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

# # #

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

 

ICE officials throw El Paso hunger strikers into solitary confinement after altercation over force-feeding, says attorney

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Fri­day, Feb­ru­ary 8, 2019

El Paso, Texas — The nine Sikh asy­lum seek­ers on hunger strike in the El Paso Ser­vice Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter (EPSPC) have been thrown into soli­tary con­fine­ment after refus­ing to be force-fed stand­ing up, reports their attor­ney after speak­ing with a fam­i­ly mem­ber. Immi­grant rights advo­cates, civ­il rights orga­ni­za­tions, and local com­mu­ni­ty groups are deeply alarmed by this lat­est devel­op­ment involv­ing the nine Sikh asy­lum seek­ers who have been on hunger strike for more than 40 days to protest their incar­cer­a­tion at the EPSPC. Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) has respond­ed with abu­sive retal­i­a­tion, includ­ing force-feed­ing at least nine of the asy­lum seek­ers, a cru­el, degrad­ing and inhu­mane prac­tice. ICE agents also threat­ened the asy­lum seek­ers with depor­ta­tion as ear­ly as Fri­day morn­ing.

“They have scars on their arms from IVs, and are suf­fer­ing from rec­tal bleed­ing and blood in their vom­it in addi­tion to per­sis­tent stom­ach, chest, and throat pain. They recount­ed abuse after abuse at the hands of ICE agents and med­ical staff at the facil­i­ty. They’ve lost 40 to 50 pounds,” said the attor­ney for two of the asy­lum seek­ers, Ruby Kaur, after vis­it­ing the facil­i­ty on Thurs­day. “They told me ICE agents have threat­ened them with depor­ta­tion as ear­ly as today, despite them being in no phys­i­cal con­di­tion to trav­el.  ICE agents respond­ed that there was noth­ing that they could do and that they didn’t care.”

Amrit Singh, the uncle to two of the Sikh asy­lum seek­ers on hunger strike, attempt­ed to put mon­ey into the com­mis­sary accounts of three of the strik­ers and mon­ey was returned back to his card.  This devel­op­ment is par­tic­u­lar­ly alarm­ing because ICE fre­quent­ly cuts off detainees’ phone accounts pri­or to depor­ta­tion.

“We demand the imme­di­ate release of the hunger strik­ers and that they receive crit­i­cal med­ical care,” said Nathan Craig of AVID. “ICE has a long doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of abuse, clear­ly indi­cat­ing that peo­ple are not safe in its cus­tody. We call on Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Esco­bar of Texas to stand with the migrant com­mu­ni­ty and demand their release, while insist­ing on an inde­pen­dent inves­ti­ga­tion of the facil­i­ty and ICE Field Office, yield­ing swift dis­ci­pli­nary con­se­quences over the strik­ers’ treat­ment.”

Since May 2015, Free­dom for Immi­grants has doc­u­ment­ed near­ly 1,400 peo­ple on hunger strike in 18 immi­gra­tion deten­tion facil­i­ties. A trou­bling pat­tern as Pres­i­dent Trump con­tin­ues to expand the deten­tion sys­tem to sky­rock­et­ing pro­por­tions, lead­ing to an increase in abuse and death. Since March of 2018, AVID vol­un­teers have been col­lect­ing reports of large num­bers of detained South Asians hunger strik­ing at both EPSPC and the neigh­bor­ing Otero Coun­ty Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter.

“In the shad­ow of Trump’s bor­der wall is immi­gra­tion deten­tion, a sys­tem shroud­ed in secre­cy where a cul­ture of vio­lence per­sists,” said Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, Direc­tor of Pol­i­cy and Advo­ca­cy for South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT). “The retal­i­a­tion and abuse that hunger strik­ers have been forced to endure under­score the egre­gious con­di­tions endem­ic to the deten­tion sys­tem nation­wide. It also echoes the cas­es of abuse and tor­ture of South Asian migrants in par­tic­u­lar, in deten­tion facil­i­ties in the U.S., includ­ing most recent­ly at the Ade­lan­to Deten­tion Cen­ter in Cal­i­for­nia.”

Sign the peti­tion to sup­port the hunger strik­ers at the El Paso Pro­cess­ing Cen­ter:  https://rightsanddissent.salsalabs.org/ICEForceFeeding/index.html

Media Con­tacts

Sophia Qureshi, sophia@saalt.org 202–997-4211

Liz Mar­tinez, lmartinez@freedomforimmigrants.org 956–572-4349

###

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.

DRUM — Desis Ris­ing Up & Mov­ing orga­nizes low income South Asian and Indo-Caribbean immi­grants, work­ers, and youth in NYC for edu­ca­tion­al, immi­grant, racial, work­er, and gen­der jus­tice.

Free­dom for Immi­grants is Devot­ed to abol­ish­ing immi­gra­tion deten­tion, while end­ing the iso­la­tion of peo­ple cur­rent­ly suf­fer­ing in this prof­it-dri­ven sys­tem. Free­dom for Immi­grants pro­vides sup­port to peo­ple in immi­gra­tion deten­tion and mon­i­tors and doc­u­ments human rights abus­es through a nation­al net­work of vis­i­ta­tion pro­grams, a free hot­line and com­mu­ni­ty-based alter­na­tives to deten­tion. www.freedomforimmigrants.org

Ruby Kaur — Kaur Law LLC

Nation­al Immi­gra­tion Project of the NLG pro­motes jus­tice and equal­i­ty of treat­ment in all areas of immi­gra­tion law, the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, and poli­cies relat­ed to immi­gra­tion. We pro­vide tech­ni­cal assis­tance and sup­port to legal prac­ti­tion­ers, immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties, com­mu­ni­ty-based orga­ni­za­tions, and all advo­cates seek­ing and work­ing to advance the rights of nonci­t­i­zens.

 

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

SOPHIA QURESHI, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS

In her 15 year career, Sophia Qureshi has focused on expand­ing the poten­tial for jour­nal­ism and sto­ry­telling by build­ing bridges between dif­fer­ent worlds — jour­nal­ism, non­prof­its, think tanks, grass­roots groups, and artis­tic venues.

Sophia has held posi­tions at the Unit­ed Nations, CNN, Al Jazeera, and The Cen­ter for Pub­lic Integri­ty (CPI), estab­lish­ing jour­nal­ism part­ner­ships between com­mer­cial and non-prof­it worlds.

She is a founder of Sub­con­ti­nen­tal Drift – a nation­wide South Asian Amer­i­can coali­tion that fos­ters and pro­vides a sup­port­ive and col­lab­o­ra­tive com­mu­ni­ty for cre­ative expres­sion, engage­ment, and pos­i­tive social change.

She is a polit­i­cal sci­ence grad­u­ate of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Geor­gia, and has a master’s degree from George­town Uni­ver­si­ty in inter­na­tion­al devel­op­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

She loves multi­gen­er­a­tional epic fam­i­ly saga nov­els, noon chai, graph­ic jour­nal­ing, answer­ing meta­phys­i­cal ques­tions posed by tod­dlers, and yes, yoga.

Young Leaders Institute 2018–2019

Meet the 2018–2019 YLI cohort!
“Build­ing Com­mu­ni­ty Defense”

The 2018–2019 Young Lead­ers Insti­tute (YLI) theme was Com­mu­ni­ty Defense, and projects will take on anti-immi­grant poli­cies and hate vio­lence. Shared below are project descrip­tions from this year’s cohort.

Apoorva Handigol: My project will stem from my senior the­sis research on how antiblack­ness and Black-Brown sol­i­dar­i­ty have man­i­fest­ed over gen­er­a­tions of South Asian Amer­i­cans in Chica­go. I will start with orga­niz­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive event at my school focus­ing on nar­ra­tives of pain and love among South Asian and Black Amer­i­cans. After this, I will take the project to my com­mu­ni­ty in the Bay Area and reframe this com­mu­ni­ty need as one of sup­port for a group of peo­ple who has gone through much the same as we have, plus oth­er injus­tices we have the priv­i­lege to for­get. I will trans­late what I learned from the event on cam­pus and my research into address­ing my South Asian community’s antiblack­ness, lack of aware­ness of our 150+ years of Black sol­i­dar­i­ty, and need to strength­en our com­mu­ni­ty defense.

 

Farishtay Yamin: My pro­pos­al cen­ters around cre­at­ing a rapid response sys­tem to ICE activ­i­ty and hate crimes using an app. I would like to use the exist­ing mem­ber base and net­work present in Athens, GA to dupli­cate the mod­el in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Hiba Ahmad: My project is to cre­ate a finan­cial lit­er­a­cy pro­gram for prison inmates in aims to reduce recidi­vism rates around the Unit­ed States, which is main­ly caused by lack of attain­able finan­cial edu­ca­tion and resources. US pris­ons
dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly tar­get peo­ple of col­or, so the suc­cess­ful
imple­men­ta­tion of this pro­gram will hope­ful­ly pro­tect our com­mu­ni­ties of col­or against fur­ther unjust detain­ment, and arm them with the edu­ca­tion nec­es­sary to com­bat the dif­fi­cul­ty of reen­ter­ing the work­force.

Mahi Senthikumar: I will explore the inter­sec­tions of rights and reli­gion through a series of pub­lic talks and YouTube videos. By cre­at­ing inter­faith forums to dis­cuss
reli­gion along­side activism, I hope to break down social bar­ri­ers with­in our com­mu­ni­ty and uncov­er shared val­ues which com­pel us to stand togeth­er for jus­tice.

 

 

Meghal Sheth: For my project I will be work­ing to co-pro­gram with oth­er cul­tur­al and iden­ti­ty- based groups on Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Louis’ cam­pus to cre­ate a “Jus­tice Through Free­dom” Week. The week will include a vig­il, call-in, pan­el dis­cus­sion on com­mu­ni­ty defense, and a gala with oth­er var­i­ous stu­dent orga­ni­za­tions.

 

Myra Khushbakht: For my project, I plan to cre­ate an open dis­cus­sion town hall event at Howard in the com­ing aca­d­e­m­ic year. I hope to ini­ti­ate a con­ver­sa­tion about col­orism with­in minori­ties on my cam­pus.

 

 

Naisa Rahman: My com­mu­ni­ty defense project will focus on improv­ing my university’s report­ing and response sys­tem for bias, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and harass­ment. My goal is for our insti­tu­tion to respond time­ly to stu­dents and to bet­ter sup­port them dur­ing any crises.

 

 

Sarah Rozario: Sarah hopes to cre­ate a video com­posed of her cam­pus com­mu­ni­ty’s immi­grant and undoc­u­ment­ed voic­es address­ing anti-immi­gra­tion poli­cies. The project will pro­vide a space for stu­dents to voice their con­cerns as well as act as a dis­play of sup­port.

 

 

Vrinda Trivedi: Com­ing from Ohio, I think sub­ur­ban and rur­al loca­tions are sore­ly over­looked in regards to being seen as spaces con­ducive to com­mu­ni­ty build­ing. There­fore, I would like to find a way to con­nect LGBTQIA+ South Asians, through host­ing a retreat sim­i­lar to YLI, but on a small­er scale, and geared towards address­ing the unique themes faced by LGBTQIA+ South Asians in sub­ur­ban and rur­al spaces.

 

Yasmine Jafery: My project is cre­at­ing an on cam­pus club that pro­vides a safe space for peers to talk to one anoth­er about dif­fi­cult things they are going through. This club would pro­vide strug­gling stu­dents a place to meet and learn from their peers that are fight­ing sim­i­lar obsta­cles.

 

 

Neha Valmiki: Neha will have a ses­sion on her cam­pus called Break­ing Bar­ri­ers, where will bring in speak­ers to talk about men­tal health in the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the
neces­si­ty for civic engage­ment. The goal is to break the stig­ma of men­tal health and to break the idea that your vote does­n’t count. Her goal is it make sure each stu­dents knows that they have a voice and they are valid.

 

Rupkatha Banarjee: Sum­mits and con­fer­ences often attract large audi­ences and trans­mit mes­sages of sup­port and aware­ness through­out the com­mu­ni­ty. In lieu of stu­dent involve­ment and increased par­tic­i­pa­tion, I aim to orga­nize a TEDx type con­fer­ence with mul­ti­ple speak­ers to expli­cate sto­ries of immi­grants who’ve expe­ri­enced tar­get­ed racial vio­lence.

 

Jaspreet Kaur: Brown Girl Joy [an IG plat­form] explores the inter­sec­tions of beau­ty one brown girl [includ­ing gen­der non con­form­ing + non­bi­na­ry per­son] at a time. We hope to recon­struct par­a­digms of beau­ty to be more inclu­sive and accept­ing for peo­ple of col­or.

 

 

Sana Hamed: I pro­pose to start SEMS (Shar­ing Every Mus­lims’ Sto­ry), an ini­tia­tive that would serve to unite Mus­lim orga­ni­za­tions on cam­pus through the com­mon thread of sto­ry­telling. The project would include var­i­ous ways to put a pos­i­tive spot­light on who Mus­lims are in Amer­i­ca and would include cre­at­ing short nar­ra­tive videos to be shared through social media, writ­ten fea­tures for an anthol­o­gy, and even a show­case fea­tur­ing Mus­lim cre­atives through which we could fur­ther engage the com­mu­ni­ty.

 

 

For more infor­ma­tion around Young Lead­ers Insti­tute, fol­low SAALT on Twit­ter at @SAALTweets, or con­tact Almas Haider at almas@saalt.org

YLI Reflections: Combating Islamophobia with Rupa Palanki

My high school his­to­ry teacher, quot­ing Mark Twain, often said, “His­to­ry doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” For cen­turies in the Unit­ed States, minor­i­ty groups, rang­ing from East­ern Euro­pean immi­grants to Japan­ese Amer­i­cans, have faced dis­crim­i­na­tion from more estab­lished pop­u­la­tions due to a sense of “oth­er­ness” that they are invari­ably per­ceived to dis­sem­i­nate. This has result­ed in dark chap­ters of his­to­ry in a nation that prides itself as “the home of the free and the brave.” The recent rise in hatred against Mus­lims is just anoth­er iter­a­tion of the same sto­ry.

With the 9/11 attacks hap­pen­ing only three years after I was born, life, as I know it, has includ­ed a con­stant under­cur­rent of back­lash in the Unit­ed States against Mus­lims. At present, the cur­rent admin­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to relent­less­ly engage in anti-Mus­lim rhetoric and news head­lines con­tin­ue to blame Islam for select acts of vio­lence per­pet­u­at­ing false, neg­a­tive per­cep­tions of the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty. At school and in my city, I have per­son­al­ly wit­nessed how lack of a nuanced under­stand­ing breeds big­otry and dis­crim­i­na­tion. Many peo­ple in my home­town in Alaba­ma have nev­er left the state or inter­act­ed with Mus­lims before, and their bias towards Mus­lims stems from stereo­types that have been per­pe­trat­ed over gen­er­a­tions. And often at col­lege, I am the first South Asian Amer­i­can that my peers have con­versed with for an extend­ed peri­od of time, lead­ing them to ask ques­tions about my cul­ture, reli­gion, and lan­guage or mis­tak­en­ly iden­ti­fy­ing me as Mus­lim instead of Hin­du.

Because of this per­son­al expo­sure to islam­o­pho­bia, I devel­oped a desire to bet­ter under­stand the phe­nom­e­non and to equip myself to com­bat it with­in my com­mu­ni­ty. This, in part, was what moti­vat­ed me to apply for SAALT’s Young Lead­ers’ Insti­tute last sum­mer. Dur­ing the train­ing in Wash­ing­ton D.C., I devel­oped the orga­ni­za­tion­al and lead­er­ship tools nec­es­sary to car­ry out effec­tive change. Speak­ers like Noor Mir and Deepa Iyer shared fas­ci­nat­ing insights on dif­fer­ent aspects of islam­o­pho­bia that rein­forced the impor­tance of under­stand­ing it in the con­text of insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism like anti-black­ness and colo­nial­ism, as well as pro­vid­ed mean­ing­ful insights on the resilience and sol­i­dar­i­ty nec­es­sary to work in the social jus­tice field. I appre­ci­at­ed the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet activists and stu­dent lead­ers from oth­er col­leges and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss the speci­fici­ty of our expe­ri­ences as South Asian Amer­i­cans. I had nev­er real­ly had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to explore my iden­ti­ty as a South Asian Amer­i­can so exten­sive­ly before.

This pro­pelled me to begin to shape my own project that I car­ried out over the course of the aca­d­e­m­ic year to work against bias­es with­in my col­lege com­mu­ni­ty. This spring, I worked in con­junc­tion with oth­er South Asia Soci­ety mem­bers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia to plan a Sym­po­sium for Aware­ness of South Asian Issues (SASAI), a week-long inter­col­le­giate con­fer­ence to cre­ate aware­ness for social jus­tice issues and to encour­age activism in its many facets. The week’s events includ­ed a keynote address from 2014 Miss Amer­i­ca Nina Davu­luri, a fundrais­er for a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion fight­ing mal­nu­tri­tion in South Asia, and a series of dis­cus­sions cov­er­ing social issues like islam­o­pho­bia. With a mix of both fun cul­tur­al pro­gram­ming and deep polit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions, SASAI encour­aged par­tic­i­pa­tion not only from a diverse range of South Asians but through­out the minor­i­ty com­mu­ni­ty at Penn. By the end of the week, we found it inspir­ing to see that our efforts to make our cam­pus a more inclu­sive space for all were reward­ed.

Pho­tos from the aware­ness sym­po­sium Rupa helped orga­nize in the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia.

As the incred­i­bly pas­sion­ate, intel­li­gent, and social­ly con­scious indi­vid­u­als that made up my Young Lead­ers’ Insti­tute cohort car­ry out their projects over the course of this year, I hope to see vis­i­ble change with­in the com­mu­ni­ties that they tar­get, just as I hope that my actions have spurred. How­ev­er, our work can­not be done alone. As Pres­i­dent Oba­ma notably wrote in his final mes­sage to the Amer­i­can peo­ple as Com­man­der in Chief, “Amer­i­ca is not the project of any one per­son. The sin­gle most pow­er­ful word in our democ­ra­cy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the Peo­ple.’ ‘We shall over­come.’” Together, we must push forward the fight against islamophobia, for this is not a matter of one culture or religion or language or social class; it is a struggle for achieving equality for all people.

***

The views and opin­ions expressed in this arti­cle are those of the author and do not nec­es­sar­i­ly reflect the offi­cial pol­i­cy or posi­tion of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT). 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. Our ulti­mate vision is dig­ni­ty and full inclu­sion for all.

 

 

 

11th Annual NCSO Convening & Advocacy Day

Join us this May for a powerful convergence of NCSO leaders in Washington, D.C.!

The Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO) Con­ven­ing will gath­er over 100 rep­re­sen­ta­tives from our NCSO part­ner orga­ni­za­tions on May 9, 2018 in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. Not only will it pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build NCSO strength through strat­e­gy shar­ing and prob­lem-solv­ing, but we will work col­lec­tive­ly to expand knowl­edge on poli­cies and leg­is­la­tion tar­get­ing our com­mu­ni­ties. We have also orga­nized space to enhance our skills relat­ed to advo­ca­cy as well as make for region­al and issue based cau­cus­es.

On May 10, 2018 we will head to Capi­tol Hill for Advo­ca­cy Day. NCSO mem­bers will con­nect with gov­ern­ment offi­cials and Mem­bers of Con­gress. You will have mul­ti­ple oppor­tu­ni­ties to engage with pol­i­cy mak­ers, from a morn­ing Con­gres­sion­al Brief­ing to one-on-one meet­ings with Con­gres­sion­al offices in the after­noon.

To learn more about the 2018 NCSO Con­ven­ing and Advo­ca­cy Day, please review our FAQ . Then, register to attend the Annual NCSO Convening and Advocacy Day where you can con­nect in per­son with NCSO mem­bers and be a part of build­ing our col­lec­tive pow­er!

FAQs: NCSO Convening & Advocacy Day 2018

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Are the events acces­si­ble by pub­lic trans­porta­tion?

The NCSO Con­ven­ing will take place at the George­town Con­fer­ence Cen­ter. Advo­ca­cy Day will take place on Capi­tol Hill, and SAALT will pro­vide a shut­tle for all NCSO Con­ven­ing par­tic­i­pants to attend Advo­ca­cy Day.

What time are check-in and check-out at the George­town Con­fer­ence Cen­ter?

Check-in time to the Cen­ter is 4:00pm. Check-out time is 11:00am.

Are the events acces­si­ble for those with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties?

All event venues are acces­si­ble. Please con­tact almas@saalt.org with spe­cif­ic ques­tions or requests regard­ing phys­i­cal acces­si­bil­i­ty.

What is the dress code?

May 9th | NCSO Con­ven­ing: casual/business casu­al

May 10th | Advo­ca­cy Day: business/professional attire

 Will there be inter­preters avail­able for the events?

All events will be offered in Eng­lish. Reg­is­trants may request an inter­preter dur­ing the online reg­is­tra­tion process. For addi­tion­al in-lan­guage requests, please reach out to almas@saalt.org no lat­er than March 15, 2018.

 How will I get to the events?

The NCSO Con­ven­ing will take place at the George­town Con­fer­ence Cen­ter. Advo­ca­cy Day will take place on Capi­tol Hill, and SAALT will pro­vide a shut­tle for all NCSO Con­ven­ing par­tic­i­pants to attend Advo­ca­cy Day. Out­side of this, par­tic­i­pants are respon­si­ble for their pub­lic trans­porta­tion, taxi, and oth­er trav­el costs while attend­ing events.

Register here.

ALMAS HAIDER, DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS

Almas comes to SAALT as an expe­ri­enced grass­roots orga­niz­er and capac­i­ty builder. Her diverse port­fo­lio includes tenures with col­lec­tives, non-prof­its, and the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment, name­ly, the South Asian Net­work (SAN), the U.S. Depart­ment of State in their Edu­ca­tion and Cul­tur­al Affairs Bureau, Satrang (Los Ange­les, CA) and Khush D.C. (Wash­ing­ton, D.C.) Addi­tion­al­ly, she has also served on the steer­ing com­mit­tee of API Equal­i­ty-LA and the board of Nation­al Queer Asian Pacif­ic Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). Almas most recent­ly served as the Racial Jus­tice and Equi­ty Com­mit­tee Chair for NQAPIA.

As SAALT’s Direc­tor of Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ner­ships, Almas will work to expand SAALT’s work at the region­al lev­el with our com­mu­ni­ty part­ners in the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), par­tic­u­lar­ly around local advo­ca­cy and orga­niz­ing efforts.  She can be reached at almas@saalt.org