Men who Sustained 80-day Hunger Strike Released from El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

April 17, 2019

Jasvir Singh and Rajandeep Singh were released from the Otero County Processing Center last week almost three months after initial reports that they were among nine Sikh men on hunger strike whom ICE agents were force feeding in the El Paso Service Processing Center.

El Paso and Las Cruces based community groups and national advocacy organizations launched a coordinated campaign to demand ICE cease force feeding and release the men.   

ICE released both men on bond after consistent pressure from local Rep. Veronica Escobar’s office and local and national advocates, and days after a Congressional Delegation from the House Committee on Homeland Security visited and toured facilities in El Paso where they examined immigration policies and operations along our southern border.

Three of the men who had originally been among the nine on hunger strike remain in detention. While on hunger strike at EPSPC they reported regular physical, verbal, and psychological abuse at the hands of facility guards.

Jasvir and Rajandeep sustained a hunger strike for nearly 80 days to protest their conditions and treatment in detention. They had been held in the EPSPC since November 2018.  Initially they were part of a group of 13 men in the EPSPC, ten from India and three from Cuba, who began hunger striking at the end of December.

Four of the men taking part in the hunger strike were deported and returned to India in early March. A fifth man who agreed to stop his hunger strike in January in return for much needed surgery, was also deported.

Quotes:

Jennifer Apodaca of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee who led advocacy efforts in El Paso said, “ICE always had the discretion to release people but refused to use it. It shouldn’t have taken an angry congressional delegation to secure their release. Instead, they continue to ignore the complaints of abuse and torture and turn a blind eye at the conditions of detention and prison spaces that house more than 52,000 people as they await their fate in our broken and biased immigration courts. All of this could have been avoided. It is time to abolish the detention and deportation machine.

Nathan Craig from Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID) visited the hunger strikers regularly in the El Paso facility. He said, “From their initial asylum requests, to their treatment while hunger striking, to their various hearings, all of these men experienced substantial discrimination based on the language they speak and the way they dress. Unfounded value judgements by and prejudices from U.S. government officials and contractors resulted in significant negative consequences for these men’s asylum claims. Inadequate, or complete lack of, interpretation was a chronic problem.  All of the men told me about how they were subjected to frequent racial and ethnic slurs while detained. Sadly, more than the facts of their cases, these men’s asylum claims have been structured by prejudice on the part of immigration officials and their contractors. This must change. Wrongdoing at all stages of the process must be investigated. Justice must be brought for those men still in the US, and those men already deported must be afforded the opportunity to return to the US to pursue justice for what is widely recognized as torturous treatment in detention.”

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national advocacy organization for South Asians that led national advocacy efforts said,  “We are relieved that Jasvir and Rajandeep have finally been released, but it should not have taken this long. And, we remain deeply concerned for the three men who remain in detention – we fear they could be deported back to India and into the dangerous conditions they fled. We also know there are thousands more people housed in detention facilities across the country, suffering from the same litany of abuse and due process violations that our government refuses to acknowledge and address. It is clear that our nation’s entire understanding of detention must be overhauled. As a start, we need Congress to pass legislation that will hold facilities accountable with penalties and even the threat of shutting down for their repeated patterns of noncompliance.”

Contact: Sophia@saalt.org

# # #

PRESS RELEASE: SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing “Detention, Hunger Strikes, Deported to Death”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAESE

April 2, 2019

On April 2, SAALT and immigrant justice partners UndocuBlack Network, Detention Watch Network, United We Dream, Freedom for Immigrants, Sikh Coalition, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) hosted a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill to draw immediate attention to the rise in South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape violence, persecution, and repression alongside migrants from African, Southeast Asian, Central American, and Latin American countries.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT opened the briefing saying, “We are all here today to say loud and clear that immigration is a Black issue, immigration is a LatinX issue, immigration is a South Asian issue, immigration is an LGBTQ issue. It is the practice of solidarity and local organizing that we hope to uplift today for Capitol Hill to see, to understand immigrant detention, and to address the litany of violations and abuses faced by detained individuals.”

A panel of expert community leaders and advocates including Jennifer Apodaca, of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee in El Paso; Ruby Kaur, an attorney for two of the #ElPaso9; Deep Singh, Executive Director of Jakara Movement; Patrice Lawrence, National Policy Director of UndocuBlack Network; Carlos Hidalgo, Immigration Rights Activist and member of Freedom for Immigrants leadership council; and Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream highlighted a series of abuses and civil rights violations documented in detention facilities from Adelanto, CA to El Paso, TX. They cited cases of medical neglect, inadequate language access, denial of religious accommodations, retaliation for hunger strikes, and the practice of solitary confinement. Advocates urged Members of Congress and their staff to take immediate action through specific legislation, oversight, and appropriations recommendations.

Quotes from Members of Congress:

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27): “I want to commend SAALT for putting together today’s briefing to highlight the diverse communities impacted by the xenophobic policies of the Trump Administration and our broken immigration and detention system. Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in the number of individuals seeking asylum from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal who have suffered from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own federal government. This is unacceptable. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight of these facilities.”

Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus: “The separation of immigrant families is a violation of human rights. This outrageous policy along with the Trump Administration’s attempt to deport individuals living in the United States, many of whom now know the U.S. as their home, must be addressed immediately. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Tri-Caucus on a permanent solution and a path to citizenship for many of the families impacted by these policies.”

Rep Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) said: “Far too often, I hear from Americans who are horrified by the Trump administration’s treatment of people seeking safety at our border. I am grateful to South Asian Americans Leading Together and others for bringing continued attention to the Trump Administration’s terrible detention and enforcement policies. I saw firsthand how these policies are hurting people when I visited detainees at a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. We must do everything we can to protect the human rights of every individual. When I learned about the hunger strikes in El Paso, I joined Rep. Escobar in calling for an investigation of the conditions at ICE detention facilities. My colleagues and I will continue pushing for strong oversight that holds this administration accountable for its appalling treatment of those seeking refuge and asylum.”

Representative Grace Meng (NY-6): “I want to thank SAALT for its leadership in standing up for the South Asian community, and I thank all the partner organizations that are fighting tirelessly for those who have been unjustly abused in detention facilities throughout the United States. The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants but President Trump’s policies and rhetoric toward those who came to our country in search of a better life has been cruel and un-American. He has made the targeting of immigrants a central part of his administration while persistently lobbing bigoted, verbal attacks at immigrant communities. From separating families to feeding only pork sandwiches to a Muslim detainee, the administration’s actions have been abhorrent. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by what has been taking place over the past two years. As a Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I will continue to hold President Trump and his administration accountable for the immigration policies that they have implemented. My priority is to end these inhumane immigration enforcement practices, and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Representative Mark Takano (CA-41): “I’m grateful for this strong coalition of immigrant rights groups working together to shed light on the injustices and cruelty immigrants are facing under this Administration. I share with them extreme concern about how immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being treated at the hands of our government. Congress must continue to exert its oversight powers to hold the Trump Administration accountable and bring humanity back to our immigration system.”

Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16): “For the past two years, our country has witnessed an unprecedented attack against our immigrant community. From separating families to force-feeding detainees, the Trump administration has constantly implemented policies that violate our laws and American values. That is why, now more than ever, we need to raise our voices and share the stories of those impacted by cruelty in order to hold the administration accountable and ensure this pattern of abuse comes to an end.”

For a recorded stream of the Briefing, please click here.

In Collaboration with:

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) | Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) | Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) | Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus | Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) | Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) |Representative Gil Cisneros (CA-39) | Representative Judy Chu (CA-27)| Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16) | Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) | Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) | Representative Grace Meng (NY-6) | Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) | Representative Mark Pocan (WI-2) | Representative Mark Takano (CA-41)

Honorary Co-hosts:

Senator Ben Cardin (MD) | Senator Kamala Harris (CA) | Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

 

Immigration Advocates Warn of Physical and Mental Harm to Hunger Strikers in El Paso Detention Facility

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

March 15, 2019

EL PASO, TX — Immigration advocates and medical experts are deeply concerned over the ongoing hunger strike at the El Paso Service Processing Center and the dire situation facing people held in indefinite detention, especially as their health deteriorates.

The “El Paso 9” have been subjected to brutal force-feedings, mistreatment and retaliatory actions by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and private contractors following their hunger strike, which began in late December 2018. At least two of the “El Paso 9” have entered the 11th week of their hunger strike.  

Of the group of men who were on hunger strike or supporting the hunger strike, two have been deported, three have been transferred to the Otero County Processing Center in New Mexico, and four remain detained at the El Paso Processing Center, two of whom are still on hunger strike and are in medical isolation.

Nathan Craig, a volunteer with Advocate Visitors in Detention, who recently visited one of the hunger strikers in El Paso, said, “At this point, having not eaten since December, he can barely walk and hold up his head. In his frail state, thinking and talking are slow and laborious. He must be afforded the opportunity to recuperate outside of detention so that he can prepare for his merits hearing and cross-examination.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), which has long argued that force-feeding against an individual’s wishes is unethical and inhumane, says precautions must be taken to ensure those on hunger strike receive adequate medical attention and accommodations. PHR also recommends that Congress fund alternatives to detention programming that represent a long-term solution to prevent human rights violations documented in immigration detention. Below is an official statement by Physicians for Human Rights:

Hunger striking is a nonviolent form of protest undertaken when other means of expressing grievances are unavailable, and hunger strikers must be protected from any and all reprisals. Physicians for Human Rights calls for all precautions to be taken to ensure that hunger strikers receive needed medical attention, and that accommodations be made to ensure appropriate transport so that they are not injured. Not eating may result in lightheadedness, so wheelchairs should be provided as needed.

“Extensive medical research shows that immigration detention is harmful and strongly correlated with negative mental health outcomes, while prolonged or indefinite detention violates the right to be free from torture and other cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

“The U.S. immigration detention system has repeatedly demonstrated a dangerous lack of accountability and transparency, and the recent hunger strikes are just one more example illustrating this dire situation. As a long-term solution, PHR strongly recommends the use of alternatives to detention that are humane and cost-effective and that have been proven to ensure compliance with immigration enforcement.

In a separate comment, Altaf Saadi, MD, a neurologist at UCLA and a member of Physicians for Human Rights’ Asylum Network, said,

Prolonged detention causes significant medical harm to individuals due to both denial and delays in medical care, inadequate staffing, punitive approaches to mental health needs like the misuse of isolation, and harmful conditions of confinement more broadly like poor and overcrowded living conditions. The human toll of detention is compounded for those already vulnerable and suffering from trauma based on persecution they have endured in their home countries. We don’t want more patients joining the list of those whose deaths have been linked to substandard care in detention, nor do we want to see the lasting impacts of detention-related psychological harm.”

ICE has threatened the hunger-striking men with deportation despite the deterioration of their health.

Immigration and civil rights groups are demanding the immediate release of the men and for them to be able to address their asylum cases outside of detention, as they should have been able to do from the beginning.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Director of National Policy and Advocacy for South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said, “These asylum seekers, like so many before them, resorted to a hunger strike to draw attention to the litany of abuses they face at the hands of ICE on top of the indefinite delays in adjudicating their asylum cases.  We demand the immediate release of all of the detained individuals so they can be cared for by their community. And, we demand an immediate investigation into the civil rights violations, retaliation, and medical negligence at the El Paso Processing Center, a facility that SAALT and our partners have been monitoring and lodging complaints about over the last five years. We know the treatment of detained individuals in El Paso is a microcosm of conditions across detention facilities in this country.”

Media contact: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org, 202-997-4211

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Freedom for Immigrants 

Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention (AVID), in the Chihuahuan Desert

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

Defending Rights & Dissent

National Immigration Project of the NLG

Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee

Ruby Kaur –Kaur Law Pllc

La Resistencia

 

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Washington, D.C.: Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over 2 million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMERs and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, states:

We welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act, sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.

Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with NAKASEC, states:

We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”

 

ICE Deports Two Hunger Strikers Detained in El Paso

For Immediate Release
March 1, 2019
CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

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. avid.chihuahuan.org
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 www.detentionwatchnetwork.org.
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.

AAPIs say, “Immigrants and Refugees Deserve Better than a Harmful Bill and a Fake National Emergency”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Friday, February 15, 2019

Washington, DC – The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC), National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC), and South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) are gravely concerned by the steps taken last night by the United States Congress and the president.

First, Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrant families are deeply disappointed with the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 in both the House and Senate yesterday.

We understand the immense pressure that negotiators were under to prevent another government shutdown. We similarly need to keep our government operating. Nevertheless, our organizations are alarmed at the inclusion of $1.375 billion for a physical barrier (a total of 55 miles), an 11% increase in funding for 45,274 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds, and more enforcement agents. AAPI communities have made clear that any bill including any of these measures is unacceptable. A full list of measures that AAPI communities will not stand for can be found in this letter to congressional leaders.

Both the border wall and the presence of ICE are sources of terror for all immigrant communities. The wall is a symbol of hate for any immigrant living within and outside of the United States, and it directs billions of taxpayer dollars to separating families. Furthermore, the bill does not place a limit on the number of ICE detention beds nor does it restrict the authority of the Department of Homeland Security from transferring or reprogramming funding internally, which enables ICE to continue expanding immigrant incarceration and deportation at will.

Second, President Trump intends to declare a “national emergency” at the border in order to justify the need for his border wall. Make no mistake, there is no national emergency happening at the border. Rather, there is a humanitarian crisis happening at the border, and it is a crisis that President Trump and his Administration caused in its entirety. The president’s intention to declare a “national emergency” is a unilateral rebuke of our democratic process driven by an irrational desire to fund an anti-immigrant unnecessary, and unpopular border wall after Congress would not approve the $5.7 billion the president initially demanded. Two-thirds of Americans do not support a national emergency.

Suman Raghunathan, executive director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), said:

“In just the last 10 days we’ve been hearing firsthand about the cruel treatment towards nine South Asian men currently on hunger strike in a detention facility in El Paso. Despite their asylum requests, they’ve been subject to violent force-feeding, solitary confinement, and constant threats of deportation.  What’s particularly devastating is that we’ve seen similar treatment occur previously in this same facility and we have received accounts of abuse of detainees in several facilities across the country. This bill does nothing to address the systemic issues with our detention system, and only serves to perpetuate abusive situations like the ones we are witnessing now.”

Jonathan Paik, director of the Korean Resource Center, a NAKASEC affiliate, stated: “This is a reckless move and endangers the future of our country. Our democracy is in incredible danger- this is the true national emergency. We call on all our fellow Americans to resist these abuses of power and reclaim our democracy!”

Quyen Dinh, executive director of SEARAC, expressed:

“The Southeast Asian American refugee community has been devastated by the expansion of our detention and deportation system, and our families continue to be torn apart at unprecedented rates. Our organizations understand that this is a difficult position for our policymakers to be in, and none of them should be forced to make this choice. But our communities elected our policymakers to represent our interests, and Asian Americans have declared in no uncertain terms that we oppose the passage of this bill and the president’s unconstitutional and falsely justified national emergency. We remain vigilant and committed to working with our Congressional partners to protect the rights of our refugees and immigrants.”

 

Contact: Sophia Qureshi | sophia@saalt.org | 202-997-4211

Two years too long: Repeal the Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 27, 2019

Two years ago today, the Trump Administration announced its Muslim and refugee ban. From the ban to the militarization of the border to restrictions on asylum seekers, the Trump Administration’s racist policies are tearing families apart. These racist policies are enacted in an environment where xenophobic political rhetoric is all too frequent.

In SAALT’s 2018 report Communities on Fire, we found that one in five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan. This data demonstrates a strong link between this administration’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate violence. We have documented over 300 incidents of hate violence to date since November 2016 aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab Americans.

As we welcome a new Congress and as the government reopens, it is imperative that elected officials exercise their leadership to terminate the Muslim Ban and ensure it is never replicated. SAALT supports legislative solutions that will at the very least block funding to implement the Muslim Ban, but ideally limit executive authority to institute discriminatory bans in the future.

Two years of a Muslim Ban is two years too many.  This anniversary must be a call to action to Congress to use their power to end this example of state-sponsored discrimination and keep our communities and nation whole.

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

Notorious El Paso Facility Continues Abuse of South Asian Asylum Seekers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
January 31, 2019

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is deeply disturbed by reports of staff at the El Paso, TX detention processing center force-feeding mostly Indian and Cuban detainees in the midst of a hunger strike. Up to 30 detainees, the majority of whom have pending asylum claims, went on a hunger strike after verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of ICE and detention center staff at the notorious El Paso facility.

These horrifying reports are only the most recent in a series of unaddressed civil rights violations reported at the El Paso facility since 2015, at which point SAALT, along with other organizations, pursued legal action. In 2015, mostly Bangladeshi asylum seekers at the El Paso facility went on hunger strike to protest the indefinite delays in their cases after passing “credible fear” interviews, an initial and important step in the asylum process. SAALT, Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild filed an official civil rights complaint with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over treatment of the asylum seekers.

DHS has yet to address the civil rights violations at the El Paso facility reported in 2015, and now more asylum seekers face violence and abuse.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, issued the following statement:
“Individuals should not have to put their bodies and lives on the line to draw attention to their indefinite detention. Our nation’s immigration system should provide protection from violence and persecution, yet current practices create an increasingly punitive asylum process, which only extends the violence and persecution asylum seekers are fleeing.”

Since 2015, SAALT has also documented reports of South Asian detainees in additional facilities in Oregon, California, and Georgia who have gone on hunger strikes to protest prolonged detention, denial of legal counsel, and a range of civil rights violations from providing inadequate medical care to withholding language interpretation to denying religious accommodations.

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.

Contact:  Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org

Between Deals and Decisions, SAALT Reaffirms the Need for Real, Clean Solutions on Immigration

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 22, 2019

The Supreme Court’s decision today to omit hearing the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) case is welcome news, as it keeps the program alive and allows current DACA recipients to continue submitting renewal applications. While this is encouraging, the work ahead remains clear – we need a clean DREAM Act and permanent legislative solutions that do not include harmful provisions, as proposed by the Trump Administration last weekend.

The Administration’s immigration “deal” from this weekend is no deal at all – it’s a sham. The Administration is claiming to reinstate two programs – DACA and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – that the Administration itself made a decision to eviscerate last year. These so-called protections to TPS and DACA holders are half baked at best and do little to actually protect communities. The “deal” legislation that the Senate will likely introduce this week excludes entire communities. Anyone with TPS status from Nepal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Syria would not be protected.  The bill only covers a fraction of all DREAMers and does not provide permanent protection from deportation. Most alarmingly, it includes a $5.7 billion dollar border wall and more bloated increases to detention beds and border patrol agents.

“This ‘deal’ offers no concessions, no solutions, and will further undermine the rule of law. It will intensify militarization on the border and expand detention, while continuing to hurt refugees and asylum seekers, DACA recipients, and TPS holders. There are at least 450,000 undocumented people from India alone, at least 25,000 Indian and Pakistani DACA recipients, and nearly 15,000 thousand Nepalis with TPS status who will be directly impacted by this legislation,” said Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT).

South Asians, along with all immigrant communities, deserve a real immigration overhaul that serves everyone. Once this sham bill is introduced, we will support our community members and partners to voice our opposition.

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi sophia@saalt.org

SAALT Responds to Devastating Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 29, 2018

We are devastated by the fatal shooting at Tree of Life or L’Simcha Congregation in Pittsburgh, PA claiming 11 lives and injuring many more. As a racial justice organization, we stand against white supremacy and bigotry in all its forms, and reaffirm our solidarity with the Jewish community in Pittsburgh and with Jewish communities all over the U.S.

This is the third documented incident of white supremacist violence targeting a community in a house of worship in the last six years. In 2015, a white supremacist shot and killed nine Black worshippers at an Episcopal church in Charleston. In 2012, a known white supremacist shot and killed six Sikh Americans at the Oak Creek gurdwara in Wisconsin.

Just last week, a gunman killed a Black woman and Black man at a grocery store in Louisville, KY, after first attempting to enter a Black church.

We are in the midst of an alarming trend – white supremacist violence is intensifying as openly divisive policies and poisonous political rhetoric are rolled out with grim consistency. While the targets of this violence, policies, and rhetoric are numerous, we know fear is intensifying in our communities.   Since November 2016, SAALT has documented 416 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric against Muslim, Sikh, South Asian, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities alone. One in five perpetrators of the hate violence incidents from November 2016 to November 2017 referenced President Trump, a Trump policy, or a Trump campaign slogan.

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans (SAALT), offered the following statement:

“In a tragic paradox, South Asian Americans and Muslim, Arab, and South Asian communities are growing rapidly even as they are increasingly targets of violence. This is not only unacceptable, it’s un-American.   Any attack on communities based upon how they pray, their skin color, or their perceived nationality is an attack on our nation’s core values.  We remain a part of this nation’s fabric, and are not going anywhere.  We stand in unity with all communities fighting for the nation we love at this critical time.”

CONTACT: Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org