South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, is outraged at the latest Executive Orders issued by President Trump.
Today’s announcement on immigration effectively shuts down our borders, threatens state and local policies that protect and welcome immigrants, and puts immigrant communities in the cross-hairs of policies that tear apart families under the pretext of “making American great.”
“Today’s Executive Orders push the nation further away from core American values of equality and freedom, sow fear in communities of color that already face increasing violence, hostility and attacks, and make us and the country less safe – all under the guise of national security,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.
“Walling off the country will not make us safer. We expect this will be the first in a series of attacks against the freedom of immigrants and communities of color in the United States.”
South Asians are the most rapidly growing demographic group in the country, numbering over 4.3 million, with large growth in the undocumented South Asian population in recent years, including 450,000 Indian Americans alone.
India is currently the fourth-highest sending country for undocumented immigrants after Mexico, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We also know there are significant undocumented immigrants originally from other South Asian countries including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Indo-Caribbean diaspora.
Today’s announcement puts South Asian communities under further scrutiny and attack in the United States, particularly through the alarming revival of the “Secure Communities” program, which deputizes local authorities as immigration agents – a function numerous police chiefs have already spoken out against.
The program, previously abandoned due to concerns that it led to racial profiling and other abuse by law enforcement, authorizes local police to check the immigration status of every individual arrested and to enforce immigration laws against the very communities they are sworn to protect. This policy sends a clear message to immigrants that any contact with the police can lead to deportation, and only serves to spur fear in immigrant communities.
Today’s Executive Orders also strip federal funding for “sanctuary cities” that refuse to arrest or detain undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Many of these places of refuge are located in California, New York, and Chicago: areas with massive South Asian American populations as well as immigrant communities writ large.
The result deprives localities of critical funding necessary to meet the needs of their residents. This crucial federal funding (from taxpayer dollars) is instead being funneled to hire more border patrol agents to criminalize rather than protect immigrant and border communities, all the while fueling an increasingly privatized immigration detention system.
SAALT recently released “Power, Pain, Potential,” the first comprehensive report documenting hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, and Middle Eastern communities during the 2016 election cycle. We found skyrocketing violence against our communities nationwide reaching levels only seen in the aftermath of the events of 9/11. President Elect Trump was responsible for over one in five, or 21%, of the xenophobic political rhetoric we tracked.
Due to today’s Executive Orders, our communities – already experiencing the full force of a rising tide of hate violence and the proliferation of white supremacist movements nationwide – will have less recourse for protection from police, diminished options to report incidents aimed at their families, and fewer places to find safety and security.
In the face of these devastating policies, SAALT and our partners nationwide will instead draw strength, unity, and resilience from each other, and work closely with our communities to ensure that we have an equal place in the U.S. and that our voices ring clear as we fight for equality, protection, and dignity for all.