The Time is Now! What Immigration Reform Means for the South Asian American Community

“You should take those to the His­pan­ic gro­cery stores,” says Ahmed, a Pak­istani immi­grant who sells phone plans out­side the local Indi­an mar­ket. He says it in an effort to help me improve my out­reach around cit­i­zen­ship resources. He and I have met sev­er­al times, and each time he tells me the Lati­no com­mu­ni­ty needs more help becom­ing U.S cit­i­zens. Before he even fin­ish­es his thought how­ev­er, Ahmed calls out to near­by friend in case I have any resources for him. The friend is an Indi­an man in his 70s who, due to a fraud­u­lent attor­ney and employ­er, lost his visa sta­tus, and has been undoc­u­ment­ed for over a decade. He con­tin­ues to work under the table in the U.S., in order to send mon­ey home and sup­port the fam­i­ly hasn’t seen in 17 years. Ahmed’s friend tells me he has worked with sev­er­al lawyers, and is now just wait­ing for the laws to change. He has been pay­ing tax­es through the social secu­ri­ty num­ber he received upon arrival and is hope­ful that with a new law he may gain sta­tus again. Ahmed shakes his head as his friend speaks, clear­ly frus­trat­ed with the sheer injus­tice of the sit­u­a­tion. I won­der how Ahmed can hear sto­ries such as these and still believe that the Lati­no com­mu­ni­ty needs more help with cit­i­zen­ship and immi­gra­tion than ours. Yet have South Asian Amer­i­cans engaged enough in the con­ver­sa­tions and push towards com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform?

Last Tues­day night at SAALT’s Mary­land Town Hall on Immi­gra­tion Reform, I thought back to my con­ver­sa­tions with the Ahmed. At the town hall, I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to hear three more com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers tell their sto­ry, and speak on strug­gles they’ve faced due to our cur­rent immi­gra­tion sys­tem. Pratishtha, a stu­dent at UMBC and a DREAM­er, described bar­ri­ers to com­mon rites of pas­sage and earned accom­plish­ments that peo­ple with valid immi­gra­tion sta­tus can take for grant­ed. Being undoc­u­ment­ed she couldn’t cel­e­brate her accep­tances into uni­ver­si­ty or obtain a driver’s license the way oth­er stu­dents could. Yves, anoth­er DREAM­er and activist, shared the sto­ry of his parent’s depor­ta­tion and his ongo­ing sep­a­ra­tion from them. He described emo­tions that don’t quite trans­late into words, includ­ing the sor­row of not being with his par­ents to cel­e­brate their 22nd wed­ding anniver­sary the next day. Final­ly, Mini, stood up and shared how she left behind her fam­i­ly in Ker­ala for a job oppor­tu­ni­ty as a domes­tic work­er. Yet, she was so exploit­ed and mis­treat­ed in her posi­tion that she had to run away, los­ing her visa sta­tus in the process. Today, domes­tic work­er meet­ings at CASA de Mary­land are her life­line and inspi­ra­tion, as she too waits for a new law that will give her path­way to cit­i­zen­ship. The strug­gles that each of these com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers faces is unique, yet an over­ar­ch­ing theme rang strong; in the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty, the time is now to fix our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem. Our com­mu­ni­ty, like the Lati­no com­mu­ni­ty and many oth­ers, is in dire need of a com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform.

After the com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers spoke, the audi­ence had a chance to hear an analy­sis of pieces and ask ques­tions about the Sen­ate immi­gra­tion bill (S. 744) from SAALT’s Pol­i­cy Direc­tor Man­ar Waheed, CASA de Maryland’s Legal Pro­gram Man­ag­er Sheena Wad­hawan, and Case­work­er Angel Colon-Rivera from Sen­a­tor Ben Cardin’s office. Despite the need for a com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform in our com­mu­ni­ty, it was clear from the ques­tions and com­ments made by the audi­ence that there are many flaws in the cur­rent ver­sion bill. Though the Sen­ate Bill rep­re­sents a huge step for­ward in the immi­gra­tion debate and pro­pos­es many pos­i­tive changes, it is still needs much work, par­tic­u­lar­ly in with respect to fam­i­ly reuni­fi­ca­tion and an effec­tive and inclu­sive pro­hi­bi­tion on the pro­fil­ing, among oth­ers. As var­i­ous immi­gra­tion bills are cur­rent­ly being debat­ed in the House and the out­comes in the House and Sen­ate still need to be resolved in Con­fer­ence Com­mit­tee, there is still time to ask for changes and make our voic­es heard.

After a pow­er­ful two hours of shar­ing sto­ries, analy­sis from the pan­elists, and ques­tions and com­ments from the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty on immi­gra­tion reform, it is unmis­tak­able that we need to take action. We need to put a South Asian face to the call for immi­gra­tion reform. Let’s con­tin­ue to share our sto­ries, for the undoc­u­ment­ed senior who hasn’t seen his fam­i­ly in 17 years, and nev­er met his grand­son. Let’s call on our rep­re­sen­ta­tives to take action for the legal per­ma­nent res­i­dents who are tire­less­ly work­ing and wait­ing, some­times decades, for the sib­lings and adult mar­ried chil­dren they spon­sored to gain their visas. Let’s demand that our gov­ern­ment pro­hib­it the base­less and inef­fec­tive mea­sures of pro­fil­ing that vio­late the civ­il rights of all Amer­i­cans. Let’s ral­ly behind Yves, Pratishtha, and Mini who deserve unre­strict­ed access to high­er edu­ca­tion, real liv­ing wages, and fam­i­ly reuni­fi­ca­tion. Please join SAALT and engage in the dis­cus­sion around immi­gra­tion reform by shar­ing your immi­gra­tion sto­ry, and join­ing our upcom­ing town halls in Hous­ton and Detroit.

*Some of the names in this entry have been changed to pro­tect the pri­va­cy of the indi­vid­u­als.

SAALT will be host­ing more con­ver­sa­tions on immi­gra­tion reform. View our cal­en­dar of events for more infor­ma­tion.

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Avani Mody
Mary­land Out­reach Coor­di­na­tor, Ameri­Corps
South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er, SAALT

 

Why We Need to Care about Bias-Based Bullying

When I was 4 years old, I remem­ber my old­er broth­er com­ing home one day from Junior High with dis­tress and tears.  Although, at that age, I did not com­pre­hend every sin­gle thing that was talked about, I knew one thing–my broth­er was hurt and upset.  Lat­er, I found out that anoth­er stu­dent grabbed his tur­ban from behind him while he was walk­ing.  This same stu­dent had taunt­ed him for weeks about his tur­ban before the inci­dent, but no admin­is­tra­tor at the school did any­thing about it.  At the time, I did not even know about bul­ly­ing or who a bul­ly was, all I knew is I nev­er want­ed my broth­er to expe­ri­ence this again.  This sit­u­a­tion was final­ly resolved only after the school admin­is­tra­tion saw to what degree the attack took place.

It is a known fact that bias-based bul­ly­ing and harass­ment towards South Asian stu­dents and fam­i­lies is a grow­ing prob­lem.  Accord­ing to a 2009 U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice and Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion study, over 54 Per­cent of Asian Amer­i­can youth report­ed expe­ri­enc­ing bul­ly­ing, the high­est per­cent­age of any eth­nic group sur­veyed. In SAALT’s report, In the Face of Xeno­pho­bia, the New York City Depart­ment of Edu­ca­tion and the Sikh Coalition’s 2007 report indi­cates that in the nation’s most diverse neigh­bor­hood of Queens, 77.5 per­cent of young Sikh men report­ed being harassed, taunt­ed, or intim­i­dat­ed because of wear­ing a tur­ban.  Like my broth­er, many stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers face harass­ment every day because of their eth­nic and racial iden­ti­ty and reli­gion.  But what comes across as more prob­lem­at­ic than the issue itself is that there is no sys­tem in place to pre­vent bul­ly­ing before it hap­pens or so it nev­er hap­pens again.  Cur­rent­ly, leg­is­la­tion is being con­sid­ered in Con­gress that will help vul­ner­a­ble stu­dents and fam­i­lies. The Safe Schools Improve­ment Act is a pro­posed fed­er­al anti-bul­ly­ing law.  If enact­ed, it will require schools and school dis­tricts to col­lect and pub­li­cize data about inci­dents of bul­ly­ing and harass­ment.  This will cre­ate incen­tives for school offi­cials to pro­tect stu­dents and allow gov­ern­ment agen­cies to quick­ly iden­ti­fy schools and school dis­tricts where prob­lems exist. It is impor­tant that our pol­i­cy­mak­ers know that this is and impor­tant step in pro­tect­ing all vic­tims from bul­ly­ing in our schools. Last sum­mer, with the help­ful guid­ance from the Sikh Coali­tion, I went to Capi­tol Hill and lob­bied two con­gres­sion­al offices with the hope that they would con­sid­er this an impor­tant issue and act on it.

This piece of leg­is­la­tion is very impor­tant but cre­at­ing effec­tive tools to pre­vent bul­ly­ing and edu­cate stu­dents is just as crit­i­cal. Per­son­al­ly, I was very dis­tressed grow­ing up see­ing more and more Sikh chil­dren fac­ing such grue­some bul­ly­ing inci­dents.  I want­ed to help in any capac­i­ty I could, even if it was small.  While in col­lege, I cre­at­ed a “Com­bat­ing Bul­ly­ing” project with lead­er­ship train­ing from the Sadie Nash Lead­er­ship Foun­da­tion.  I was able to devel­op les­son plans for 8 work­shops bring­ing 8 Sikh youth togeth­er every 2 weeks to learn about bul­ly­ing, under­stand that they are not alone in this process, and explore var­i­ous resources that were avail­able for them if they were bul­lied again.  Upon com­ple­tion of the pro­gram, the stu­dents were more con­fi­dent and bet­ter able to address the issue.

In July, SAALT will be bring­ing stu­dents from across the coun­try to the nation’s cap­i­tal to attend the 2013 Young Lead­ers Insti­tute. The stu­dents will build lead­er­ship skills, explore social change strate­gies around bias-based bul­ly­ing among South Asian and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in the US, and devel­op excit­ing project ideas to enact change on their cam­pus­es and in their com­mu­ni­ties. I am excit­ed to work with these Young Lead­ers and sup­port their cre­ative projects to edu­cate peers, raise aware­ness, and cam­paign for change as they work for a safer schools, safer fam­i­lies, and safer com­mu­ni­ties.

Learn more about SAALT’s Young Lead­ers Insti­tute and our incom­ing 2013 Young Lead­ers!

 

Manpreet Kaur Teji
Pro­gram Asso­ciate, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Vol­un­teer Advo­cate, The Sikh Coali­tion

Oak Creek: Personal reflections 6 months later

August 5, 2012 will always stand out as a day that shaped my work, my goals, and where I want­ed to see my com­mu­ni­ty in the future.  Grow­ing up in a post‑9/11 world, I saw com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers suf­fer­ing ter­ri­ble hate crimes, wit­nessed my broth­er and father con­stant­ly get­ting an extra screen­ing at TSA, and expe­ri­enced a gen­er­al, alien­at­ing mes­sage from Amer­i­can soci­ety that I was per­ceived as dif­fer­ent. This sense of “otherness”had a major impact on the inter­ests I want­ed to pur­sue mov­ing for­ward.

Car­ing so deeply about the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty and back­lash we and oth­er Arab Amer­i­can, Mid­dle East­ern, Mus­lim, and South Asian indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies expe­ri­enced after 9/11 pro­pelled me towards a career path where I could advo­cate and speak on behalf of not only the Sikh com­mu­ni­ty but oth­er minori­ties in this nation that have been the tar­gets of bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion.  This dri­ve brought me to South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT). For me, this was a great way to final­ly put all that pain and frus­tra­tion from 9/11 into actu­al work on behalf of a shared com­mu­ni­ty.  But less than a month into my work at SAALT, the tragedy in Oak Creek took place.  The moti­va­tion and deter­mi­na­tion that result­ed from the frus­tra­tions faced after 9/11 became even more solid­i­fied.  The con­tin­u­ing issues and needs fur­ther high­light­ed by Oak Creek—hate crimes, dis­crim­i­na­tion, xeno­pho­bic rhetoric in pub­lic discourse–lent even more shape to my career path and gave me high­er goals of where I would like to see my com­mu­ni­ty 10 years from now.

As a Sikh woman work­ing at SAALT and a vol­un­teer Advo­cate for The Sikh Coali­tion, I was very involved with the response efforts to the tragedy on August 5, 2012.  On Feb­ru­ary 26, 2013 at DC’s SAALT Cir­cle a group of young pro­fes­sion­als and lead­ers in the com­mu­ni­ty came togeth­er for a dis­cus­sion titled “Revis­it­ing Oak Creek: Where Are We Now?”  This dia­logue explored many thoughts on how we as a South Asian com­mu­ni­ty respond­ed to the attack; how SAALT, The Sikh Coali­tion, and Sikh Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund (SALDEF) respond­ed in the wake of the attack, includ­ing com­mu­ni­ty cri­sis sup­port, pol­i­cy advo­ca­cy with key offi­cials and gov­ern­ment agen­cies, and media mes­sag­ing; and next steps we can all take to pre­vent anoth­er tragedy.  Many par­tic­i­pants voiced their pain and ini­tial reac­tion to the attack.  But one thing that seemed to res­onate with every­one in the room was con­cern.  There was con­cern on how to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing again, con­cern about the response the gov­ern­ment had to the attack, and con­cern about how, as a com­mu­ni­ty, we are mov­ing for­ward.  That con­cern that every­one was feel­ing in the room last night was the same con­cern I felt 11 years ago after 9/11 and 6 months ago on August 5th.

This con­cern is not only felt by the select few who work at these orga­ni­za­tions or who came to the SAALT Cir­cle last night, it is felt by every­one who was affect­ed by this hor­rif­ic tragedy.  How­ev­er , I believe, the most impor­tant thing to do with a con­cern is to act on it.  My con­cerns led me to a place where I can advo­cate and ele­vate the voic­es of South Asians.  Every­one can lend a hand in this bat­tle and take action.  We should all voice our con­cern, but, as a com­mu­ni­ty we are all respon­si­ble to act as well. We can all be agents of change whether it is send­ing a mes­sage to your con­gress­man ask­ing that hate crimes against Sikhs, Hin­dus and Arabs are added to the track­ing form, being an effec­tive spokesper­son in the media on behalf of your com­mu­ni­ty, or join­ing hands with our com­mu­ni­ties as sup­port­ive allies.  Post‑9/11 dis­crim­i­na­tion and the Oak Creek tragedy brought our com­mu­ni­ty togeth­er in pain and con­cern.  Let’s make sure we still stay togeth­er by voic­ing and act­ing on our con­cerns for each oth­er, across race and eth­nic­i­ty, across reli­gion, and across all walks of life.

Manpreet Kaur Teji
Pro­gram Asso­ciate, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT)
Vol­un­teer Advo­cate, The Sikh Coali­tion

DJ Rekha @ the Black Cat

On Fri­day night, myself and oth­er SAALT staff mem­bers attend­ed DJ Rekha’s show at the Black Cat.  First off, I have to say: What an amaz­ing show!! I have always been a fan of DJ Rekha’s beats, but see­ing her live was fan­tas­tic.  I also want to thank Rekha and the Black Cat for let­ting SAALT table at the show.  It was refresh­ing to see many famil­iar faces and to know that so many Desis in D.C. already know about SAALT’s work.  I am a fan of Rekha, not only because she is a tal­ent­ed artist, but because she uses her music as a tool for social change.  While it is inspir­ing to see artists like Rekha get­ting involved in the South Asian move­ment, you don’t have to be a DJ to work for change for your com­mu­ni­ty.  Vol­un­teer for Be the Change, orga­nize an event in your local com­mu­ni­ty, or if you haven’t already, become a mem­ber of SAALT.  Thanks again to DJ Rekha for her con­tin­ued sup­port of SAALT and involve­ment in our work!

Anjali Chaudhry is the Mary­land Out­reach Coor­di­na­tor for SAALT.  To learn more about SAALT’s Mary­land Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project and ways you can get involved, email anjali@saalt.org.

Aadi­ti Dubale, SAALT Fel­low (left) and myself (right) tabling at the Black Cat.

Dispatch from New Jersey: Town Hall and Legislative Visits!

In an effort to get the local South Asian com­mu­ni­ty engaged around immi­gra­tion reform, SAALT-NJ, along with com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, held a  ‘Town Hall for South Asians on Immi­gra­tion & Civ­il Rights’ in Jer­sey City on July 27th at the Five Cor­ners Library.   The event, part of the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign, was the sec­ond in a series of com­mu­ni­ty forums that will be held nation­wide as a part of the cam­paign.

The town hall brought togeth­er not only a diverse group of folks with­in the com­mu­ni­ty, but also a diverse coali­tion of local com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, includ­ing: Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee, Andolan, Asian Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund, the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ), Govin­da San­skar Tem­ple, Man­avi, New Jer­sey Immi­grant Pol­i­cy Net­work, and the Sikh Coali­tion.

Although the focus of the dis­cus­sion at large was around immi­gra­tion reform, the con­ver­sa­tion cov­ered a vari­ety of issues, such as the effects of visa lim­i­ta­tions and back­logs on low-income work­ers and women fac­ing vio­lence in the home; and deten­tion cen­ters and the grow­ing num­ber of detained immi­grants. The con­ver­sa­tion was at once chal­leng­ing and emo­tion­al, as par­tic­i­pants shared per­son­al sto­ries illus­trat­ing how immi­gra­tion laws have neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed their lives and the lives of their loved ones.   Nev­er­the­less, the con­ver­sa­tion end­ed on a pos­i­tive note with ways to stay involved with the cam­paign, and to get more civi­cal­ly engaged around the immi­gra­tion reform con­ver­sa­tion.

In fact, on August 19th, SAALT mem­bers, along with coali­tion mem­bers from NJIPN and New Labor, con­duct­ed an in-dis­trict meet­ing with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don­ald Payne’s office in Newark, New Jer­sey.  Par­tic­i­pants met with a senior staff mem­ber at the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to dis­cuss issues around immi­gra­tion and health­care reform.

The del­e­ga­tion high­light­ed key con­cerns to both the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty at large, such as (1) the increase in deten­tion and depor­ta­tions post 9–11 and its impact on immi­grant fam­i­lies in the US; (2) fam­i­ly- and employ­ment-based visa back­logs and the need for just and humane immi­gra­tion reform to pre­vent fam­i­lies from being torn apart in the process; and  (3) more con­crete mea­sures in place for immi­grant inte­gra­tion to address issues such as lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers in access­ing ser­vices, and, as a result, becom­ing active and par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty.

The meet­ing was a great expe­ri­ence – it illus­trat­ed to the mem­bers present the sig­nif­i­cance of civic engage­ment, and how impor­tant it is to reach out to our respec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives about issues con­cern­ing us. In a polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic cli­mate that seems so anti-immi­grant, it was cer­tain­ly refresh­ing to be able to sit down with the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to active­ly advo­cate for issues that deeply impact the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty.  I look for­ward to meet­ing with oth­er local offices in the com­ing month and encour­age oth­ers to try to sched­ule meet­ings with your respec­tive Rep­re­sen­ta­tives while they are home for August recess.

To learn more about SAALT-NJ’s work, please email qudsia@saalt.org

Look­ing for ways to get involved? Here are some ideas:

• Call your mem­ber of Con­gress to express your sup­port for immi­gra­tion reform and strong civ­il rights poli­cies. Find out who your mem­ber of Con­gress is by vis­it­ing www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

• The Cam­paign to Reform Immi­gra­tion for Amer­i­ca has launched a text mes­sag­ing cam­paign that sends alerts to par­tic­i­pants when a call to action, such as call­ing your Congressman/woman, is urgent­ly need­ed. To receive text mes­sage alerts, sim­ply text ‘jus­tice’ to 69866.

• Stay in touch with local and nation­al orga­ni­za­tions that work with the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.

• Share your immi­gra­tion or civ­il rights sto­ry with SAALT by fill­ing out this form or send­ing an email to saalt@saalt.org.

Celebrating 5 Years!

It’s been five years since SAALT opened its first staffed office. We want­ed to take this oppor­tu­ni­ty to reflect back on the past five years and look for­ward to many more. I’ll be putting up entries from SAALT staff and Board as well as past interns and staff.

From Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT:

“Has it been five years already? When we opened our first office in New York City, just a few blocks from Penn Sta­tion, in a rent­ed space at Cit­i­zens NYC, I was hope­ful but unsure about what the first five years would hold.  Thanks to the hard work and ded­i­ca­tion of a num­ber of peo­ple, includ­ing staff (cur­rent and for­mer), Board mem­bers, interns, vol­un­teers, and donors, we have been able to build a strong foun­da­tion for a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion.  When I start­ed at SAALT five years ago, I was very sen­si­tive to the mod­el that we would cre­ate — how could we devel­op a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that would be informed by the expe­ri­ences of peo­ple who were fac­ing inequity on a dai­ly basis? It took years of trust-build­ing, con­ver­sa­tions, a bit of strug­gle, flex­i­bil­i­ty, and faith for the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions to emerge, and for SAALT to have a mean­ing­ful pres­ence at pol­i­cy tables.

In many ways, I think of anoth­er anniver­sary that is com­ing up — the ten year anniver­sary of Sep­tem­ber 11th. I remem­ber in the days and months after 9/11, won­der­ing how our com­mu­ni­ty would be able to weath­er the unprece­dent­ed back­lash, immi­gra­tion enforce­ment tac­tics, and pro­fil­ing that we faced.  At that point in time, there was no for­mal net­work, no real ties that orga­ni­za­tions had to one anoth­er. As we approach the ten-year anniver­sary of 9/11, the com­mu­ni­ty feels stronger, more con­nect­ed, a bit more cohe­sive. If SAALT has had a part in that, I think we have achieved quite a lot! Here’s to the next five years!”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take One!

From Aparna Kothary, our for­mer Devel­op­ment and Fundrais­ing VISTA (2007–2009):

“I start­ed work­ing at SAALT right after col­lege and it served as my intro­duc­tion to both the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the broad­er social jus­tice move­ment. Along the way I met pas­sion­ate indi­vid­u­als who con­tin­ue to inspire me to remain engaged in this com­mu­ni­ty, the non-prof­it sec­tor, and the move­ment. I see SAALT con­tin­u­ing to serve as a hub for the Souh Asian com­mu­ni­ty through the NCSO, local capac­i­ty-build­ing, and pol­i­cy work. It is also my hope that sup­port from the com­mu­ni­ty increas­es over the next five years through mem­ber­ship and involve­ment.”

From Priya Murthy, our Pol­i­cy Direc­tor:

“I first got involved with SAALT almost four years ago as part of the Be the Change nation­al day of ser­vice. Hand­ing out know your rights brochures to taxi cab dri­vers at Union Sta­tion in Wash­ing­ton, DC, I knew that this was a pro­gres­sive South Asian orga­ni­za­tion that I want­ed to be a part of. Over the past few years, SAALT has made a tremen­dous impact on my life. It has meant con­nect­ing with a diverse and strong South Asian com­mu­ni­ty as we advo­cate for pol­i­cy change. It has meant being inspired by the tire­less work that local orga­ni­za­tions and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers do every­day. It has meant work­ing with fierce allies from oth­er com­mu­ni­ties as we strive for immi­grant and civ­il rights. As our com­mu­ni­ty grows in the next five years (as I’m sure it will!), I am excit­ed to see where SAALT will go in work­ing with the com­mu­ni­ty and fos­ter­ing a space for South Asian empow­er­ment.”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Two!

Con­tin­u­ing our series com­mem­o­rat­ing the fifth anniver­sary of the open­ing of SAALT’s first staffed office, let’s hear from two SAALT Board mem­bers, Lavanya Sithanan­dam and Anous­ka Ched­die (respec­tive­ly).

“Five years ago SAALT opened its first office and hired staff in New York City.  In that short time, SAALT has grown tremen­dous­ly.  My involve­ment with SAALT began dur­ing those same five years, and what this orga­ni­za­tion has giv­en me is invalu­able.   SAALT has pro­vid­ed me with the inspi­ra­tion and the tools to speak up as a physi­cian activist, advo­cat­ing on behalf of immi­grants both inside and out­side of my med­ical prac­tice.   I con­tin­ue to be inspired and moti­vat­ed by the hard work of the staff, the ded­i­ca­tion of the NCSO mem­bers, and the vision of the orga­ni­za­tion.  I feel con­fi­dent that SAALT will con­tin­ue its won­der­ful work over the next five years and will become an even stronger voice both with­in and out­side our South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.”

“SAALT is com­mu­ni­ty. It’s about col­lab­o­ra­tion.  SAALT is trust. It’s about par­tic­i­pa­tion.  SAALT is empow­er­ment. It’s about rep­re­sen­ta­tion. SAALT is inclu­sive. It’s about includ­ing the dias­po­ra.

With SAALT, I know that local grass­roots groups have a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that they can work with to ensure our com­mu­ni­ty has a strong pro­gres­sive voice that is heard in DC and around the coun­try.

This is just the begin­ning.”

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Three!

We have more to come from our series com­mem­o­rat­ing five years since SAALT opened its first staffed office, but I want­ed to put in my two cents:

To me, SAALT is where we come togeth­er as a com­mu­ni­ty and fight for the change we want, both for our­selves but also in sol­i­dar­i­ty with oth­er com­mu­ni­ties-of-strug­gle. SAALT is an open and inclu­sive hub that invites the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty, allies and part­ners to envi­sion a world that is tru­ly free and equi­table. More­over, SAALT is vehi­cle to help indi­vid­u­als make these lofty aspi­ra­tions a real­i­ty. In five years, I see us doing this with ever more empow­ered, engaged peo­ple. This is only the begin­ning!

Celebrating 5 Years! Take Four!

To con­tin­ue our series cel­e­brat­ing five years since SAALT’s first staffed officed, today we fea­ture Mad­hur Bansal, SAALT’s Ameri­corps VISTA Devel­op­ment Assi­tant from 2006 to 2007:

“To me, SAALT rep­re­sents a col­lec­tive and pro­gres­sive voice for South Asians in the US. SAALT offers com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers a way to engage direct­ly in civic life and pub­lic pol­i­cy issues. In the next five years, I hope that SAALT con­tin­ues build­ing sup­port across the coun­try and that it can be the pri­ma­ry nation­al advo­cate for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in pub­lic affairs, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the upcom­ing debate over immi­gra­tion reform. I also hope that SAALT can expand by reach­ing even more com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and get­ting them involved in its work.”

..and from Imrana Khera, for­mer SAALT staff mem­ber:

“I can’t believe it’s been five years already–Congratulations!  SAALT rep­re­sents the very diverse South Asian com­mu­ni­ty liv­ing in the Unit­ed States, a chal­leng­ing job for any orga­ni­za­tion.  SAALT push­es our com­mu­ni­ty for­ward by advo­cat­ing for change with­in a social jus­tice frame­work.  SAALT’s strength is its respect­ful and effec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion with orga­ni­za­tions that are work­ing with South Asian com­mu­ni­ty at a local lev­el across the coun­try.

My expec­ta­tion is that SAALT will con­tin­ue to grow over the next five years and con­tin­ue to affect change on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ty — through edu­ca­tion, pol­i­cy, and research — like the award-win­ning Rais­ing Our Voic­es DVD, through SAALT townhalls/community forums, and reports like Wash­ing­ton DeSi: South Asians in the Nation’s Cap­i­tal (July 2009).”