SAALT Declines to Attend Today’s Department of Justice Hate Crimes Summit


South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a nation­al civ­il rights and racial jus­tice orga­ni­za­tion, will not par­tic­i­pate in today’s Hate Crimes Sum­mit orga­nized by the U.S. Depart­ment of Jus­tice due to the Trump Admin­is­tra­tion’s ongo­ing efforts to dis­re­gard and under­mine the civ­il rights of all Amer­i­cans, regard­less of our appear­ance, how we pray, or where we were born. Illus­trat­ing a con­tin­ued denial of civ­il rights on the part of the cur­rent Admin­is­tra­tion, today marks the first day that par­tial imple­men­ta­tion of the Mus­lim Ban resumes after the Supreme Court’s announce­ment ear­li­er this week.

SAALT and oth­er invit­ed orga­ni­za­tions for today’s Sum­mit learned only 36 hours ago that Attor­ney Gen­er­al Jeff Ses­sions will pro­vide open­ing remarks this morn­ing and will not answer ques­tions from press or atten­dees. Giv­en that this serves as a pho­to oppor­tu­ni­ty, we are not con­vinced the Sum­mit will be a forum for sub­stan­tive dia­logue. Com­bat­ing hate vio­lence is cen­tral to SAALT’s mis­sion, and we have been deeply com­mit­ted to devel­op­ing solu­tions that stem the tide of vio­lence tar­get­ing South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Arab, and Mid­dle East­ern Amer­i­cans since our incep­tion.

Fur­ther­more, SAALT is pro­found­ly dis­turbed by the infra­struc­ture this Admin­is­tra­tion has cre­at­ed to com­bat hate crimes. Estab­lished in a Feb­ru­ary 9 exec­u­tive order, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice’s Task Force on Crime Reduc­tion and Pub­lic Safe­ty has made it a top pri­or­i­ty to crim­i­nal­ize undoc­u­ment­ed immi­grants. Uncon­scionably, the Depart­ment of Jus­tice has embed­ded a “Hate Crimes Sub­com­mit­tee” into this task­force, equat­ing the crim­i­nal­i­ty of per­pe­tra­tors of hate vio­lence with those who are undoc­u­ment­ed.

Among their many trans­gres­sions, this Depart­ment of Jus­tice has deeply under­mined the trust that is foun­da­tion­al for com­mu­ni­ties to feel com­fort­able report­ing hate crimes to law enforce­ment. From issu­ing and repeat­ed­ly appeal­ing an uncon­sti­tu­tion­al Mus­lim Ban to pub­li­cal­ly sup­port­ing Texas’ dra­con­ian state immi­gra­tion enforce­ment law, SB 4, to rolling back police account­abil­i­ty mea­sures, this Admin­is­tra­tion has broad­cast a very clear mes­sage to all of our com­mu­ni­ties. Giv­en this real­i­ty, we believe that the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s remarks and the sub­se­quent dis­cus­sion today will only amount to win­dow dress­ing.

South Asian, Mus­lim, Sikh, Hin­du, Mid­dle East­ern, and Arab Amer­i­cans are expe­ri­enc­ing lev­els of hate vio­lence not seen since the year after 9/11. In the sev­en months since the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion SAALT has doc­u­ment­ed 104 inci­dents of vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties. We believe dis­crim­i­na­to­ry gov­ern­ment poli­cies, exec­u­tive orders, and lit­i­ga­tion have active­ly con­tributed to the very rise in hate vio­lence that the Depart­ment of Jus­tice will attempt to dis­cuss today.

SAALT has a long and suc­cess­ful his­to­ry of engage­ment with the Depart­ment of Jus­tice on behalf of our com­mu­ni­ties across numer­ous admin­is­tra­tions. How­ev­er, the cur­rent Depart­ment of Jus­tice con­tin­ues to be at the cen­ter of poli­cies that crim­i­nal­ize our com­mu­ni­ties. We have worked with our allies with­in and out­side gov­ern­ment for over fif­teen years to improve poli­cies on report­ing and inves­ti­gat­ing hate crimes. SAALT remains deeply com­mit­ted to being root­ed in com­mu­ni­ty and build­ing our pow­er with every­one impact­ed by the ris­ing tide of vio­lence in our nation. We will con­tin­ue to fight the dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies, exec­u­tive orders, and lit­i­ga­tion com­ing out of this Admin­is­tra­tion.

Con­tact:  Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, SAALT.