SAALT Releases Guide for South Asian Voters

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Octo­ber 12, 2016
Con­tact: Suman Raghu­nathan, suman@saalt.org

With exact­ly 4 weeks left before Elec­tion Day, South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), the coun­try’s only nation­al South Asian advo­ca­cy orga­ni­za­tion, today released YOUR VOICE YOUR VOTE: A Guide for South Asian Vot­ers.  The vot­er guide pro­vides prospec­tive vot­ers with cru­cial infor­ma­tion on the can­di­dates’ stances on pri­or­i­ty issues for our com­mu­ni­ty, South Asian vot­ing trends, and impor­tant resources to cast informed votes this Novem­ber.  The guide is also intend­ed to encour­age South Asians to come out to vote in sig­nif­i­cant num­bers.

“Our com­mu­ni­ty’s voic­es and votes have pow­er.  South Asians are the most rapid­ly grow­ing demo­graph­ic group nation­wide, with over 4.3 mil­lion com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers liv­ing and work­ing in the U.S.,” said Suman Raghu­nathan, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of SAALT.  “Our new vot­er guide pro­vides essen­tial infor­ma­tion for South Asians as they take their right­ful place in our democ­ra­cy.  We want our com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers to make informed deci­sions at the bal­lot box, and to know where the can­di­dates stand on the issues.”

The hate vio­lence and xeno­pho­bic rhetoric that our com­mu­ni­ty con­fronts every day came into sharp focus at the sec­ond Pres­i­den­tial debate on Octo­ber 9, when Gor­bah Hamed, a Pales­tin­ian Amer­i­can, asked both can­di­dates how they would address ris­ing Islam­o­pho­bia in the U.S. and “the con­se­quences of being labeled as a threat to the coun­try after the elec­tion is over?”  The ques­tion, sober­ing in its real­i­ty, remains a per­ma­nent fix­ture in the hearts and minds of mil­lions of South Asians nation­wide, and for good rea­son.  SAALT’s Sep­tem­ber 2014 report, Under Sus­pi­cion, Under Attack, tracked a near­ly 40% increase in xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric from our pre­vi­ous 2010 report.  Over 90% of these com­ments were moti­vat­ed by anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment.  Our report also doc­u­ment­ed 76 inci­dents of hate vio­lence against our com­mu­ni­ties from Jan­u­ary 2011 through April 2014, with over 80% of these inci­dents moti­vat­ed by anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment.  SAALT has been track­ing inci­dents of hate vio­lence and xeno­pho­bic polit­i­cal rhetoric for the last two years and will do so through the elec­tions.  SAALT’s vot­er guide pro­vides where the can­di­dates stand on these impor­tant pri­or­i­ties.

These urgent issues under­pinned SAALT’s part­ner­ship with MTV on the #BeyondThe­Wall project, a ground­break­ing inter­ac­tive video instal­la­tion show­cased in New York’s Her­ald Square on Octo­ber 10.  #BeyondThe­Wall pro­vid­ed a dig­i­tal forum to go beyond the cur­rent anti-immi­grant, xeno­pho­bic pub­lic dis­course and high­light indi­vid­ual sto­ries and per­spec­tives on immi­gra­tion reform, race and diver­si­ty in the Unit­ed States.  Through celebri­ties telling sto­ries about the per­son­al chal­lenges they’ve faced with race and immi­gra­tion, to user-gen­er­at­ed sub­mis­sions on social media, #BeyondThe­Wall carved a mean­ing­ful space for con­ver­sa­tion on these impor­tant issues.  One such sub­mis­sion was a video of Hina, whose fam­i­ly came to the U.S. for med­ical treat­ment for her sis­ter, and who over­stayed their visa due to the life-sav­ing treat­ment she was receiv­ing.  Hina’s chal­lenges as a DACA recip­i­ent are unfor­get­table and touch on the real­i­ties thou­sands of South Asians face nation­wide.  SAALT’s vot­er guide pro­vides the can­di­dates’ posi­tions on this issue as well.

As the fastest grow­ing demo­graph­ic in the nation, South Asians have an impor­tant voice in this year’s elec­tions.  Our vot­er guide pro­vides vital infor­ma­tion for South Asians as they enter the bal­lot box­es this Novem­ber, and indeed as they remain a sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture of the Amer­i­can land­scape now and into the future.