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. 

#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 with any ques­tions or requests.

Trump Administration is Dismantling DACA — Here’s What You Can Do About It:

Yes­ter­day, in response to the Supreme Court uphold­ing the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA) pro­gram last month, the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion took expect­ed steps to dis­man­tle the pro­gram, releas­ing a memo that said it would not be accept­ing new DACA appli­ca­tions, reject­ing most advance parole requests, and lim­it­ing those with pend­ing renewals  to only one year instead of two years. 

For the over 5,000 South Asian DACA recip­i­ents, and the over 20,000 Indi­ans alone who remain eli­gi­ble for DACA, this will have a direct impact on any exist­ing renew­al appli­ca­tions and for any undoc­u­ment­ed South Asian youth who were hop­ing to apply for DACA.

We knew the Supreme Court vic­to­ry was tem­po­rary, allow­ing the Admin­is­tra­tion to retal­i­ate. We must con­tin­ue push­ing back, forg­ing ahead, and ensur­ing that we fight for poli­cies that sup­port all immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties with­out harm­ing oth­ers.

Here are things you can do right now:

ICE Deports Two Hunger Strikers Detained in El Paso

For Imme­di­ate Release
March 1, 2019
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi,

El Paso, TX: Two of the #ElPaso9 hunger strik­ers were deport­ed on Thurs­day, Feb­ru­ary 28th from the El Paso, TX Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter (EPPC). The two deport­ed were among the Sikh men seek­ing asy­lum who have been on hunger strike, some for over 60 days.

Amrit Singh, the uncle of two of the men who remain detained in El Paso, was noti­fied of the depor­ta­tion ear­ly Thurs­day.

Immi­grant and civ­il rights groups are deeply dis­turbed by this devel­op­ment. In ear­ly Feb­ru­ary, Rep. Veron­i­ca Esco­bar (D‑TX), who rep­re­sents the Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict where the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter is locat­ed, request­ed inde­pen­dent psy­cho­log­i­cal and med­ical assess­ments of the men after the doc­tor in the El Paso facil­i­ty cleared the men on hunger strike for their depor­ta­tion trav­el. ICE has nei­ther acknowl­edged nor ful­filled the request. 

Nathan Craig of Advo­cate Vis­i­tors with Immi­grants in Deten­tion (AVID) vis­it­ed the El Paso Facil­i­ty last Sun­day and report­ed signs of rapid­ly dete­ri­o­rat­ing health among the detained asy­lum seek­ers. He said,“Some of the men were receiv­ing glu­cose by IV. One of the men report­ed to us that IVs are insert­ed if their health con­di­tion dete­ri­o­rates to the point that med­ical tests indi­cate that a large amount of pro­teins are spilled in their urine.”

The “El Paso 9” have been sub­ject to inter­mit­tent and invol­un­tary force-feed­ing and soli­tary con­fine­ment since Jan­u­ary. The men were on hunger strike to protest the ongo­ing delay in hear­ing their cas­es and ver­bal and phys­i­cal abuse by the guards. Some of the men are still on hunger strike.

On Feb­ru­ary 8th, 27 immi­grant and civ­il rights groups sent a let­ter to Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) Sec­re­tary Kirst­jen Nielsen demand­ing the imme­di­ate release of the nine men on hunger strike and for an inves­ti­ga­tion into the facil­i­ty. DHS has not respond­ed to the let­ter. Advo­cates across the coun­try have been call­ing the El Paso ICE field office all month to stop the depor­ta­tions of the #ElPaso9, but it appears their phone lines have been either rerout­ed or dis­con­nect­ed.

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran of SAALT said, We are out­raged by this devel­op­ment. The men who were deport­ed yes­ter­day were in no phys­i­cal con­di­tion to trav­el — much less to a coun­try where their lives are already endan­gered. The inhu­mane treat­ment of indi­vid­u­als in deten­tion facil­i­ties across the U.S. is uncon­scionable. The remain­ing indi­vid­u­als in the El Paso facil­i­ty must be released imme­di­ate­ly and giv­en ade­quate med­ical atten­tion.”

Jen­nifer Apo­da­ca of Detained Migrant Sol­i­dar­i­ty Net­work said,Depor­ta­tion con­tin­ues to be used as a final and cru­el form of retal­i­a­tion by ICE to tar­get indi­vid­u­als who have wit­nessed and speak out against abu­sive treat­ment and vio­la­tion of civ­il rights. ICE con­tin­ues its prac­tice of evad­ing account­abil­i­ty by deport­ing indi­vid­u­als to ensure that those with crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion are gone, essen­tial­ly eras­ing evi­dence. We demand that all depor­ta­tions be halt­ed imme­di­ate­ly until the full set of infor­ma­tion is made pub­lic.

Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) in the Chi­huahuan Desert works to end the iso­la­tion of immi­gra­tion deten­tion. Our vol­un­teers are from Las Cruces, El Paso, and sur­round­ing com­mu­ni­ties. We vis­it and write to migrants who are detained in El Paso, Otero, and West Texas.
Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee (DMSC) is a com­mu­ni­ty group based in El Paso, TX, that fights to free the bor­der from the crim­i­nal­iza­tion and mass incar­cer­a­tion of migrants. We aim to reach this goal through sup­port ser­vices, orga­niz­ing, and actions that pro­mote more humane pub­lic pol­i­cy and respect for migrants and oth­er mar­gin­al­ized com­mu­ni­ties.
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a nation­al, non­par­ti­san, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that fights for racial jus­tice and advo­cates for the civ­il rights of all South Asians in the Unit­ed States.
Detention Watch Network (DWN) is a nation­al coali­tion of orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als work­ing to expose and chal­lenge the injus­tices of the Unit­ed States’ immi­gra­tion deten­tion and depor­ta­tion sys­tem and advo­cate for pro­found change that pro­motes the rights and dig­ni­ty of all per­sons. Found­ed in 1997 by immi­grant rights groups, DWN brings togeth­er advo­cates to uni­fy strat­e­gy and build part­ner­ships on a local and nation­al lev­el to end immi­gra­tion deten­tion. Vis­it
Defending Rights & Dissent (DRAD) is a nation­al civ­il lib­er­ty orga­ni­za­tion that strength­ens our par­tic­i­pa­to­ry democ­ra­cy by pro­tect­ing the right to polit­i­cal expres­sion and work­ing to make the promise of the Bill of Rights a real­i­ty for every­one.
Desis Rising Up & Moving (DRUM) orga­nizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immi­grants, work­ers, and youth in NYC for edu­ca­tion­al, immi­grant, racial, work­er, and gen­der jus­tice.

SAALT’s Guide to Advocacy for Legal Immigration Reform: H‑1B and H‑4 visas and the South Asian American Community

A Guide to Advocacy for Legal Immigration Reform: H-1B and H-4 visas and the South Asian American Community


The South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty is one of the fastest grow­ing demo­graph­ic groups in this nation and spans a rich diver­si­ty of immi­gra­tion sta­tus­es from undoc­u­ment­ed to Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals (DACA), to Tem­po­rary Pro­tect­ed Sta­tus (TPS) to asy­lum seek­ers to H‑1B and H‑4 visa hold­ers to green card hold­ers.

As we grow to over five mil­lion South Asians in the Unit­ed States, the diver­si­ty of our pop­u­la­tion has also grown. Near­ly half a mil­lion Indi­an-Amer­i­cans alone are undoc­u­ment­ed. As India ranks one of the top ten coun­tries of ori­gin for DACA recip­i­ents, 3,600 Indi­an Amer­i­cans obtained DACA since 2012.[1] Near­ly 1,879 Pak­istani Amer­i­cans and 594 have applied and received DACA.[2]  Over 9,000 Nepali Amer­i­cans are at risk of los­ing TPS in June 2019.[3] In fis­cal year 2018, South Asians have been detained in 16 out of the 19 bor­der patrol sec­tors across the coun­try rang­ing from Rio Grande Val­ley to Vermont.[4] Since 2015, over 90% of the H‑4 visa hold­ers grant­ed employ­ment autho­riza­tion are from India, and may lose their work per­mits with an antic­i­pat­ed rule from this cur­rent administration.[5]

Our nation’s immi­gra­tion sys­tem has been bro­ken and unjust for cen­turies: from enslave­ment to forced migra­tion and dis­place­ment to dis­crim­i­na­to­ry quo­tas based on coun­try of ori­gin to the present day. Today, depor­ta­tions have rapid­ly increased, the bor­der has become mil­i­ta­rized, cit­i­zens are being denat­u­ral­ized, and autho­rized immi­grants are aging out their visas, being denied work autho­riza­tion, and unable to obtain green cards.

SAALT has been con­sis­tent­ly engaged in the fight for undoc­u­ment­ed South Asian Amer­i­cans, DACA recip­i­ents, TPS hold­ers, asy­lum seek­ers and refugees, and H‑4 visa hold­ers. We believe these pop­u­la­tions with­in our com­mu­ni­ty are the most vul­ner­a­ble and have the least atten­tion, resources, and advo­ca­cy ded­i­cat­ed at the nation­al lev­el.

In today’s frac­tured polit­i­cal cli­mate, we have observed a dis­turb­ing trend. Some immi­grant rights advo­ca­cy groups are advo­cat­ing for immi­gra­tion poli­cies that ben­e­fit them, but harm oth­er immi­grant groups. One such exam­ple is using green card pro­cess­ing fees to fund a bor­der wall, which we dis­cuss in detail lat­er in this guide.

Com­pre­hen­sive immi­gra­tion reform that tru­ly trans­forms our immi­gra­tion sys­tem is the only path for­ward to address the strug­gles of all immi­grant pop­u­la­tions. SAALT does not sup­port any solu­tion, leg­isla­tive or oth­er­wise, that would advance the rights of one group of immi­grants at the direct expense of anoth­er group.

In this guide, we lay out SAALT’s per­spec­tive on the polit­i­cal and advo­ca­cy land­scape for H‑4 visa hold­ers who stand to lose their hard fought work autho­riza­tion and H‑1B visa hold­ers and oth­ers who face indef­i­nite wait times for green cards.

What is an H-4 Visa?

The H‑4 visa is issued to spous­es and depen­dent chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers, also known as “high­ly skilled work­ers” employed in spe­cial­ty occu­pa­tions requir­ing rel­e­vant bachelor’s or advanced degrees. Since 1997, more than 1.7 mil­lion indi­vid­u­als have received H‑4 visas. Accord­ing to the State Depart­ment, the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty (near­ly 90%) of these indi­vid­u­als are of South Asian descent.

In Decem­ber 2017, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty announced its intent to rescind Employ­ment Autho­riza­tion Doc­u­ments (EAD) for H‑4 visa hold­ers, which will revoke their right to work. A Notice of Pro­posed Rule­mak­ing (NPR) is expect­ed to be pub­lished as ear­ly as Jan­u­ary, 2019. This pro­posed rule is a direct out­growth of this Administration’s “Buy Amer­i­can, Hire Amer­i­can” exec­u­tive order, which guts employ­ment pro­tec­tions, ben­e­fits, and pay for for­eign work­ers, tar­get­ing H‑1B and L visa hold­ers. Strip­ping the hard fought work autho­riza­tion of H‑4 visa hold­ers, grant­ed to some spous­es and minor chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers through an Oba­ma-era rule is yet anoth­er com­po­nent of this administration’s anti-immi­grant agen­da. Please see here for a more detailed guide on this impor­tant issue.

What is a “legal DREAMer” and why should I care?

Minor chil­dren, who age out of their H‑4 visa at the age of 21 and must bridge to a stu­dent or oth­er visa to remain in the coun­try, have been called “legal DREAM­ers” by some advo­ca­cy groups.  Please see here for guid­ance from South Asian immi­gra­tion attor­neys around the coun­try who explain the shared plight, but impor­tant dis­tinc­tions between H‑4 visa hold­ers and DACA recip­i­ents.

This fram­ing as legal “DREAM­ers” is flawed. It cre­ates a “hier­ar­chy of the deserv­ing,” uti­liz­ing divi­sive argu­ments about who should be “first in line” rather than view­ing an entire­ly bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem that serves no one.

What can we learn from DREAMers?

We have many DACA recip­i­ents or DREAM­ers with­in our own South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty. The DREAM­ers have been suc­cess­ful in win­ning over 75% of the Amer­i­can pub­lic and Mem­bers of Con­gress, who sup­port them remain­ing in the coun­try with a path toward cit­i­zen­ship. They have accom­plished this because they are unwill­ing to sac­ri­fice any oth­er group of immi­grants to win, all while fac­ing the threat of depor­ta­tion them­selves every day. In fact, they have joined forces with Tem­po­rary Pro­tect­ed Sta­tus (TPS) recip­i­ents to demand that the next Con­gress pass leg­is­la­tion that com­bines pro­tec­tions for both DACA and TPS recip­i­ents with­in the first 100 days, which will like­ly hap­pen.

If they can exem­pli­fy this lev­el of lead­er­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tion, then we must fol­low their exam­ple and find ways to joint­ly address the prob­lems fac­ing autho­rized and unau­tho­rized immi­grants instead of insist­ing that DREAM­ers go to the back of the line.

What is H.R. 392 and how does it resolve the green card backlog?

Indi­ans in the U.S. have among the longest wait times for green cards.  The rea­son? Cur­rent immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy does not allow one par­tic­u­lar coun­try to account for more than 7% of visas lead­ing to a green card in any giv­en year. This means coun­tries that fall below the 7% thresh­old have much short­er wait times than large coun­tries like India, which has among the longest green card back­logs.

The “Fair­ness for High Skilled Immi­grants Act of 2017” (H.R. 392 in the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives & S. 281 in the Sen­ate), first intro­duced by Rep. Chaf­fetz of Utah and Rep. Lof­gren of CA and most recent­ly cham­pi­oned by Rep. Yoder of Kansas fol­low­ing the mur­der of Srini­vas Kuchib­hot­la by a white suprema­cist at a Kansas bar in his Con­gres­sion­al Dis­trict, would lift the 7% green card cap in an effort to clear sig­nif­i­cant back­logs. How­ev­er, help­ing clear the green card back­log for Indi­ans does not actu­al­ly elim­i­nate the back­log, it sim­ply moves it around to oth­er coun­tries.

At this time, the lan­guage of H.R. 392 has been includ­ed in the House appro­pri­a­tions (fund­ing) bill for the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS). While the Sen­ate passed a Con­tin­u­ing Res­o­lu­tion in an effort to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down, nei­ther the House nor the Sen­ate passed the actu­al Home­land Secu­ri­ty appro­pri­a­tions bill. The Sen­ate ver­sion of this bill does not cur­rent­ly include lan­guage about lift­ing green card caps. If the House lan­guage is includ­ed in the final ver­sion of the appro­pri­a­tions bill, it could pass each cham­ber and ulti­mate­ly be sent to the Pres­i­dent for sig­na­ture. Even if the House pass­es the Con­tin­u­ing Res­o­lu­tion to avoid a gov­ern­ment shut­down now, this would only delay the vote on the fund­ing bill until Feb­ru­ary 8, 2019.

How does H.R. 392 hurt some immigrant groups?

While H.R. 392 has gained wide and even bi-par­ti­san sup­port, its pro­pos­al to remove green card caps does not actu­al­ly increase the num­ber of green cards avail­able, but redis­trib­utes them by appli­ca­tion date rather than coun­try of ori­gin. This inher­ent­ly favors nations with much larg­er demand for green cards, most notably, India. But, this comes at the direct expense of coun­tries with low­er demand, who will expe­ri­ence high­er wait times. Among South Asian coun­tries, this puts green card appli­cants from Bangladesh, Pak­istan, Sri Lan­ka, Nepal at a much greater dis­ad­van­tage.

Between 2015–2017, only 55,000 Pak­ista­nis, 46,000 Bangladeshis 37,000 Nepalis, and 5,300 Sri Lankans obtained green cards. [6] Com­par­a­tive­ly, indi­vid­u­als from the top two coun­tries of ori­gin, Chi­na and India, obtained 228,000 and 190,000 green cards respec­tive­ly.

And, this makes it even hard­er for coun­tries like Iran, Libya, Soma­lia, Syr­ia, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela who fall in this cat­e­go­ry and are addi­tion­al­ly impact­ed by this administration’s dis­crim­i­na­to­ry immi­gra­tion poli­cies like the Mus­lim Ban. Such a pro­pos­al all but clos­es the door on nation­als from these coun­tries who want to remain in the coun­try or be reunit­ed with their fam­i­lies. In FY 2017, Indi­an nation­als were the num­ber one ben­e­fi­cia­ries of H‑1B visas with over 276,000 approved peti­tions fol­lowed by 34,477 visas grant­ed to Chi­nese nation­als. Only 1,643 Pak­ista­nis received H‑1B visas; 1,390 Ira­nis; 1,279 Nepalis; and 900 Venezue­lans. [7]

Addi­tion­al­ly, not all green card appli­cants are H‑1B visa­hold­ers. For exam­ple, for­eign nurs­es are not eli­gi­ble for H‑1B visas and must obtain green cards to work in the Unit­ed States. H.R. 392 would dras­ti­cal­ly reduce the num­ber for­eign-born nurs­es who could enter the coun­try with green cards from 77% to 100% in the next five years and beyond, dev­as­tat­ing the health­care sys­tem. H.R. 392 ignores the real prob­lem, which is a sig­nif­i­cant mis­match in immi­grant visas over­all to meet the demand for for­eign-born, high-skilled work­ers across indus­tries.

Why is H.R. 392 not the best solution?

In Jan­u­ary, 2018 a “Dear Col­league” let­ter cir­cu­lat­ed by Con­gres­sion­al co-spon­sors of H.R. 392 from both par­ties framed H.R. 392 as a poten­tial solu­tion for the “DACA prob­lem.” In it they state, “H.R. 392 can be passed along with amend­ed lan­guage con­tain­ing a fee that can be assessed upon the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the leg­is­la­tion that will raise bil­lions of dol­lars. These crit­i­cal funds can be used to enhance the like­li­hood of pas­sage of a DACA deal, by either enabling Con­gress to pay for bor­der secu­ri­ty or oth­er items in a man­ner that does not increase deficits, bur­den U.S. tax­pay­ers, or cause any oppo­si­tion to the nature of the fund­ing source.” This means the funds from addi­tion­al green card pro­cess­ing fees would go toward fur­ther mil­i­ta­riz­ing the bor­der, pos­si­bly even fund­ing this administration’s wall.

In Feb­ru­ary, 2018 hun­dreds of Indi­an-Amer­i­cans ral­lied out­side the White House sup­port­ing this administration’s immi­gra­tion poli­cies, draw­ing atten­tion to the green card issue. In par­tic­u­lar, they held a sign say­ing “Dream­ers pay for the wall” and offered to pay addi­tion­al fees toward their green card appli­ca­tions to finance a bor­der wall by sup­port­ing H.R. 392.

The South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty must cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly reject such a divi­sive approach toward immi­gra­tion reform.

What is a stronger solution?

The Reunit­ing Fam­i­lies Act, which will be re-intro­duced in the new Con­gress, would improve our fam­i­ly-based immi­gra­tion sys­tem, reunite and keep fam­i­lies togeth­er, clear the fam­i­ly-based back­logs and eliminate the country caps in both family and employment-based visas, rec­ti­fy­ing the back­logs for all those seek­ing employ­ment-based green cards. At a time when the admin­is­tra­tion is attack­ing immi­grants from all direc­tions, it is par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant that we advo­cate for solu­tions that strength­en and unite rather than divide our com­mu­ni­ties.

Please find the full Guide to Advocacy for Legal Immigration Reform here.

[1] “State-Lev­el Unau­tho­rized Pop­u­la­tion and Eli­gi­ble-to-Nat­u­ral­ize Esti­mates” Cen­ter for Migra­tion Stud­ies, 2015

[2] Wong, Tom. “DACA AAPI Data” WHIAPPI (2016)

[3] “Tem­po­rary Pro­tect­ed Sta­tus Des­ig­nat­ed Coun­try: Nepal” U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices

[4] “Bor­der Patrol Arrests CBP Data through April 2018 sort via All < Cit­i­zen­ship < Bor­der Patrol Sec­tor” TRAC Immi­gra­tion

[5] “Evo­lu­tion of the H‑1B: Lat­est Trends in a Pro­gram on the Brink of Reform” Migra­tion Pol­i­cy Insti­tute, 2018‑1B-BrinkofReform-Brief_Final.pdf

[6] “Table 3: Per­sons Obtain­ing Law­ful Per­ma­nent Res­i­dent Sta­tus by Region and Coun­try of Birth: Fis­cal Years 2015 to 2017.” Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty

[7] “Char­ac­ter­is­tics of H‑1B Spe­cial­ty Occu­pa­tion Work­ers. Fis­cal Year 2017 Annu­al Report to Con­gress.” U.S. Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices

Community Guide on H‑4 EAD Rescission

In part­ner­ship with Asian Amer­i­cans Advanc­ing Jus­tice (AAJC), Nation­al Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Wom­en’s Forum (NAPAWF), and Immi­grant Legal Resource Cen­ter (IRLC) we oppose the upcom­ing rescis­sion of the H‑4 work autho­riza­tion rule.

Oppose the Rescission of the H-4 Work Authorization Rule That Would Harm Nearly 90,000 Asian Immigrant Women. Please see here for the full H-4 EAD guide.

In Decem­ber 2017, the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty announced its intent to revoke Employ­ment Autho­riza­tion Doc­u­ments (EAD) for H‑4 visa hold­ers. A Notice of Pro­posed Rule­mak­ing is expect­ed to be pub­lished in the com­ing months. We encour­age peo­ple to oppose this sense­less, cru­el and unnec­es­sary rule. This rule will strip work autho­riza­tion from near­ly 90,000 women, forc­ing many to choose between work, fam­i­ly and their home. Below is a descrip­tion of the rule and it’s dis­pro­por­tion­ate effect on AAPI women.

What is an H-4 visa?

The H‑4 visa is a visa issued to spous­es and depen­dent chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers, who are for­eign work­ers employed in spe­cial­ty occu­pa­tions requir­ing rel­e­vant bachelor’s or advanced degrees. Since 1997, more than 1.7 mil­lion indi­vid­u­als have received H‑4 visas. Approx­i­mate­ly 136,000 indi­vid­u­als received H‑4 sta­tus in FY 2017. Accord­ing to the State Depart­ment, the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of these indi­vid­u­als are of South Asian descent; specif­i­cal­ly, in FY 2017, approx­i­mate­ly 86% of those who received H‑4 visa sta­tus were from South Asian coun­tries.

What is the H-4 visa work authorization rule?

In 2015, after sev­er­al years of advo­ca­cy by com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers, includ­ing local South Asian Women’s Orga­ni­za­tions , the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty (DHS) issued a rule allow­ing cer­tain H‑4 depen­dent spous­es of H‑1B visa hold­ers to legal­ly seek employ­ment in the US. Once an H‑1B hold­er is spon­sored for employ­ment-based law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dent (LPR) status–or a green card–his or her H‑4 visa hold­ing spouse may apply for work autho­riza­tion.

As of Decem­ber 2017, over 90,000 H‑4 visa hold­ers have been approved for work autho­riza­tion under the DHS H‑4 rule. How­ev­er, many H‑4 visa hold­ers remain inel­i­gi­ble for work autho­riza­tion as the rule only allows spous­es of per­sons with an approved per­ma­nent immi­grant peti­tion to work, which con­tin­ues to exclude thou­sands of oth­ers. Even this lim­it­ed vic­to­ry is now under attack under the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion, which has pro­posed to rescind the hard fought work autho­riza­tion.

How would the rule impact AAPI immigrant women?

H‑4 visa hold­ers at risk of los­ing work autho­riza­tion are pre­dom­i­nant­ly women from Asian coun­tries. Accord­ing to the Unit­ed States Cit­i­zen­ship and Immi­gra­tion Ser­vices (USCIS), 95% of H‑4 visa hold­ers who have secured work autho­riza­tion are women and at least 98% are from Asian coun­tries, the vast major­i­ty from India (93%) and Chi­na (5%).

How long will these AAPI women be without work authorization?

For some H‑4 visa hold­ers it often takes 6 to 8 years to obtain a green card, but H‑4 visa hold­ers from India are stuck in H‑4 sta­tus indef­i­nite­ly. This is due to long back­logs in the avail­abil­i­ty of employ­ment-based green cards for Indi­an nation­als, so if Indi­an H‑4 spous­es lose their work autho­riza­tion, they may nev­er get to work in the U.S.

Why should you oppose the rescission of the H-4 Work Authorization Rule?

H‑4 depen­dents must be allowed to work for numer­ous rea­sons, rang­ing from their abil­i­ty to con­tribute to the house­hold to the val­ue they pro­vide in shar­ing their tal­ents in our econ­o­my. Addi­tion­al­ly, these indi­vid­u­als deserve the right to use and enhance the skills they have learned, be finan­cial­ly self-suf­fi­cient, thrive men­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly, and pur­sue their dreams.

Lack of employ­ment under­mines the agency and dig­ni­ty of depen­dent spous­es With­out work per­mits, H‑4 depen­dent spous­es, many of whom also have advanced degrees, are not only unable to con­tribute to the eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty of their families–they also suf­fer from feel­ings of being deval­ued, depres­sion, and iso­la­tion. Revok­ing work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers would force them to return to what many call the “gold­en cage” or “depres­sion visa” while also being depen­dent on their spous­es’ employ­ment for immi­gra­tion sta­tus. With­out work autho­riza­tion, H‑4 visa hold­ers expe­ri­ence a lack of dig­ni­ty and agency over their well-being and future.

The rule would harm H‑4 spous­es’ long-term career prospects Under the new rule, H‑4 visa hold­ers who have been employed since the 2015 rule went into effect would have to seek re-employ­ment by obtain­ing their own H‑1B visas, which are already in short sup­ply. More­over, jobs that spon­sor H‑1B visa hold­ers are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly in STEM fields, which are known to be par­tic­u­lar­ly hos­tile towards women, espe­cial­ly women of col­or, in hir­ing and work envi­ron­ments.

Rescind­ing work autho­riza­tion fails to acknowl­edge the eco­nom­ic loss incurred by pre­vent­ing H‑4s from work­ing. Many of these indi­vid­u­als might be inter­est­ed in estab­lish­ing a small busi­ness or found­ing an inno­v­a­tive com­pa­ny, yet are effec­tive­ly barred from doing so because of our immi­gra­tion sys­tem.

H‑4 visa hold­ers with­out employ­ment are less empow­ered to leave abu­sive spous­es Stud­ies have shown that immi­gra­tion sta­tus pre­vents a large per­cent­age of immi­grant women from leav­ing abu­sive rela­tion­ships, and that abusers often use immi­gra­tion-relat­ed tac­tics. Work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers who rely on their spous­es for immi­gra­tion sta­tus and finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty can help pro­vide them the resources to leave abu­sive rela­tion­ships. Although cer­tain abused H‑4 spous­es can apply for work autho­riza­tion under the Immi­gra­tion and Nation­al­i­ty Act (INA), as amend­ed by the Vio­lence Against Women Act (VAWA), this sta­tus can be very dif­fi­cult to obtain: depen­dent spous­es are less like­ly to report abuse, much less pro­duce evi­dence of abuse in the form of police reports, med­ical records, and oth­er doc­u­ments.

Rescind­ing work autho­riza­tion lim­its the suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers and their H‑4 depen­dents The pro­posed rule lim­its the suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers, their fam­i­lies, and our nation’s eco­nom­ic growth. The abil­i­ty of H‑4 depen­dents to con­tribute to their house­hold and our econ­o­my is crit­i­cal to the long-term suc­cess of H‑1B work­ers. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, indi­vid­u­als are bet­ter able to suc­ceed with the sup­port of their loved ones and the eco­nom­ic impact of hav­ing a mul­ti-income house­hold can­not go unnot­ed.

To rescind this rule and ter­mi­nate work autho­riza­tion would force many spous­es and chil­dren of H‑1B visa hold­ers to return to their pre­vi­ous per­son­al and eco­nom­ic hard­ships, poten­tial­ly place them at risk of iso­la­tion and abuse, and remove sig­nif­i­cant eco­nom­ic ben­e­fits to the U.S. econ­o­my.

What can you do to stop this harmful proposal?

The Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty is expect­ed to revoke work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers in the com­ing months. How­ev­er, the admin­is­tra­tion must first pub­lish the pro­posed new reg­u­la­tion and invite pub­lic com­ments before the new pol­i­cy goes into effect. Dur­ing this 30 or 60-day com­ment peri­od, the gen­er­al pub­lic is invit­ed to sub­mit in writ­ing their oppo­si­tion to the rule and how it would impact them.

We encour­age immi­grants, advo­cates, and friends and fam­i­ly of H‑4 visa hold­ers to sub­mit com­ments express­ing oppo­si­tion to the pro­posed rule and call­ing for work autho­riza­tion for H‑4 visa hold­ers to be left intact.

We call on Mem­bers of Con­gress to speak pub­licly in sup­port of the abil­i­ty of H‑4 visa hold­ers to work, to advo­cate with the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty to leave the H‑4 work autho­riza­tion rule intact, and to sup­port leg­isla­tive efforts that pro­tect H‑4 visa hold­ers and their fam­i­lies.

Community Guide on “Public Charge”

On Jan­u­ary 27th, 2020 the Supreme Court tem­porar­i­ly lift­ed nation­wide court orders that kept the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s pro­posed “pub­lic charge” reg­u­la­tion from tak­ing effect.  This inher­ent­ly dis­crim­i­na­to­ry reg­u­la­tion can now go into effect nation­wide in all states except Illi­nois, where a statewide injunc­tion blocks it.

The “pub­lic charge” reg­u­la­tion expands the def­i­n­i­tion of pub­lic charge and tar­gets any­one who uses applic­a­ble health, nutri­tion, or hous­ing sup­port pro­grams. If the gov­ern­ment deter­mines that some­one is like­ly to become a “pub­lic charge,” that per­son can be refused law­ful per­ma­nent res­i­dence (“green card”),change/extension of non-immi­grant visas, or entry into the U.S.

Details on exact­ly how this reg­u­la­tion will be imple­ment­ed have not yet been revealed.  How­ev­er, those most direct­ly impact­ed by the reg­u­la­tion will be low­er income immi­grants of col­or, includ­ing South Asians:

  • Near­ly 472,000 or 10% of the approx­i­mate­ly five mil­lion South Asians in the U.S. live in pover­ty.
  •  Among South Asian Amer­i­cans, Pak­ista­nis (15.8%), Nepali (23.9%), Bangladeshis (24.2%), and Bhutanese (33.3%) had the high­est pover­ty rates.
  •  Over 10% of green card recip­i­ents in FY 2016 were from South Asian coun­tries.
  •  Bangladeshi and Nepali com­mu­ni­ties have the low­est medi­an house­hold incomes out of all Asian Amer­i­can groups, earn­ing $49,800 and $43,500 respectively.3
  • Near­ly 61% of non-cit­i­zen Bangladeshi Amer­i­can fam­i­lies receive pub­lic ben­e­fits for at least one of the four fed­er­al pro­grams includ­ing TANF, SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid/CHIP, 48% of non-cit­i­zen Pak­istani fam­i­lies and 11% of non-cit­i­zen Indi­an fam­i­lies also receive pub­lic ben­e­fits.

Please fol­low updates via this resource from Pro­tect­ing Immi­grant Fam­i­lies.

SAALT Opposes Administration’s “Public Charge” Rule Published in Federal Register Today, Encourages Community Members to Submit Comments


The Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty pub­lished a new pro­posed “public charge” rule­to­day that would deny per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus (“green cards”) to low­er income immi­grants who use gov­ern­ment ser­vices such as nutri­tion pro­grams and hous­ing assis­tance. The pro­posed rule was offi­cial­ly published in the Federal Register, trig­ger­ing a 60-day peri­od for the pub­lic to com­ment before the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty pro­ceeds with final rule­mak­ing.
This rule pun­ish­es peo­ple for using the pub­lic ben­e­fits they are enti­tled to and is set up to pre­vent as many immi­grants as pos­si­ble from becom­ing legal per­ma­nent res­i­dents. It’s the lat­est in a series of attacks on all immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties and their chil­dren. The rule direct­ly impacts immi­grants who are apply­ing to become Law­ful Per­ma­nent Res­i­dents (LPR’s or green card hold­ers) or look­ing to extend or change the cat­e­go­ry of a non­im­mi­grant visa. If final­ized, the Bangladeshi com­mu­ni­ty would be the hard­est hit among South Asian Amer­i­cans. Near­ly 61% of non-cit­i­zen Bangladeshi Amer­i­can fam­i­lies receive pub­lic ben­e­fits for at least one of the four fed­er­al pro­grams includ­ing TANF, SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid/CHIP, accord­ing to a 2018 Migration Policy Institute Report. The same report showed that 48% of non-cit­i­zen Pak­istani fam­i­lies and 11% of non-cit­i­zen Indi­an fam­i­lies also receive pub­lic ben­e­fits. Addi­tion­al­ly, the pro­posed rule would flag all immi­grant house­holds of four earn­ing less than $63,000 under neg­a­tive scruti­ny for the “pub­lic charge” test.
The impact of the rule would be felt across the South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ty, as over 10% of green card recip­i­ents in FY 2016 were from South Asian coun­tries. Near­ly 472,000 or 10% of the approx­i­mate­ly five mil­lion South Asians in the Unit­ed States live in pover­ty, accord­ing to a recent Pew Research Cen­ter study. In 2015, eight of nine­teen Asian Amer­i­can groups had pover­ty rates high­er than the U.S. aver­age. Among those, Pak­istani (15.8%), Nepali (23.9%), Bangladeshi (24.2%), and Bhutanese (33.3%) Amer­i­cans had the high­est pover­ty rates among South Asian Amer­i­can groups. The same study showed that Bangladeshi and Nepali com­mu­ni­ties had the low­est medi­an house­hold incomes out of all Asian Amer­i­can groups, which fell far below the $63,000 thresh­old. We encourage South Asian Americans to visit SAALT’s campaign page and easily submit a comment opposing the discriminatory "public charge" rule before December 10.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi,

SAALT Denounces the Administration’s “Public Charge” Proposal to Criminalize Immigrants for Using Public Benefits


Washington, D.C., South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) con­demns the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty announce­ment of new pro­posed “pub­lic charge” rules that would deny per­ma­nent res­i­dent sta­tus (“green cards”) to immi­grants who use gov­ern­ment ser­vices such as nutri­tion pro­grams and hous­ing assis­tance. The new rule would also weigh age, health, and employ­a­bil­i­ty as fac­tors to deny green cards. SAALT, along with immi­grant and civ­il rights, pub­lic health, and labor orga­ni­za­tions, are denounc­ing these changes that threat­en fam­i­lies and children’s health. The pro­posed rules would rel­e­gate immi­grants who are not yet cit­i­zens to sec­ond-class sta­tus by con­demn­ing their use of crit­i­cal pub­lic ben­e­fits pro­grams.
If imple­ment­ed, the pub­lic charge reg­u­la­tion would under­mine the safe­ty, health, and secu­ri­ty of immi­grant fam­i­lies. Rumors of the pro­pos­al have already sown fear among immi­grant fam­i­lies, many of whom have fore­gone essen­tial health and nutri­tion ser­vices for which they are eli­gi­ble. The new rule would hit South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties par­tic­u­lar­ly hard, as over 10% of green card recip­i­ents in FY 2016 were from South Asian coun­tries. Accord­ing to a recent Pew Research Cen­ter study, one in four immi­grants in the U.S. from Bangladesh and Nepal and one in three immi­grants from Bhutan already live in pover­ty. This new rule would put all of these indi­vid­u­als at great risk. The term “pub­lic charge” pre­dates fed­er­al immi­gra­tion law entire­ly. In the ear­ly 1800’s states would only free indi­vid­ual slaves on the con­di­tion that they nev­er become a “pub­lic charge.” This frame­work is now being expand­ed to crim­i­nal­ize immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties.
“This pol­i­cy is about who this Admin­is­tra­tion con­sid­ers a desir­able immi­grant. It is designed to instill fear in immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and rel­e­gate non-cit­i­zens and their fam­i­lies to sec­ond-class sta­tus. It will pun­ish immi­grants who right­ful­ly access the pub­lic ben­e­fits to which they are enti­tled, it will pun­ish par­ents for tak­ing care of their chil­dren, and it will force immi­grant fam­i­lies to choose between cit­i­zen­ship and basic needs. Rather than tax­ing the 1%, this Admin­is­tra­tion choos­es to pun­ish immi­grant fam­i­lies over and over again. Today, on the one-year anniver­sary of Mus­lim Ban 3.0, we say no to more racist and anti-immi­grant poli­cies,” said Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.
Once the rule is offi­cial­ly pub­lished in the Fed­er­al Reg­is­ter, the pub­lic will have 60 days to com­ment on the pro­posed rule before the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty pro­ceeds with final rule­mak­ing. Stay tuned for SAALT’s cam­paign to chan­nel pub­lic com­ments to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment oppos­ing this dis­crim­i­na­to­ry pro­pos­al.
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi,

Young Leaders Institute (YLI)

SAALT’s Young Lead­ers Insti­tute (YLI) is an oppor­tu­ni­ty for under­grad­u­ate stu­dents and oth­er young adults to build lead­er­ship skills, con­nect with activists and men­tors, and explore social change strate­gies around issues that affect South Asian and immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties in the U.S. The 2018–2019 YLI cohort will iden­ti­fy strate­gies and craft projects to sup­port those high­ly impact­ed at their aca­d­e­m­ic insti­tu­tions and/or local South Asian com­mu­ni­ties. We encour­age projects that cen­ter and uplift caste oppressed, undoc­u­ment­ed, work­ing class and poor, Mus­lim, and Sikh groups. All projects should also incor­po­rate a civic engage­ment and social media com­po­nent.