December 5, 2022

Takoma Park, MD (March 29, 2010) – Community members, students, lawyers, and advocates gathered in Washington, D.C. last month for South Asian in America: An {Immigrant} Dream Deferred.

The symposium presented by South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) and the South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA) was held at the Washington College of Law at American University as part of the law school’s 2010 Founders’ Day celebration.

“This symposium brought together two key areas of concern for South Asians: the broken immigration system, civil rights violations resulting from racial and religious profiling, and how these issues intersect in the lives of community members,” noted SAALT’s Policy Director, Priya Murthy. “SAALT and SALSA utilized the symposium to raise awareness about these intersections, which have become even more exacerbated since September 11, 2001.”

At the symposium, SAALT also released a series of briefs that highlight the effects of racial and religious profiling on South Asian communities, including surveillance, airport travel, and immigration-related enforcement.

Attendees participated in two panels over the course of the day. The first panel, which dealt with the inequities faced by immigrants, featured Murthy, Anjana Malhotra (Practitioner-in-Residence at Seton Hall School of Law) and Kim Propeack (Director of Community Organizing and Political Action at CASA de Maryland) moderated by Jayesh Rathod (Assistant Professor at the Washington College of Law).

Panelists highlighted a number of areas of particular concern including, challenges raised by lengthy visa backlogs, problems endemic to local enforcement of immigration law through programs such as 287(g) and Secure Communities, and the exploitation of undocumented workers.

Malhotra pointed out that local activism plays a crucial role in ensuring fair practices. “Local activism is what we’ve seen be successful when it comes to many of these programs. It is when people in the community learn about what’s going on and talk to their local governments and police departments that things start to change. Since the implementation and terms of ICE Access and 287(g) are decided at a local level, community efforts at the local and national levels have been key to ensure immigrants’ rights are protected.”

The second panel focused on national security and civil liberties, featuring Nusrat Choudhury (Staff Attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union), Monami Maulik (Executive Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving), Amardeep Singh (Policy and Advocacy Director at the Sikh Coalition) and Kareem Shora (Senior Policy Advisor at the Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties at the Department of Homeland Security) and moderated by Jumana Musa (Policy Director at the Rights Working Group).

During the session, panelists highlighted how the civil liberties of South Asians, Muslims and Sikhs had been eroded in the post 9/11 climate as a result of airport profiling and surveillance and how organizations and coalitions are taking action to organize community members and advocate for policy change.

“The panel showed me how law students and lawyers can get engaged to make a real impact when it comes to civil liberties and profiling,” said Reena Parikh, co-president of the South Asian Law Students Association at American University’s Washington College of Law.

Both panels concluded with speakers sharing their calls-to-action to the audience.

After the panels ended, participants came together to strategize about how they planned to take action to become active on the issues highlighted during the symposium. The afternoon concluded with an Alumni Recognition Dinner that honored two WCL alumni, Naznin Saifi (Deputy Director at Northeast New Jersey Legal Services) and Nicholas Rathod (Deputy Associate Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs).

Learn more about the outcomes of the conference and its issues on religious and racial profiling via podcasts and blogs online at www.saalt.org.

SAALT is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that elevates the voices and perspectives of South Asian individuals and organizations to build a more just and inclusive society in the United States. SAALT is the coordinating entity of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of 39 organizations that serve, organize, and advocate on behalf of the South Asian community across the country.

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