Dispatch from New Jersey: Town Hall and Legislative Visits!

In an effort to get the local South Asian com­mu­ni­ty engaged around immi­gra­tion reform, SAALT-NJ, along with com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, held a  ‘Town Hall for South Asians on Immi­gra­tion & Civ­il Rights’ in Jer­sey City on July 27th at the Five Cor­ners Library.   The event, part of the One Com­mu­ni­ty Unit­ed cam­paign, was the sec­ond in a series of com­mu­ni­ty forums that will be held nation­wide as a part of the cam­paign.

The town hall brought togeth­er not only a diverse group of folks with­in the com­mu­ni­ty, but also a diverse coali­tion of local com­mu­ni­ty part­ners, includ­ing: Amer­i­can Friends Ser­vice Com­mit­tee, Andolan, Asian Amer­i­can Legal Defense and Edu­ca­tion Fund, the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ), Govin­da San­skar Tem­ple, Man­avi, New Jer­sey Immi­grant Pol­i­cy Net­work, and the Sikh Coali­tion.

Although the focus of the dis­cus­sion at large was around immi­gra­tion reform, the con­ver­sa­tion cov­ered a vari­ety of issues, such as the effects of visa lim­i­ta­tions and back­logs on low-income work­ers and women fac­ing vio­lence in the home; and deten­tion cen­ters and the grow­ing num­ber of detained immi­grants. The con­ver­sa­tion was at once chal­leng­ing and emo­tion­al, as par­tic­i­pants shared per­son­al sto­ries illus­trat­ing how immi­gra­tion laws have neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed their lives and the lives of their loved ones.   Nev­er­the­less, the con­ver­sa­tion end­ed on a pos­i­tive note with ways to stay involved with the cam­paign, and to get more civi­cal­ly engaged around the immi­gra­tion reform con­ver­sa­tion.

In fact, on August 19th, SAALT mem­bers, along with coali­tion mem­bers from NJIPN and New Labor, con­duct­ed an in-dis­trict meet­ing with Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Don­ald Payne’s office in Newark, New Jer­sey.  Par­tic­i­pants met with a senior staff mem­ber at the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to dis­cuss issues around immi­gra­tion and health­care reform.

The del­e­ga­tion high­light­ed key con­cerns to both the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty and the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty at large, such as (1) the increase in deten­tion and depor­ta­tions post 9–11 and its impact on immi­grant fam­i­lies in the US; (2) fam­i­ly- and employ­ment-based visa back­logs and the need for just and humane immi­gra­tion reform to pre­vent fam­i­lies from being torn apart in the process; and  (3) more con­crete mea­sures in place for immi­grant inte­gra­tion to address issues such as lin­guis­tic and cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers in access­ing ser­vices, and, as a result, becom­ing active and par­tic­i­pat­ing mem­bers of the com­mu­ni­ty.

The meet­ing was a great expe­ri­ence – it illus­trat­ed to the mem­bers present the sig­nif­i­cance of civic engage­ment, and how impor­tant it is to reach out to our respec­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tives about issues con­cern­ing us. In a polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic cli­mate that seems so anti-immi­grant, it was cer­tain­ly refresh­ing to be able to sit down with the Rep­re­sen­ta­tive’s office to active­ly advo­cate for issues that deeply impact the immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty.  I look for­ward to meet­ing with oth­er local offices in the com­ing month and encour­age oth­ers to try to sched­ule meet­ings with your respec­tive Rep­re­sen­ta­tives while they are home for August recess.

To learn more about SAALT-NJ’s work, please email qudsia@saalt.org

Look­ing for ways to get involved? Here are some ideas:

• Call your mem­ber of Con­gress to express your sup­port for immi­gra­tion reform and strong civ­il rights poli­cies. Find out who your mem­ber of Con­gress is by vis­it­ing www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.

• The Cam­paign to Reform Immi­gra­tion for Amer­i­ca has launched a text mes­sag­ing cam­paign that sends alerts to par­tic­i­pants when a call to action, such as call­ing your Congressman/woman, is urgent­ly need­ed. To receive text mes­sage alerts, sim­ply text ‘jus­tice’ to 69866.

• Stay in touch with local and nation­al orga­ni­za­tions that work with the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.

• Share your immi­gra­tion or civ­il rights sto­ry with SAALT by fill­ing out this form or send­ing an email to saalt@saalt.org.

SAALT and Community Partners Issue Statement Regarding Recent Bias Crimes Targeting South Asians in New Jersey

You may be sur­prised to learn that near­ly 200,000 South Asians reside in the state of New Jer­sey.  SAALT’s New Jer­sey Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project devel­oped from a series of meet­ings in 2004 with South Asian orga­ni­za­tions in New Jer­sey, allies, and con­cerned South Asian indi­vid­u­als.  Through these dia­logues, it became clear that South Asian com­mu­ni­ties in New Jer­sey are under­served and large­ly voice­less in pol­i­cy debates. To learn more about the New Jer­sey Com­mu­ni­ty Empow­er­ment Project, or to read our report high­light­ing key issues affect­ing the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, “A Com­mu­ni­ty of Con­trasts: South Asians in New Jer­sey,” please check out SAALT’s local ini­tia­tives page.

In response to recent bias-crimes tar­get­ed towards the South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, SAALT, along with sev­er­al South Asian com­mu­ni­ty part­ners — Man­avi; South Asian Men­tal Health Aware­ness in Jer­sey (SAMHAJ); the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ); UNITED SIKHS; and the Sikh Coali­tion issued a joint state­ment con­demn­ing all bias crimes.  Read the state­ment below:

“We come togeth­er, as orga­ni­za­tions serv­ing South Asian com­mu­ni­ties here in New Jer­sey, to denounce the recent hate crimes and bias inci­dents that have tak­en place in our state.  The South Asian com­mu­ni­ty in New Jer­sey, with a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion of 200,000, has long con­front­ed bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, begin­ning in the 1980’s with the attacks per­pe­trat­ed by the ‘Dot­busters’ and the post‑9/11 back­lash.  In addi­tion, our orga­ni­za­tions — Man­avi; the Sikh Coali­tion; the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR-NJ); South Asian Men­tal Health Aware­ness in Jer­sey (SAMHAJ); and UNITED SIKHS — have observed a rise in New Jer­sey, which we believe has fos­tered an envi­ron­ment where bias inci­dents and hate crimes can occur.

Today, we stand in sol­i­dar­i­ty not only with the Gre­w­al fam­i­ly — vic­tims of a cross-burn­ing out­side their home; Mr. Ajit Singh Chi­ma — an elder­ly Sikh man who, on Octo­ber 30th, in Wayne, New Jer­sey, was vio­lent­ly punched and kicked in the face sev­er­al times by an uniden­ti­fied man, and as a result suf­fered sev­er­al frac­tures around his eyes and jaw; Gan­gadeep Singh — a fifth grade stu­dent who, on Octo­ber 8th, was attacked in Carteret, New Jer­sey while walk­ing home from school by an uniden­ti­fied masked assailant that threw him on the ground and cut off his hair — but with all sur­vivors of bias and hate crimes.

We stand togeth­er now because we must say no to any act of bias and intol­er­ance when it hap­pens.  We stand togeth­er to ask our elect­ed offi­cials and law enforce­ment agen­cies to pro­tect sur­vivors of hate crimes and to join us in con­demn­ing them.  As a vibrant seg­ment of New Jer­sey’s neigh­bor­hoods, schools, busi­ness­es, and non-prof­it sec­tors, South Asians raise our voic­es to call for jus­tice and equal­i­ty for all.”

Please join us for a march and ral­ly in sup­port of the Gre­w­al fam­i­ly on Sat­ur­day, Novem­ber 15th at 3PM in Hard­wick, New Jer­sey.  The ‘Uni­ty for the Com­mu­ni­ty’ March will start at the Munic­i­pal Build­ing and end at the Gre­w­al res­i­dence with a ral­ly. 

Satur­day, Novem­ber 5th, 3PM
Hard­wick Munic­i­pal Build­ing
40 Spring Val­ley Road
Hard­wick, NJ 07825
If you’d like to attend but do not have a ride, please con­tact Qudsia:
(qudsia@saalt.org) or call (201) 850‑3333.

Addi­tion­al­ly, if you’d like to learn more about bias and hate crimes, check out a new resource by SAALT:  “Know Your Rights Resource Address­ing Hate Crimes”