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

# # #

PRESS RELEASE: SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing “Detention, Hunger Strikes, Deported to Death”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEAESE

April 2, 2019

On April 2, SAALT and immigrant justice partners UndocuBlack Network, Detention Watch Network, United We Dream, Freedom for Immigrants, Sikh Coalition, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF) hosted a Congressional Briefing on Capitol Hill to draw immediate attention to the rise in South Asians seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape violence, persecution, and repression alongside migrants from African, Southeast Asian, Central American, and Latin American countries.

Lakshmi Sridaran, Interim Co-Executive Director of SAALT opened the briefing saying, “We are all here today to say loud and clear that immigration is a Black issue, immigration is a LatinX issue, immigration is a South Asian issue, immigration is an LGBTQ issue. It is the practice of solidarity and local organizing that we hope to uplift today for Capitol Hill to see, to understand immigrant detention, and to address the litany of violations and abuses faced by detained individuals.”

A panel of expert community leaders and advocates including Jennifer Apodaca, of the Detained Migrant Solidarity Committee in El Paso; Ruby Kaur, an attorney for two of the #ElPaso9; Deep Singh, Executive Director of Jakara Movement; Patrice Lawrence, National Policy Director of UndocuBlack Network; Carlos Hidalgo, Immigration Rights Activist and member of Freedom for Immigrants leadership council; and Sanaa Abrar, Advocacy Director of United We Dream highlighted a series of abuses and civil rights violations documented in detention facilities from Adelanto, CA to El Paso, TX. They cited cases of medical neglect, inadequate language access, denial of religious accommodations, retaliation for hunger strikes, and the practice of solitary confinement. Advocates urged Members of Congress and their staff to take immediate action through specific legislation, oversight, and appropriations recommendations.

Quotes from Members of Congress:

Representative Judy Chu (CA-27): “I want to commend SAALT for putting together today’s briefing to highlight the diverse communities impacted by the xenophobic policies of the Trump Administration and our broken immigration and detention system. Over the past few years, we have seen a spike in the number of individuals seeking asylum from India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal who have suffered from neglect and abuse at the hands of our own federal government. This is unacceptable. As Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, I will continue to work with my colleagues to push for greater transparency, accountability, and oversight of these facilities.”

Representative Karen Bass (CA-37), Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus: “The separation of immigrant families is a violation of human rights. This outrageous policy along with the Trump Administration’s attempt to deport individuals living in the United States, many of whom now know the U.S. as their home, must be addressed immediately. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Tri-Caucus on a permanent solution and a path to citizenship for many of the families impacted by these policies.”

Rep Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) said: “Far too often, I hear from Americans who are horrified by the Trump administration’s treatment of people seeking safety at our border. I am grateful to South Asian Americans Leading Together and others for bringing continued attention to the Trump Administration’s terrible detention and enforcement policies. I saw firsthand how these policies are hurting people when I visited detainees at a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. We must do everything we can to protect the human rights of every individual. When I learned about the hunger strikes in El Paso, I joined Rep. Escobar in calling for an investigation of the conditions at ICE detention facilities. My colleagues and I will continue pushing for strong oversight that holds this administration accountable for its appalling treatment of those seeking refuge and asylum.”

Representative Grace Meng (NY-6): “I want to thank SAALT for its leadership in standing up for the South Asian community, and I thank all the partner organizations that are fighting tirelessly for those who have been unjustly abused in detention facilities throughout the United States. The U.S. has always been a nation of immigrants but President Trump’s policies and rhetoric toward those who came to our country in search of a better life has been cruel and un-American. He has made the targeting of immigrants a central part of his administration while persistently lobbing bigoted, verbal attacks at immigrant communities. From separating families to feeding only pork sandwiches to a Muslim detainee, the administration’s actions have been abhorrent. Our founding fathers would be repulsed by what has been taking place over the past two years. As a Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, I will continue to hold President Trump and his administration accountable for the immigration policies that they have implemented. My priority is to end these inhumane immigration enforcement practices, and ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”

Representative Mark Takano (CA-41): “I’m grateful for this strong coalition of immigrant rights groups working together to shed light on the injustices and cruelty immigrants are facing under this Administration. I share with them extreme concern about how immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers are being treated at the hands of our government. Congress must continue to exert its oversight powers to hold the Trump Administration accountable and bring humanity back to our immigration system.”

Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16): “For the past two years, our country has witnessed an unprecedented attack against our immigrant community. From separating families to force-feeding detainees, the Trump administration has constantly implemented policies that violate our laws and American values. That is why, now more than ever, we need to raise our voices and share the stories of those impacted by cruelty in order to hold the administration accountable and ensure this pattern of abuse comes to an end.”

For a recorded stream of the Briefing, please click here.

In Collaboration with:

Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) | Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) | Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) | Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus | Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) | Representative Suzanne Bonamici (OR-1) |Representative Gil Cisneros (CA-39) | Representative Judy Chu (CA-27)| Representative Veronica Escobar (TX-16) | Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7) | Representative Barbara Lee (CA-13) | Representative Grace Meng (NY-6) | Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) | Representative Mark Pocan (WI-2) | Representative Mark Takano (CA-41)

Honorary Co-hosts:

Senator Ben Cardin (MD) | Senator Kamala Harris (CA) | Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)

Contact: sophia@saalt.org

 

NAKASEC, SAALT, and SEARAC Welcome Introduction of American Dream and Promise Act

Washington, D.C.: Asian American organizations welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act. The bill, introduced by Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA 40), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY 7), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY 9), provides a majority of undocumented immigrants eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and individuals with status under the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) programs a pathway to citizenship.

There are more than 11.5 million undocumented immigrants, 1.7 million of whom are Asian American. The top five countries of origin for Asian American undocumented individuals are India, China, South Korea, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The legislation would protect over 2 million individuals from detention and deportation by creating a permanent pathway to citizenship for these populations. Furthermore, approximately 120,000 Asian American DREAMERs and 15,000 Nepali Americans who currently live in the United States through the TPS program would benefit from the process created in this bill.

Quyen Dinh, Executive Director of SEARAC, states:

We applaud the leadership of Reps. Roybal-Allard, Velazquez, and Clarke for introducing this bill. It is an important step for immigrant communities and, if passed, would provide more than 9,000 Vietnamese Americans with a permanent pathway to citizenship. Our communities are hopeful that this act will create a strong foundation and pave the way for additional legislation that liberates all members of our communities from the fear heightened detentions and deportations inflict. And as Congress moves this bill forward, we must ensure that we do not divide immigrant communities into those deserving and undeserving of protections by utilizing only model immigrant narratives. SEARAC will continue to work with members of Congress to pass the American Dream and Promise Act and fix our fundamentally broken immigration system to create humane immigration processes that protect Southeast Asian American families from the trauma of detention and deportation and reunite our families in the United States.”

Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT, states:

We welcome the introduction of the American Dream and Promise Act, sets out to provide a long awaited pathway to citizenship for over two million individuals, including those with DACA, TPS, and DED. The South Asian community in the United States alone has over 23,000 Dreamers and 15,000 Nepali Americans with TPS who will directly benefit from this legislation. While Congress embarks on this important step, we will continue to follow the leadership of DACA, TPS, and DED holders, who advocate for policies that would uplift all – rather than legislation that would benefit one immigrant community at the expense of another. We must not allow any compromises that would undermine this hard work and deliver this bill’s protections for the price of increased enforcement and other harmful and unnecessary additions. We look forward to building on this legislation to improve our entirely broken immigration system to ensure that all immigrant families are protected from detention, deportation, and denaturalization.

Birdie Park, DACA Recipient with NAKASEC, states:

We are excited about forward motion in Congress for immigrant youth, TPS holders, and those with DED. We call upon our members of Congress to be courageous and not negotiate anything harmful for our communities onto this bill.”

 

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.

Daily Buzz 3.11.09

1. Bollywood hits college campuses

2. Bobby Jindal: Taking Us Backwards– A South Asian woman says “No thanks”

3. To go with the great Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun, another piece about how detention and deportation hurts immigrant children

4. Dhaka resident describes the BDR mutiny

5. Gambling and the Asian American community

Call out for Guest Bloggers in March for the SAALT Spot – FOCUS ON IMMIGRATION RAIDS AND DETENTION

SAALT wants to hear from activists and community members about the relevant issues of the day through our blog, the SAALT Spot.

For the month of March, we are focusing on the topic of immigration raids and detention and their impact on the South Asian community. You don’t need to be an immigration expert; we are interested in what people throughout the country and community are thinking and talking about.

Things you can consider when composing a blog post:

-Immigration enforcement has been on the rise in recent years and include both workplace and residential raids. In fact, a recent raid, the first since President Barack Obama’s inauguration, took place on February 24th in Bellingham, WA, where 28 workers were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at a engine manufacturing plant.

-Immigration raids tear families apart, often separating U.S. citizen children from their immigrant parents.

-There are now approximately 400 detention and deportation facilities all around the country (an interactive map can be found here).

-A group of the Indian guest workers who allege they were exploited by their employer in the Gulf Coast and are engaged in a struggle for justice were caught up in an immigration workplace raid in North Dakota. 23 workers were arrested during that raid.

– Other stories of South Asians in detention and deportation proceedings like Harvey Sachdev, a diagnosed schizophrenic deported to India who has since gone missing

As the issue of workplace raids and immigration detention conditions becomes the topic of Congressional legislation and conversations around the country, blog posts could focus on:

-How have immigration enforcement procedures affected South Asians?

-What issues and provisions should South Asians look for in government legislation and policies that address immigration enforcement?

-How can the South Asian community make our positions heard around immigration enforcement policies?

Ideally, blog posts will be between 1-3 paragraphs and each guest-blogger will write 2-3 entries in the course of the month. If you want to link to interesting articles or blog posts, please include them in the text of the composition. All entries should be emailed to mou@saalt.org on the Tuesday of each week in February that you can contribute. Entries may be edited for length.

Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported back to India 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

This case came to our attention through Dimple Rana at Deported Diaspora. In a tragic turn of event, Harvey Sachdev, who has lived in the United States for more than 40 years, was deported to India even though his case is still open on appeal. Unfortunately, Sachdev suffers from schizophrenia and has been missing since his arrival in New Delhi. Read the press release about Sachdev’s case below.

Want to do something to to demand human rights for immigrants who are in detention and who regularly face due process violations? Take a minute to sign this petition to President Obama encouraging him to consider these violations as he staffs and restructures the Department of Homeland Security (the Executive agency that oversees many key operations including Immigration and Customs Enforcement) here <http://www.rightsworkinggroup.org/?q=DHSPetition>

PRESS RELEASE:
Mentally Ill Man with Open Case, Deported 2 days After Obama Inaugurated, is Now Missing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, (213) 389-2077, ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com

Washington DC Area Family of Mentally Ill Man Fears for His Life as He is Missing in India Following Deportation
ICE executes deportation of schizophrenic man on January 22nd, despite his case still being under review, that he is the son, brother and father of U.S. citizens and that his deportation could result in his death.

Washington D.C.  –  January 28, 2009 – The Sachdev family is living a nightmare as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported their family member, Harvey Sachdev, to India on January 22nd. Harvey was a resident of the United States for nearly 40 years, and is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Harvey is a son, a brother and a father of U.S. citizens. His case is still open on appeal before the Fourth Circuit court. Nevertheless ICE deported him to India on January 22nd, 2009.

The trauma of Harvey’s prolonged detention and recent deportation made him highly unstable. He is now missing in New Delhi, India, a city of 11 million people. It is an unfamiliar city to him, where he has no family and no access to medication. According to his brother and sisters, “Our brother’s deportation is likely a death sentence for him, and we also fear our mother’s life. The stress and the worry has put her life in peril.”

Having pushed his deportation date back several times, ICE initially notified the family of the scheduled deportation, but failed to confirm it, so necessary arrangements could be made in India. After repeated calls on the day of his deportation, ICE only told the family he was no longer in detention. The family also repeatedly attempted to get confirmation from the India Consulate Offices and Embassy, which had to issue travel documents, but received no information.

Harvey came to the U.S. with his parents at the age of twelve. He was valedictorian of his high school and earned a scholarship to college. Tragically, in his late teens he developed schizophrenia and has battled mental illness for all of his adult life.

Due to his mental illness, he was convicted of inappropriate and aberrant but non-violent crimes. The most serious was indecent exposure, but he was not guilty of any physical contact with any person, nor of any violence. There is no indication that any court thought that the punishment for his crimes should result in deportation to a country that he can’t remember, where he has no friends or family or any connection whatsoever.

His parents and his family are U.S. citizens. Two of his family members are serving in the military, with one completing two tours of duty in Iraq. He married a U.S. citizen and has a U.S. citizen daughter who is now twenty-two years old.

Mr. Sachdev is mentally ill and requires care, which his family is able and willing to provide. He has no one in India and does not have the ability to survive on his own.

Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW, an Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. states that “People with mental and developmental disabilities who are deported can also face a grave risk of harassment and even persecution in their home countries – harassment and persecution based solely on their disabilities.”

“Without family or medical support, deportation can become a death sentence. Suicide and attempted suicide are not uncommon among deported people with mental illnesses. Access to medicine can be limited and people are often deported without any information on their medical background.  Deportation of the mentally ill is cruel and unusual punishment,” says Dimple Rana of Deported Diaspora, an organization working with people deported from the U.S.

For more information, contact:
Neena Sachdev – Harvey Sachdev’s sister, nks29@cox.net
Greg Pleasants, JD/MSW – Equal Justice Works Fellow and Staff Attorney at Mental Health Advocacy Services, Inc. (213) 389-2077 ext. 19, gpleasants@mhas-la.org
Dimple Rana, Co-Founder and Director, Deported Diaspora, (781) 521-4544, dimple.scorpio@gmail.com

Night of 1,000 Conversations is here!

Tonight, “conversations” (ie. gatherings of people that meet to share stories) are being held in communities across the country. SAALT is excited to be participating in one such conversation being held in Washington, DC. The ultimate goal of A Night of 1,000 Conversations is to get people talking about how government policies affect the everyday lives of Americans. The focus of the conversation tonight (at the All Souls Church, Unitarian near the Columbia Heights metro, for those of you in the DC area) is sharing the experiences of different immigrant communities around policies and issues like backlogs in the citizenship and naturalization process; inhumane detention and deportation procedures; home and workplace raids and more. SAALT is working with All Souls Unitarian Social Justice Ministries, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, CASA de Maryland, Virginia New Majority and Rights Working Group to organize this conversation and we welcome anyone in the Washington, DC area to attend. The event goes from 6:30pm – 9:00pm and begins with iftar/dinner and includes a panel discussion with experts and affected community members followed by small group discussions. One of the featured panelists is journalist Laila Al-Arian, the author of Collateral Damage, who will discuss the detention of her father, Sami Al-Arian. If you would like to attend this event, please join us! The iftar and remarks will begin promptly at 6:30pm.

Map of location

Flyer for Night of 1,000 ConversationsTo learn more about Night of 1,000 Conversations, visit www.nightof1,000conversations.org 

 

. (This website also lists conversations happening in other locations around the country.)