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


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”.

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

SAALT Policy Connection (May 2009)

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SAALT Policy Connection  (May 2009)

In This Issue

Immigration Policies

Hate Crimes Legislation Passes House!

Health Care Reform and the South Asian Community

At the Table: Meetings with Policymakers

Community Resource: Race and Recession

Support SAALT!

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion whose mis­sion is to pro­mote the full and equal civic and polit­i­cal par­tic­i­pa­tion of South Asians in the Unit­ed States. SAALT is the coor­di­nat­ing enti­ty of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), a net­work of 36 orga­ni­za­tions that serve, orga­nize, and advo­cate on behalf of the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty across the country.

The SAALT Pol­i­cy Con­nec­tion is a month­ly e‑newsletter that focus­es on cur­rent pol­i­cy issues. To learn more about SAALT’s pol­i­cy work, con­tact us at

Immigration: Policies from the Administration and Congress

Fed­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers are con­tin­u­ing to con­sid­er immi­gra­tion poli­cies that will affect South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. With over 75% of the com­mu­ni­ty born out­side of the U.S., South Asians pos­sess a range of immi­gra­tion sta­tus­es, includ­ing tem­po­rary work­ers, green card hold­ers, asy­lum-seek­ers, depen­dent visa­hold­ers, and undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. Any changes in immi­gra­tion poli­cies will affect the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In order to pro­mote the full inte­gra­tion of South Asians into this coun­try’s econ­o­my and soci­ety, just and humane immi­gra­tion reform is necessary.

The Admin­is­tra­tion:

In recent weeks, the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion made var­i­ous state­ments and insti­tut­ed sev­er­al poli­cies relat­ing to immigration:

  • In April, Admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials stat­ed its com­mit­ment to immi­gra­tion reform, includ­ing legal­iza­tion of near­ly 12 mil­lion undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants dur­ing 2009.
  • Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) Sec­re­tary Janet Napoli­tano has stat­ed that DHS will prioritize enforcement raids and prosecutions on abusive employers who know­ing­ly hire undoc­u­ment­ed work­ers. How­ev­er, work­site raids may still con­tin­ue which impact the lives of many immi­grants work­ing in var­i­ous sec­tors of the economy.
  • Dur­ing a hear­ing before the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee in ear­ly May, DHS Sec­re­tary Napoli­tano stat­ed her com­mit­ment to review profiling and searches of electronic devices at the border that have affect­ed many Mus­lims and South Asians return­ing from trips abroad, as doc­u­ment­ed in recent reports by the Asian Law Cau­cus and Mus­lim Advo­cates.
  • DHS has con­tin­ued and expand­ed imple­men­ta­tion of a trou­bling enforce­ment pro­gram, “Secure Com­mu­ni­ties” that would allow immigration status checks be conducted for individuals who are apprehended by local police at the time of arrest. It will also allow immi­gra­tion author­i­ties to place “detain­ers” (noti­fi­ca­tion to immi­gra­tion author­i­ties pri­or to release from jail that can lead to deten­tion). Such pro­grams raise cause for con­cern giv­en that checks may done, regard­less of guilt or inno­cence, and fur­ther open the door for pro­fil­ing. For more infor­ma­tion about Secure Com­mu­ni­ties and the neg­a­tive impact on immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, check out this fact­sheet by the Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Law Center.

On June 8, President Obama will be meeting with various members of Congress to discuss immigration and immi­grant rights advo­cates as well as com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers will be look­ing to see what next steps may be decid­ed fol­low­ing the meeting


Con­gress has also recent­ly re-focused its atten­tion on find­ing solu­tions to address the bro­ken immi­gra­tion system:

  • Var­i­ous Sen­a­tors, includ­ing Robert Menen­dez of New Jer­sey, Kirsten Gilli­brand and Charles Schumer of New York, and Edward Kennedy of Mass­a­chu­setts, have intro­duced the Reuniting Families Act. This bill strives to reduce fam­i­ly visa back­logs that keep many South Asians sep­a­rat­ed from loved ones abroad, by reclas­si­fy­ing spous­es and chil­dren of green card hold­ers as “imme­di­ate rel­a­tives”, rais­ing per-coun­try visa allo­ca­tions, and allow­ing unused visas from pre­vi­ous years to be applied to the back­log. Community members are urged to contact their Senators to encourage them to support this bill.
  • In April and May, Sen­a­tor Charles Schumer of New York, chair of the Sen­ate Immi­gra­tion Sub­com­mit­tee, held hear­ings on immi­gra­tion issues focused on bor­der secu­ri­ty poli­cies and com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform.
  • On June 3, the Sen­ate Judi­cia­ry Com­mit­tee will hold the first-ever hear­ing on the Uniting American Families Act (H.R. 1024), which would allow U.S. cit­i­zens and green card hold­ers to spon­sor their same-sex part­ners for fam­i­ly-based immi­gra­tion. This bill would be a vital step towards coun­ter­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion that exists in the cur­rent immi­gra­tion sys­tem against LGTBIQ South Asians in bina­tion­al couples.
  • The DREAM Act, which would allow cer­tain undoc­u­ment­ed stu­dents to legal­ize their sta­tus if they attend col­lege or join the mil­i­tary, has been intro­duced in the House and Senate.

Civil Rights: Hate Crimes Legislation Victory

South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers often con­front bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion in the form of hate crimes as a result of post‑9/11 back­lash, anti-immi­grant sen­ti­ment, and xeno­pho­bia. In a recent vic­to­ry in the move­ment towards pre­vent­ing hate crimes and pro­tect­ing its sur­vivors, the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) in May. This Act expands cur­rent fed­er­al hate crimes laws to include vio­lence moti­vat­ed by gen­der, gen­der iden­ti­ty, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion and dis­abil­i­ty. It would also pro­vide greater resources to state and local law enforce­ment inves­ti­gat­ing and pros­e­cut­ing hate crimes. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration and community members are urged to contact your Senators to encourage them to support this bill (S. 909).

Health Care Reform and the South Asian Community

Health care reform has jumped to the top of the agen­da for Con­gress and the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion. The need for afford­able cov­er­age and lin­guis­ti­cal­ly and cul­tur­al­ly acces­si­ble health care is vital for the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. In fact, approx­i­mate­ly 20 per­cent of South Asians lack health cov­er­age plans leav­ing afford­able health care out of reach for many com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers. In addi­tion, lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers pre­vent many lim­it­ed Eng­lish pro­fi­cient South Asians from being able to com­mu­ni­cate effec­tive­ly with health care pro­fes­sion­als and obtain emer­gency assis­tance when need­ed. To get a back­ground on health issues affect­ing South Asians, check out the health sec­tion of the Nation­al Action Agen­da, a pol­i­cy plat­form devel­oped by the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions, and a recent piece in SAMAR by Sap­na Pandya and Pratik Saha of the South Asian Health Ini­tia­tive at New York University.

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has urged Con­gress to enact health care reform before the end of 2009 and con­vened a White House Forum on Health Care Reform. To learn more about the White House­’s com­mit­ment to health care reform, vis­it The Sen­ate Finance Com­mit­tee are expect­ed to start work­ing on a health care reform bill in mid-June.

Community Issues at the Table

As part of SAALT’s pol­i­cy work, we par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous meet­ings and brief­in­gs with gov­ern­men­tal agen­cies and leg­is­la­tors at the local, state, and fed­er­al lev­el to raise issues about poli­cies that affect the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty. Dur­ing April and May, SAALT par­tic­i­pat­ed in the fol­low­ing meet­ings to con­vey the con­cerns of South Asians regard­ing var­i­ous pol­i­cy initiatives:

  • Roundtables with Various Government Agencies during South Asian Summit: Com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of South Asian orga­ni­za­tions had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to dia­logue with var­i­ous gov­ern­ment agen­cies at the South Asian Sum­mit in late April. Par­tic­i­pat­ing agen­cies includ­ed the Depart­ments of Health and Human Ser­vices, Home­land Secu­ri­ty, Hous­ing and Urban Devel­op­ment, Jus­tice, and Office on Vio­lence Against Women. Dur­ing these meet­ings, par­tic­i­pants raised local issues of con­cern and learned about the agen­cies’ pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ties for this year.
  • White House Religious Liaison Meeting: SAALT met with the Reli­gious Liai­son at the White House Office of Pub­lic Engage­ment in May to dis­cuss and high­light issues of impor­tance to faith-based com­mu­ni­ties. SAALT iden­ti­fied issues rang­ing from dis­crim­i­na­tion and harass­ment on the basis of reli­gion to the need for greater fund­ing and sup­port for faith-based insti­tu­tions at the meet­ing. For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact us at

Community Resource Spotlight: Race and the Recession

A new report from the Applied Research Cen­ter, “Race and Recession: How Inequity Rigged the Economy and How to Change the Rules” tells the sto­ries of peo­ple of col­or who are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly affect­ed by the reces­sion. It uncov­ers root caus­es of long-term racial inequri­ties that fed into the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and pro­pos­es struc­tur­al solu­tions to change a sys­tem that threat­ens future gen­er­a­tions. Read the report online and check out the “Race and Reces­sion” video to learn more and take action.

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If not, we urge you to become a member today. By becom­ing a SAALT mem­ber, you not only receive ben­e­fits (such as our annu­al newslet­ter and dis­counts at events and gath­er­ings), but the sat­is­fac­tion of being part of a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that address­es civ­il and immi­grant rights issues fac­ing South Asians in America. 

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South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship development. 

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Non-profits brace themselves for 2010

Check out this arti­cle in the SF Gate about the strug­gles of non-prof­its in the Bay Area in these chal­leng­ing eco­nom­ic times.

Bay Area nonprofits brace for 2010 shakeout

Sun­day, March 1, 2009

Non­prof­its are see­ing an alarm­ing drop in fund­ing and increased demand for help this year, set­ting the stage for a com­plete shake­up of the sec­tor in 2010.

Unlike reces­sions past, this one could per­ma­nent­ly alter the non­prof­it land­scape, say non­prof­it CEOs, forc­ing pos­si­ble clo­sures and merg­ers as the sec­tor restruc­tures to survive. 

Hard­est hit will be the Bay Area, home to one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of non­prof­its in the nation. There are 25,000 non­prof­its in the region; 7,000 in San Fran­cis­co alone. Among them are 10,000 char­i­ta­ble non­prof­its with bud­gets above $25,000. Their com­bined bud­gets account for 14 per­cent of the Bay Area’s gross nation­al prod­uct — twice the nation­al average.

Click here to read the full article.

The arti­cle dis­cuss­es the con­stant fears of non-prof­its around the coun­try includ­ing brac­ing them­selves for a sig­nif­i­cant drop in fund­ing in 2010. Many non-prof­its feel com­fort­able with their bud­gets for 2009 because fund­ing was acquired before the eco­nom­ic down­turn — but 2010 proves to be quite a chal­lenge. Fund­ing from most sources is being cut — foun­da­tions are scal­ing back grant amounts, gov­ern­ment agen­cies are revis­it­ing fund­ing pri­or­i­ties, cor­po­ra­tions are fac­ing their own bud­get cuts, and most indi­vid­u­als are feel­ing more hes­i­tant to donate mon­ey instead of sav­ing it for a “rainy day” that might occur at any moment.

“The Chron­i­cle of Phil­an­thropy, the lead­ing news­pa­per of the non­prof­it world, sur­veyed 73 of the nation’s largest foun­da­tions in Decem­ber about their 2009 grant mak­ing plans and found 39 per­cent expect to decrease the amount they con­tribute to char­i­ties this year.”

How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to note that these are gen­er­al­iza­tions and that some enti­ties are actu­al­ly increas­ing fund­ing because they rec­og­nize the increased need for non-prof­it ser­vices dur­ing this time. A need which does not nec­es­sar­i­ly cor­re­late with an increase in funding.

“The Bill and Melin­da Gates Foun­da­tion, the largest in the world with assets esti­mat­ed at $30 bil­lion, plans to raise its giv­ing from $3.3 bil­lion in 2008 to $3.8 bil­lion in 2009 to help char­i­ties sur­vive. The San Fran­cis­co Foun­da­tion plans to give the same amount to char­i­ties that it did last year, despite a shrink­ing endowment.”

As fund­ing sources and amounts shrink, this is a cru­cial time for non-prof­its to think cre­ative­ly and explore dif­fer­ent options for fundrais­ing. Check out these links for some use­ful tips:

If you are inter­est­ed in attend­ing some work­shops around fundrais­ing dur­ing these tough times — reg­is­ter for the 2009 South Asian Sum­mit to have access to those work­shops and much more!

Poverty in the Asian American Community in New York Featuring SAYA!

NewsAs the reces­sion deep­ens and more and more peo­ple around the coun­try find them­selves job­less or stretched thin eco­nom­i­cal­ly, its impor­tant to high­light how dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties are being affect­ed in dif­fer­ent ways. This excel­lent piece from My9 News (New York) reporter Ti Hua Chang. Chang pro­files Asian Amer­i­cans and South Asians liv­ing at or near the pover­ty lev­el in New York. Many work for long hours for low wages and have lit­tle cush­ion as the econ­o­my wors­ens. More­over, few­er Asian Amer­i­cans use gov­ern­ment ser­vices; one of the star­tling facts Chang men­tions is that while Asian Amer­i­cans make up 12% of the city’s pop­u­la­tion, they recieve about 1% of the gov­ern­ment or pri­vate fund­ing. From seniors iso­lat­ed to their apart­ments to the Bangladeshi man work­ing two jobs to build a bet­ter future for his chil­dren, the sto­ries are uni­form­ly heart­break­ing and under­score how these com­mu­ni­ties are suf­fer­ing. The Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of an NCSO part­ner SAYA!, Annet­ta Seecha­ran, speaks to the impor­tance of invest­ing in these com­mu­ni­ties and help­ing them build more secure futures. Check the video out at <>

Does the Stimulus Bill Impact South Asians?

Nina Baliga, National CAPACD

Nina Bali­ga, Nation­al CAPACD

Check out this blog post from Feb­ru­ary guest­blog­ger, Nina Bali­ga, Devel­op­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er at Nation­al CAPACD. Nina tells us how she thinks the stim­u­lus bill may impact South Asians:

“Know­ing and under­stand­ing the diver­si­ty of our com­mu­ni­ties, it’s hard to say what the final impact of the Amer­i­can Recov­ery and Rein­vest­ment Act will have on South Asians across the coun­try.  Per­son­al­ly, I think there are enough stip­u­la­tions in the bill that pro­vide hope for our communities.

For exam­ple, $1 bil­lion will go towards the 2010 Cen­sus.   Why does this mat­ter?  Well, the cen­sus pro­vides the back­bone of infor­ma­tion that deter­mines how a lot of pub­lic mon­ey and even pri­vate sec­tor mon­ey is spent.  Part of this $1 bil­lion will be used to increase in-lan­guage part­ner­ships and out­reach efforts to minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties and oth­er “hard-to-reach” pop­u­la­tions.  If more South Asians are count­ed in the 2010 Cen­sus, then there will like­ly be more resources for our communities.

We do know that there are some pro­vi­sions that will help low-to-mod­er­ate income indi­vid­u­als, and this will def­i­nite­ly help many South Asian fam­i­lies.  For exam­ple, there is the Make Work Pay refund­able tax cred­it which could give $400 to sin­gle fil­ers and $800 to joint fil­ers in 2009 and 2010.  The bill has also expand­ed Pell grants to a max­i­mum of $5,350 in 2009 and $5,500 in 2010, hope­ful­ly increas­ing access to a col­lege edu­ca­tion to more young adults.  And for those of you who are look­ing to buy their first home, do it in 2009, because you’ll receive up to an $8000 tax cred­it from the fed­er­al government.

The bill is large and mul­ti-faceted, includ­ing tax cuts for indi­vid­u­als and small busi­ness­es, fund­ing for edu­ca­tion and job train­ing, more mon­ey for trans­porta­tion and health cov­er­age, food assis­tance, fund­ing for states and local gov­ern­ments, and so much more. The final impact on our com­mu­ni­ties is yet to be seen.  We can tru­ly hope for the best dur­ing this eco­nom­ic cri­sis, and pray that this mas­sive injec­tion of cap­i­tal into the country’s econ­o­my will prove worthwhile.”

So what do you think? How will this stim­u­lus bill impact the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty? What do you like about the bill and what do you wish it did/did not include?

Nina Bali­ga joined the Nation­al CAPACD staff as the Devel­op­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Man­ag­er in 2007.  Nina devel­ops our com­mu­ni­ca­tions strate­gies, and over­sees our out­reach to mem­bers, fun­ders and oth­er stake­hold­ers. Pri­or to Nation­al CAPACD, Nina worked as a Research Ana­lyst for SEIU Local 11, orga­niz­ing con­do­mini­um work­ers in South Flori­da. In 2004, she worked as the Can­vas Direc­tor of the Mia­mi office of Amer­i­ca Com­ing Togeth­er, where she mobi­lized tens of thou­sands of vot­ers in the largest vot­er con­tact pro­gram in his­to­ry.  She began her polit­i­cal career head­ing up Flori­da PIRG’s Clean Water Cam­paigns.  Nina has served on the Board of Direc­tors of SAAVY (South Asian Amer­i­can Vot­ing Youth) as the Fundrais­ing Chair, and men­tored SAAVY fel­lows at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Flori­da as part of a larg­er South Asian Youth Vot­er mobi­liza­tion movement.Nina grad­u­at­ed from New York Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Soci­ol­o­gy and Envi­ron­men­tal Stud­ies and recent­ly received her Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Florida.

The Good and the Bad in the Stimulus Bill

After weeks of intense debate and nego­ti­a­tions, Con­gress passed an eco­nom­ic stim­u­lus pack­age that is head­ed to Pres­i­dent Obama’s desk for his sig­na­ture today. The final law includes spend­ing for domes­tic infra­struc­ture projects, fund­ing to state and local gov­ern­ments, and tax relief in the form of cuts and cred­its. The gov­ern­ment knew that it need­ed to take quick action to pull the econ­o­my out of its down­ward spi­ral, which has affect­ed everyone’s lives – from immi­grants and cit­i­zens, to stu­dents and seniors, to the wealthy and the working-class.

No one can claim to be unscathed by the reces­sion that we are going through, includ­ing H‑1B work­ers. Vast num­bers of South Asians rely upon this visa, includ­ing lawyers, engi­neers, artists, and sci­en­tists. Yet many fear los­ing not only their jobs, but also their immi­gra­tion sta­tus, dur­ing these rough eco­nom­ic times. Take, for instance, Shali­ni, whose sto­ry was cap­tured by Lit­tle India

Shali­ni (name altered), who came to New York City from Mum­bai one year ago to work with Ernst & Young, is cop­ing with just such an even­tu­al­i­ty. With­in a few months she was pro­mot­ed from assis­tant man­ag­er to man­ag­er in her divi­sion. How­ev­er, in Novem­ber, the com­pa­ny let her go. Her first thought was, “How am I going to find anoth­er job in the next six weeks in this kind of environment?”

Shali­ni is on an H1‑B work per­mit, which means that if she does­n’t find work with­in 30 to 60 days, she has to leave the coun­try. Her prospects are bleak. Most com­pa­nies in the U.S., India and across the world have either frozen hir­ing or are sack­ing their work­force. Shali­ni has real­ized that there is no safe­ty net in the U.S. with­out a Green Card or cit­i­zen­ship. So she is fol­low­ing the exam­ple of sev­er­al NRIs [non-res­i­dent Indi­ans], who have applied to non‑U.S. com­pa­nies, sent resumes to con­tacts in cor­po­rate India, put up notices to sell their homes and fur­ni­ture, and post­poned plans to get mar­ried or start a fam­i­ly.”  [Lit­tle India]

These work­ers help build the vibrant inno­va­tion of this coun­try. In fact, Thomas Fried­man had a thought-pro­vok­ing piece in The New York Times recent­ly about how we need more immi­grants, not less, because it’s good for the Amer­i­can economy …

“We live in a tech­no­log­i­cal age where every study shows that the more knowl­edge you have as a work­er and the more knowl­edge work­ers you have as an econ­o­my, the faster your incomes will rise. There­fore, the cen­ter­piece of our stim­u­lus, the core dri­ving prin­ci­ple, should be to stim­u­late every­thing that makes us smarter and attracts more smart peo­ple to our shores. That is the best way to cre­ate good jobs.” [New York Times]

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Con­gress went the oth­er way on this issue. As part of the stim­u­lus bill, finan­cial insti­tu­tions receiv­ing fund­ing through the Depart­ment of Treasury’s Trou­bled Assets Relief Pro­gram (or TARP) intend­ed to sta­bi­lize the finan­cial mar­kets, must jump through extra hoops before they can hire H‑1B work­ers. Giv­en the immense con­tri­bu­tions of H‑1B work­ers to help Amer­i­ca remain on the cut­ting-edge, it makes you won­der if this is not only bad news for South Asians, but bad news for the economy.

How the Economic Downturn is Affecting Nonprofits

In times of eco­nom­ic cri­sis, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tions often see an increase in the need for ser­vices. SAALT’s part­ners who pro­vide ser­vices to South Asian com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are observ­ing an increased need for hous­ing, job train­ing, and ben­e­fits due to lay­offs, lack of jobs, and the down­turn in the econ­o­my.  At the same time, non-prof­its too are fac­ing the bur­den of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and are hav­ing to lay off staff, reduce pro­gram­ming, and dip into reserve funds.

As Daniel Gross, a finan­cial edi­tor at Newsweek, point­ed out as ear­ly as June of 2008, dona­tions from indi­vid­ual donors are down from what they used to be. And with 80 per­cent of sup­port to non-prof­its com­ing from 20 per­cent of the peo­ple in Amer­i­ca, any reduc­tion in giv­ing can have a sig­nif­i­cant impact on non-prof­it groups.

How can South Asians who are able to give sup­port the non-prof­its that are so crit­i­cal in our local com­mu­ni­ties? Why give at all? Read an excerpt from a post from Sayu Bho­jwani (for­mer Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of South Asian Youth Action and former Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs for New York City on the South Asian Philanthropy Project blog about the importance of strategic giving within the South Asian community:

South Asian phil­an­thropy has until recent­ly meant con­tribut­ing to caus­es in the home coun­try and to region­al and reli­gious asso­ci­a­tions here in the U.S. As the com­mu­ni­ty matures, accu­mu­lates wealth, and increas­es in num­ber, more South Asian Amer­i­cans are con­tribut­ing to insti­tu­tions in the Unit­ed States, tar­get­ing resources to issues of con­cern in the com­mu­ni­ty. Strate­gi­cal­ly uti­lized, the “brown dol­lar” can boost the capac­i­ty of fledg­ling orga­ni­za­tions that serve the needs of minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ties across the U.S. and can play a crit­i­cal role in shap­ing per­spec­tives about South Asians in the broad­er Amer­i­can community.

In the fif­teen years or so that I have been work­ing in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and in phil­an­thropy, I have been frus­trat­ed by the piece­meal approach that peo­ple often take to phil­an­thropy. South Asians who give, whether they are wealthy or not, are like most oth­ers who give—responsive to a per­son­al­ized request from a friend or col­league, drawn by a per­son­al con­nec­tion to an issue or orga­ni­za­tion, or moti­vat­ed by the need to meet a cer­tain end-of-year lev­el of giving

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