Celebrating 5 Years! Take Two!

Con­tin­u­ing our series com­mem­o­rat­ing the fifth anniver­sary of the open­ing of SAALT’s first staffed office, let’s hear from two SAALT Board mem­bers, Lavanya Sithanan­dam and Anous­ka Ched­die (respec­tive­ly).

“Five years ago SAALT opened its first office and hired staff in New York City.  In that short time, SAALT has grown tremen­dous­ly.  My involve­ment with SAALT began dur­ing those same five years, and what this orga­ni­za­tion has giv­en me is invalu­able.   SAALT has pro­vid­ed me with the inspi­ra­tion and the tools to speak up as a physi­cian activist, advo­cat­ing on behalf of immi­grants both inside and out­side of my med­ical prac­tice.   I con­tin­ue to be inspired and moti­vat­ed by the hard work of the staff, the ded­i­ca­tion of the NCSO mem­bers, and the vision of the orga­ni­za­tion.  I feel con­fi­dent that SAALT will con­tin­ue its won­der­ful work over the next five years and will become an even stronger voice both with­in and out­side our South Asian com­mu­ni­ty.”

“SAALT is com­mu­ni­ty. It’s about col­lab­o­ra­tion.  SAALT is trust. It’s about par­tic­i­pa­tion.  SAALT is empow­er­ment. It’s about rep­re­sen­ta­tion. SAALT is inclu­sive. It’s about includ­ing the dias­po­ra.

With SAALT, I know that local grass­roots groups have a nation­al orga­ni­za­tion that they can work with to ensure our com­mu­ni­ty has a strong pro­gres­sive voice that is heard in DC and around the coun­try.

This is just the begin­ning.”

SAALT in May: Community Events, New Faces, SAALT Speaks

SAALT top bar

SAALT Community Connection - May 2009

In This Issue

SAALT Speaks

New Faces in SAALT

Community Calendar

Be the Change

Summit Wrap-Up

Support SAALT in 2009!

The SAALT Com­mu­ni­ty Con­nec­tion is a month­ly e‑newsletter that focus­es on com­mu­ni­ty news and events. To learn more about SAALT’s com­mu­ni­ty and pol­i­cy work, con­tact us at saalt@saalt.org

South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

SAALT Speaks on First 100 Days, Immigration, and Citizenship

  • lavPriya Murthy, Pol­i­cy Direc­tor, appeared as a guest on WPFW Pacifica Radio in April to dis­cuss immi­gra­tion and civ­il rights issues affect­ing South Asians.
  • Deepa Iyer, Exec­u­tive Direc­tor, appeared as a guest on Beneath the Surface radio show on KPFK 90.7FM in Los Ange­les, CA with Hamid Khan to dis­cuss cit­i­zen­ship and immi­gra­tion reform on April 23rd.
  • Deepa Iyer spoke on the Applied Research Cen­ter’s “Race in Review: First 100 Days” con­fer­ence call on April 28th.
  • Lavanya Sithanan­dam, SAALT Board Mem­ber, appeared on “That Fresh Radio Piece” on May 18th on WMUC 88.1FM in Col­lege Park, MD to dis­cuss the effects of recent immi­gra­tion enforce­ment efforts and raids on the chil­dren she sees as a pedi­a­tri­cian in Tako­ma Park.

Upcoming:

  • Deepa Iyer will be speak­ing at Georgia State University at the Immi­gra­tion & Human Rights Sym­po­sium on June 17th, 2009.
  • Deepa Iyer will be speak­ing at the “Know Your Community: A Discussion of Issues and Trends Affecting Asian Pacific Americans in Washington DC and Beyond" spon­sored by the Asian Pacif­ic Amer­i­can Bar Asso­ci­a­tion — Wash­ing­ton DC on June 3rd.

New Faces at SAALT

SAALT wel­comes Aaditi Dubale as the new SAALT Fel­low! She will be work­ing on Be the Change 2009, our Nation­al Day of Ser­vice, as well as sup­port­ing fundrais­ing and devel­op­ment efforts. Aadi­ti can be reached at aaditi@saalt.org.

SAALT also wel­comes our sum­mer interns:

Ashley Vij from George Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty
Niralee Shah from Williams Col­lege
Zara Haq from Amer­i­can Uni­ver­si­ty Wash­ing­ton Col­lege of Law

SAALT bids a fond farewell to Aparna Kothary, Fundrais­ing and Devel­op­ment Assis­tant. Aparna’s work at SAALT advanced the devel­op­ment of an indi­vid­ual mem­ber base, helped us to iden­ti­fy new fundrais­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, and expand­ed Be the Change — our Nation­al Day of Ser­vice.

Community Calendar

BTC09May 30th - New Jersey SAALT Circle Service project
Join the SAALT Cir­cle for a com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice project with ‘The Shar­ing Place’, a food pantry at St. Pauls’ Luther­an Church in Jer­sey City.  We’ll be prepar­ing, pack­ing, and serv­ing break­fast and lunch to the local com­mu­ni­ty.  Come out and BE THE CHANGE!


The Shar­ing Place — St. Luther­ans Church

440 Hobo­ken Avenue (five cor­ners) in Jer­sey City, NJ


Please RSVP by May 26th at
qudsia@saalt.org. Space is lim­it­ed — sign up now!

August 14th - August 16th: Transgress, Transform, Transcend - A Nation­al Con­fer­ence of Les­bian, Gay, Bisex­u­al, Trans­gen­der, and Queer (LGBTQ) Asian Amer­i­cans, South Asians and Pacif­ic Islanders (API)

Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton in Seat­tle, WA
Reg­is­tra­tion infor­ma­tion is avail­able online at: http://www.nqapia.org

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund presents The Asian American Vote 2008

Dur­ing the 2008 Pres­i­den­tial Elec­tions, 16,665 Asian Amer­i­can vot­ers were sur­veyed as part of AALDE­F’s nation­al mul­ti­lin­gual exit poll.  The exit poll was the largest non­par­ti­san sur­vey of its kind in the nation and was con­duct­ed in twelve Asian lan­guages and Eng­lish across 39 cities in 11 states.  At these spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tions across the coun­try, com­par­a­tive infor­ma­tion will be giv­en about the Asian Amer­i­can vote in the Pres­i­den­tial and Con­gres­sion­al elec­tions, con­cerns about key issues, first-time vot­ers, and pro­files of the Asian Amer­i­can vote by eth­nic­i­ty, par­ty enroll­ment, nativ­i­ty, age, and Eng­lish pro­fi­cien­cy.  For more information or to attend any of these presentations, contact jyang@aaldef.org or call 800.966.5946, www.aaldef.org

  • June 8 at 12:30 PM — The Mass­a­chu­setts Asian Amer­i­can Vote (Boston, MA)
  • June 8 at 5:30 PM (Low­ell, MA)
  • June 11 at 6:30 PM — The Mary­land Asian Amer­i­can Vote (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Rockville, MD)
  • June 12 at 2:00PM — The Asian Amer­i­can Vote (mul­ti­state) (co-spon­sored by SAALT)(Wash­ing­ton, DC)
  • June 17 and 18 at 6:30 PM- The Vir­ginia Asian Amer­i­can Vote (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Rich­mond, VA)
  • June 18 at 11:30 AM (co-spon­sored by SAALT) (Annan­dale, VA)
  • August 8 (time TBA) — The Chi­nese Amer­i­can Vote (San Fran­cis­co, CA)

Check out events on SAALT's Community Calendar.calendar

SAALT staff are avail­able to speak at your stu­dent orga­ni­za­tion meet­ings, con­fer­ences, and com­mu­ni­ty events on top­ics includ­ing immi­grant rights, South Asians in Amer­i­ca, civic engage­ment, and immi­gra­tion. Please email us at saalt@saalt.org for more infor­ma­tion.

Get Ready for Be the Change 2009 - National Day of Service!

BTC09What are you doing on Saturday, October 3rd?

1) Host a Be the Change event on your campus — If your cam­pus tra­di­tion­al­ly hosts a Be the Change event or if you would like to start one on your cam­pus, please fill out this form by May 30th and we will send you a planning guide and connect you to the national event.

2) Host a Be the Change event in your city- Join or start a plan­ning team in your city. As a mem­ber of the plan­ning team, you will be coor­di­nat­ing ser­vice events, recruit­ing vol­un­teers, and con­nect­ing with oth­er plan­ning teams around the coun­try. Please fill out this form by May 30th and we will connect you with others in your city who are interested in planning a Be the Change event.  Our core cities this year are: Wash­ing­ton DC, New York City, South Bay, San Fran­cis­co, Atlanta, and Boston. We also wel­come oth­er cities to hold Be the Change events.

3) Join SAALT as a National Partner for Be the Change- If your orga­ni­za­tion, pro­fes­sion­al asso­ci­a­tion, or youth group would like to part­ner with SAALT, local­ly or nation­al­ly, please email us at btc2009@saalt.org by May 30th.

South Asian Summit Roundup

summitDid you miss the Summit?

  • Lis­ten to pod­casts of the ses­sions here
  • View pic­tures from the Sum­mit here
  • Hear from par­tic­i­pants in Sum­mit Snap­shots here
  • Read entries from the SAALT Spot about the Sum­mit here

Make A Donation to
Support SAALT's Work in 2009 Today!

Are you a SAALT mem­ber yet?


If not, we urge you to become a member today. By becom­ing a SAALT mem­ber, you not only receive ben­e­fits (such as our annu­al newslet­ter and dis­counts at events and gath­er­ings), but the sat­is­fac­tion of being part of a nation­al non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion that address­es civ­il and immi­grant rights issues fac­ing South Asians in Amer­i­ca.

Do you know some­one who would be inter­est­ed in learn­ing about SAALT? For­ward them this email by click­ing here:

Forward this email


South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT) is a nation­al, non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to fos­ter­ing full and equal par­tic­i­pa­tion by South Asians in all aspects of Amer­i­can civic and polit­i­cal life through a social jus­tice frame­work that includes advo­ca­cy, coali­tion-build­ing, com­mu­ni­ty edu­ca­tion, and lead­er­ship devel­op­ment.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

“Failing Families” op-ed in Baltimore Sun

Mont­gomery Coun­ty, MD, where the SAALT offices are locat­ed, is a vibrant com­mu­ni­ty with immi­grants from around the world. This op-ed from Dr. Lavanya Sithanan­dam, a pedi­a­tri­cian and trav­el doc­tor based in Tako­ma Park, shows how immi­gra­tion raids have neg­a­tive­ly impact this com­mu­ni­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly its most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers: chil­dren. Read the excel­lent piece here:

Failing Families

Immigration enforcement policies unfairly hurt many children who are citizens

by Lavanya Sithanan­dam

When I walked into the exam room, I knew some­thing was wrong. My 8‑year old patient, usu­al­ly an extro­vert­ed, charm­ing boy, was angry. He sat with his arms crossed and refused to look at me. His exhaust­ed moth­er recount­ed how one week ago, her hus­band, after arriv­ing home from a 12-hour shift at work, had been arrest­ed in front of his chil­dren and tak­en away in hand­cuffs. He was now sit­ting in an Immi­gra­tion and Cus­toms Enforce­ment (ICE) deten­tion cen­ter in Fred­er­ick. The moth­er asked me to eval­u­ate her son for a one-week his­to­ry of poor appetite, dif­fi­cul­ty with sleep­ing, and wheez­ing.

As a pedi­a­tri­cian work­ing in Mont­gomery Coun­ty, home to the largest immi­grant com­mu­ni­ty in Mary­land, I have seen first­hand the dev­as­tat­ing effects that aggres­sive immi­gra­tion enforce­ment poli­cies can have on fam­i­lies. Many of these chil­dren are cit­i­zens, born in the Unit­ed States to at least one undoc­u­ment­ed par­ent. Yet these chil­dren often expe­ri­ence what no U.S. cit­i­zen (or any child, for that mat­ter) should. They live in con­stant fear of aban­don­ment because they have seen and heard of neigh­bors and fam­i­ly mem­bers being picked up and deport­ed with­in days.

My patient, a “cit­i­zen child” him­self, was exhibit­ing symp­toms of depres­sion, and like oth­er chil­dren who have lost a par­ent to deten­tion cen­ters, he per­ceives his father’s arrest as some­how being his fault. His moth­er, who must now take over her hus­band’s 15-year role as the fam­i­ly’s bread­win­ner, is strug­gling to pay the bills, to make the lengthy dri­ve to see her hus­band, and to take her son to the doc­tor. These par­ents are good peo­ple: hard­work­ing and hon­est immi­grants from West Africa who pay their tax­es and take good care of their chil­dren. They strug­gle to make a decent life for their fam­i­ly, despite a gru­el­ing, 70-hour work­week.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, their sto­ry is not unique. There are more than 5 mil­lion cit­i­zen chil­dren in this coun­try — and sad­ly, the like­li­hood that one or both of their par­ents will be deport­ed is increas­ing. In order to meet arrest quo­tas, ICE agents are increas­ing­ly going after “soft tar­gets”: immi­grants such as my patien­t’s father, with no crim­i­nal record and for whom ICE had not issued a depor­ta­tion order. Some of these peo­ple are picked up by chance, at work or at home. Some are vic­tims of “res­i­den­tial raids” where immi­gra­tion author­i­ties knock on door after door with no evi­dence that the inhab­i­tants are undoc­u­ment­ed until they can get some­one to admit that he or she is here ille­gal­ly.

Some­times, racial pro­fil­ing is an issue — as in the case, recent­ly revealed, of a Jan­u­ary 2007 raid on a 7‑Eleven in Bal­ti­more. Offi­cers detained 24 Lati­no men, few of them with crim­i­nal records, in an appar­ent effort to meet a quo­ta for arrests.

The future for fam­i­lies like my 8‑year-old patien­t’s looks grim. My patien­t’s suf­fer­ing will prob­a­bly have no influ­ence on his father’s depor­ta­tion pro­ceed­ings, giv­en the high legal stan­dards of “extreme hard­ship” that must be met in order for his father to stay with his fam­i­ly. The boy will most like­ly be forced to start a new life in a coun­try he has nev­er even vis­it­ed.

Immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy is com­pli­cat­ed and emo­tion­al­ly charged, but pun­ish­ing cit­i­zen chil­dren should be at the bot­tom of ICE’s pri­or­i­ties. It is time to once again con­sid­er a fair and com­pre­hen­sive approach to immi­gra­tion reform. One promis­ing pro­pos­al is the “Child Cit­i­zen­ship Pro­tec­tion Act” (intro­duced this year by Rep. Jose Ser­ra­no of New York), which would autho­rize an immi­gra­tion judge to pre­vent depor­ta­tion of an immi­grant when it is in the best inter­est of his or her cit­i­zen chil­dren.

It is essen­tial to enact laws that will pro­mote fam­i­ly reuni­fi­ca­tion, fair­ness and dig­ni­ty over cur­rent enforce­ment tac­tics that tear fam­i­lies apart.

Dr. Lavanya Sithanan­dam, a pedi­a­tri­cian in Tako­ma Park, immi­grat­ed to this coun­try from India at the age of 4. She is a mem­ber of South Asian Amer­i­cans Lead­ing Togeth­er (SAALT), a social jus­tice and advo­ca­cy group. Her e‑mail is drsithanandam@gmail.com.