SAALT Releases Report Mapping Impact of COVID-19 on South Asian American Communities

Washington, DC., September 29, 2020: South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) released the report Unequal Con­se­quences: The Dis­parate Impact of COVID-19 Across South Asian Amer­i­cans today, high­light­ing the urgent need for fun­ders and pol­i­cy mak­ers to gath­er accu­rate dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data on South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in the U.S. to be able to under­stand and respond to the needs that have emerged since the onset of the pan­dem­ic.

The report exam­ines areas of the U.S. with among the largest South Asians pop­u­la­tions includ­ing New York, Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, and the Bay Area and Central Valley in California and draws pri­mar­i­ly on inter­views with com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers who are mem­bers of the Nation­al Coali­tion of South Asian Orga­ni­za­tions (NCSO), a nation­al com­mu­ni­ty sur­vey, and media reports. SAALT also launched an inter­ac­tive map and video tes­ti­mo­ni­als to fur­ther high­light the impact of the pan­dem­ic on South Asians.

Key find­ings of the report include:

  • South Asian Americans who were already vulnerable have been most directly impacted by the pandemic - whether due to their immi­gra­tion sta­tus, their expe­ri­ences with domes­tic vio­lence, liv­ing with under­ly­ing health con­di­tions, or unsafe work­ing envi­ron­ments. Every inter­vie­wee shared that, as a result, com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers are expe­ri­enc­ing men­tal health chal­lenges.
  • Data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are currently incomplete as sta­tis­tics are under count­ed in South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, often labeled as “oth­er Asian” or “unknown” race cat­e­gories. 
  • South Asians are at high risk if they contract COVID-19; they are four times more like­ly than the gen­er­al pop­u­la­tion of hav­ing heart dis­ease or dia­betes, putting them at greater risk of coro­n­avirus-caused death. Oth­er com­pound­ing risk fac­tors include mul­ti-gen­er­a­tional hous­ing, lack of lan­guage acces­si­ble pub­lic health mate­ri­als and gov­ern­ment resources, and insuf­fi­cient pro­tec­tions based on employ­ment or immi­gra­tion sta­tus. 
  • Every survivor-support organization SAALT interviewed explicitly named a drastic increase in gender-based domestic violence.
  •  Government agencies have neglected to provide Limited English Proficient (LEP) community members with culturally appropriate services and language accessible information, imped­ing access to gov­ern­ment ser­vices and relief funds.
  • 85% of respondents to SAALT’s community survey are worried about immigration - specif­i­cal­ly being able to trav­el out­side of the U.S., as well as anx­i­ety over recent exec­u­tive orders tar­get­ing green cards, H‑1B work visas, and stu­dent visas.
  • South Asian American community organizations are filling in the gaps in access to health, food, hous­ing, and employ­ment as a rem­e­dy to fail­ing gov­ern­ment social infra­struc­ture. 

Lak­sh­mi Sri­daran, SAALT’s Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, said “One of the most impor­tant lessons from water­shed moments of cri­sis, like 9/11, the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, and now the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, is that South Asian Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties have deeply divid­ed expe­ri­ences. The South Asian pop­u­la­tions in the U.S. who were pri­mar­i­ly tar­get­ed after 9/11, most impact­ed by this Admin­is­tra­tion’s racist poli­cies, and most vul­ner­a­ble to COVID-19 are also the pop­u­la­tions most mar­gin­al­ized with­in our own com­mu­ni­ties because of immi­gra­tion sta­tus, class, caste, reli­gion, and LGBT + iden­ti­ty. While devel­op­ing a shared nar­ra­tive across these dif­fer­ences is valu­able for build­ing col­lec­tive pow­er, only by cen­ter­ing the expe­ri­ences of these pop­u­la­tions do we tru­ly under­stand the mag­ni­tude and range of impact of these crises.”