SAALT Demands An Action Plan That Protects All Afghans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wash­ing­ton, D.C., Decem­ber 20, 2018:

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,