ral­iz­ing Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. In short, we are in the midst of a cam­paign to cre­ate an Amer­i­ca that is sep­a­rate and unequal for the for­eign-born and their fam­i­lies. The onslaught is slat­ed to con­tin­ue esca­lat­ing through the administration’s plans to fur­ther crim­i­nal­ize immi­grants for uti­liz­ing pub­lic ben­e­fits by issu­ing a ‘pub­lic charge’ rule and uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly includ­ing a ques­tion on cit­i­zen­ship sta­tus in the 2020 Cen­sus.

It appears this dan­ger­ous con­ver­gence of poli­cies, rhetoric, and vio­lence will not end soon. In April 2018, a Hous­ton Mus­lim woman wear­ing a hijab was stabbed by an attack­er yelling “Oh my God, it’s a r**head” “sand n******” and oth­er racial­ly deroga­to­ry terms. In July and August 2018, two Cal­i­for­nia Sikh men wear­ing tur­bans were vio­lent­ly attacked in sep­a­rate inci­dents. In one inci­dent, the per­pe­tra­tor yelled “Go back to your coun­try!” SAALT con­tin­ues to col­lect data on inci­dents of hate vio­lence in our public, online database, and pro­vides month­ly updates on trends.

Lat­er this week, SAALT will host a Con­gres­sion­al Brief­ing in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Con­gres­sion­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Cau­cus (CAPAC) to high­light the inter­sec­tion between cur­rent inci­dents of hate vio­lence, the Mus­lim Ban, and immi­gra­tion enforce­ment. SAALT is com­mit­ted to address­ing the under­ly­ing fac­tors that spur hate vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties, includ­ing dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies and the growth in orga­nized white suprema­cy. We are ded­i­cat­ed to ensur­ing the next decade sees a decline in hate vio­lence and an effort to regain this nation’s core ideals of equal­i­ty and jus­tice.

Impact of NYPD Surveillance: Limiting the Voices of Our Youth

Like any stu­dent who embarks on their jour­ney through col­lege, I spent much of my under­grad­u­ate years at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty dis­cov­er­ing my iden­ti­ty, sense of belong­ing and inter­ests in life.  As I reflect on those days not so long ago, I now real­ize how impor­tant being a part of a cul­tur­al stu­dent group was for me and the impact it had on my sense of iden­ti­ty. For me, my involve­ment in the Philip­pine Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion played a sig­nif­i­cant role in how I came to iden­ti­fy, both indi­vid­u­al­ly and with­in a com­mu­ni­ty. Know­ing that, it is dif­fi­cult for me to imag­ine expe­ri­enc­ing those moments of self-search­ing and strug­gle while also hav­ing restric­tions on my abil­i­ty to find my com­mu­ni­ty.

Imag­ine hav­ing your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion be the tar­get of a police sur­veil­lance pro­gram just for the mere fact that your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion is racial­ly, eth­ni­cal­ly, or reli­gious­ly-based.

Well, it hap­pened in New York and beyond. Stu­dent groups, in this instance Mus­lim stu­dent groups, were tar­get­ed by the New York Police Depart­ment (NYPD). But, it doesn’t just stop there.

It’s not a secret that the NYPD has long-been spy­ing on stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions, places of wor­ship and busi­ness­es.

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Image from Pol­i­tick­er

In fact, just a few months ago, the Mus­lim Amer­i­can Civ­il Lib­er­ties Coali­tion and the Asian Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (AALDEF) released a report which doc­u­ments this sur­veil­lance pro­gram and its impact on the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty since its incep­tion in 2002. Need­less to say, the effects on the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty have been dras­tic, caus­ing indi­vid­u­als to restrict their speech and reli­gious prac­tice as well as their every­day activ­i­ties. And, with the recent release of evi­dence that the NYPD has been con­duct­ing in-depth sur­veil­lance on Mus­lim Amer­i­cans by des­ig­nat­ing them as “ter­ror­ism enter­pris­es” and try­ing to infil­trate at least one local com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tion, I can only imag­ine the impact that this will have on indi­vid­u­als. More­over, as a recent col­lege grad­u­ate, I can’t help but won­der what this means for 17 and 18 year olds as they embark on their col­lege expe­ri­ence, a time many Amer­i­cans use to find them­selves, fig­ure out where they belong, and build com­mu­ni­ty.

Being a part of a stu­dent group and par­tic­i­pat­ing in cul­tur­al activ­i­ties helped me to feel a sense of belong­ing and allowed me to learn more about Fil­ipino cul­ture and his­to­ry dur­ing my four years at Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty. It pro­vid­ed me a space in which to con­nect with peers who shared sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences and strug­gles. It’s dis­heart­en­ing to know that my peers will not have the same oppor­tu­ni­ty, which is such a big part of the col­lege expe­ri­ence. What’s worse, if they chose to explore their iden­ti­ty in these tra­di­tion­al ways, their civ­il rights may be vio­lat­ed as well as their pri­va­cy.

We can­not not let the NYPD or oth­er gov­ern­ment agen­cies lim­it the abil­i­ty of youth to find their iden­ti­ty or of any­one else to engage in their com­mu­ni­ty by threat­en­ing their civ­il rights and reli­gious free­dom. We must demand account­abil­i­ty from our gov­ern­ment agen­cies and offi­cials. We must move for­ward — not back­wards – because a bet­ter future is ahead of us. We owe this much to our youth, our com­mu­ni­ties, and our nation.

AuriaJoy Asaria
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Admin Assis­tant
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, SAALT

In Pursuit of the “Dream”: We Reflect and Recommit

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Pho­to Cred­it: Bao Lor, SEARAC

Today marks the 50th Anniver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton and Mar­tin Luther King Jr.’s famous, “I Have a Dream” speech. This past week­end, to com­mem­o­rate this impor­tant occa­sion, Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions joined thou­sands of peo­ple who gath­ered in the nation’s cap­i­tal to par­tic­i­pate in a march and ral­ly titled, “Nation­al Action to Real­ize the Dream March”.. The pur­pose of this march and ral­ly was not just to remem­ber the lega­cy of Dr. King and the progress since his speech over 50 years ago, but to show that even today in 2013, inequal­i­ty per­sists.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

SAALT staff ral­ly­ing in sol­i­dar­i­ty

Among the Asian Amer­i­can orga­ni­za­tions present at the March were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from SAALT, Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) and Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM). And as part of the pro­gram on Sat­ur­day, Jasjit Singh, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SALDEF spoke and shared the stage along with oth­er civ­il rights lead­ers.

The work still con­tin­ues, espe­cial­ly with­in the South Asian, Mus­lim and Sikh com­mu­ni­ties when it comes to decreas­ing hate crimes, dis­crim­i­na­tion, harass­ment and racial pro­fil­ing fol­low­ing 9/11, and the tremen­dous dis­par­i­ties with­in South Asian com­mu­ni­ties from the stand­point of access to edu­ca­tion­al equi­ty, jobs, and health care.

SAALT Pro­grams Intern and recent grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, Col­lege Park, Vic­to­ria Meaney, reflect­ed on the sig­nif­i­cance of the March, “Attend­ing the 50th Anniver­sary March on Wash­ing­ton was mon­u­men­tal to me as a South Asian Amer­i­can. My abil­i­ty to par­tic­i­pate, in col­lab­o­ra­tion with SAALT real­ly exem­pli­fies the progress that has been made, based on the work of indi­vid­u­als such as Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. and Mahat­ma Gand­hi. Their exam­ples show the impor­tance of the indi­vid­u­al’s voice, and, by ally­ing with oth­ers, the steps to a just soci­ety are pos­si­ble. My hope is that future march­es to come will have an even greater rep­re­sen­ta­tion of South Asians and Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­cans, because civ­il rights belong to all, but we will not be heard if we do not advo­cate for our­selves.”

We marched and ral­lied in sol­i­dar­i­ty for jobs, jus­tice, peace and equal­i­ty along with Amer­i­cans of all races, faith and back­grounds.

Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM)

Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM)

In giv­ing her rea­sons for the impor­tance of this March, Roksana Mun a DRUM Youth Orga­niz­er reflect­ed on the theme of the March in 1963, which was “the need for jobs and the ever grow­ing eco­nom­ic and social inequal­i­ty between peo­ple of col­or com­mu­ni­ties and white com­mu­ni­ties”. And today she notes, “…we’re liv­ing at a time when the same exact issues of work­ing-class, peo­ple of col­or are strug­gling to find jobs, decent pay (or in many cas­es any pay), increased cuts to edu­ca­tion, health care and social ser­vice sys­tems still per­sist. The Poor People’s March is still need­ed”

We showed that even though 50 years has passed since Dr. King’s speech call­ing for equal­i­ty and jus­tice we still have yet to pur­sue that dream.

As Fahd Ahmed, Legal and Pol­i­cy Direc­tor of DRUM states, “It was impor­tant for DRUM to have a pres­ence at the 50th Anniver­sary of the March on Wash­ing­ton because we have direct­ly ben­e­fit­ed from gains made by the Civ­il Rights move­ment. Both in terms of actu­al rights, won, such as the Immi­gra­tion and Nation­al­i­ty Act of 1965, but also in hav­ing learned strate­gies and tac­tics. Our cur­rent strug­gles for immi­grant rights, racial jus­tice, and worker’s rights, are a con­tin­u­a­tion of that lega­cy.”

Let us reflect and recom­mit as SAALT Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, Deepa Iyer, notes “South Asians are indebt­ed to the civ­il rights move­ment and the African Amer­i­can lead­ers and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who marched today 50 years ago. The piv­otal anti-dis­crim­i­na­tion and immi­gra­tion laws that were enact­ed in 1965 have pre­served the rights of mil­lions of peo­ple of col­or and immi­grants. Now, 50 years lat­er, South Asians must con­tin­ue to be a crit­i­cal and vis­i­ble con­stituen­cy in the ongo­ing strug­gle for equi­ty.”

So today, on the actu­al date of the March on Wash­ing­ton, as we com­mem­o­rate Dr. King, his lega­cy and the strug­gles that were endured to defend our civ­il rights, let us not for­get that prob­lems still per­sists and that we are still in pur­suit of the “Dream”.
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Auri­a­Joy Asaria
Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Admin Assis­tant
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, SAALT