SAALT Policy Connection (5-08): Voter ID Laws; Guestworker Act

The SAALT Policy Connection (May 2008): Voter ID Laws; Guestworker
Action Alert; and More
Policy Connection (May 2008)
An e-newsletter from South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)

In This Issue
Spotlight on South Asians and the 2008 Elections: Voter
Identification Laws
Action Alert: Indian Guestworkers Mobilize for Protection
Immigration: Legislation in Congress
Education: Immigrant Safe Zone Victory
Community Resource Spotlight: Night of 1,000 Conversations
We Value Your Donation!
The SAALT Policy Connection is a monthly e-newsletter from South
Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) that focuses on policy
issues related to the South Asian community.

To learn more about SAALT’s policy work, contact us at
saalt@saalt.org or reach Priya Murthy, SAALT’s Policy Director at
priya@saalt.org.

Spotlight on South Asians and the 2008 Elections:
Voter Identification Laws

South Asian community members across the country are engaging more
actively in the civic and political process by voting in local,
state, and federal elections. In fact, statistics indicate that South
Asians are part of an increasing pool of new voters in the United
States. One-third of Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans, and only
one-fourth of Bangladeshis have become citizens, and the percentages
of naturalized and native-born citizens within the community are on
the rise. A 2004 exit poll of Asian American voters in metropolitan
areas on the East Coast conducted by the Asian American Legal Defense
and Education Fund (AALDEF) found that 88% of South Asian voters
surveyed were born abroad and that 42% of South Asian voters were
casting ballots for the first time.

Yet, when attempting to participate in the electoral process, many
South Asian voters encounter roadblocks such as voter identification
requirements at the state and federal levels. Such requirements, in
effect, disenfranchise many U.S. citizens who lack permissible forms
of identification, including the poor, seniors, and immigrants. Voter
identification requirements are also often misapplied by election
officials and can be selectively enforced against minority voters.
Even in instances when voters have valid forms of identification,
poll workers may reject them or demand additional documents. In late
April, in the cases of Crawford v. Marion County Election Board and
Indiana Democratic Party v. Rokitathe, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled
that states may require voters to present photo identification before
casting ballots. SAALT had joined an amicus brief filed by AALDEF in
these cases which demonstrated that such identification requirements
have had a discriminatory impact on Asian American voters.

Prior to Election Day, South Asian voters should be aware of federal
and state voter identification requirements. Under the federal Help
America Vote Act, if you are voting for the first time in your state
and submitted your voter registration by mail, you will be required
to show identification at your polling site. In addition, various
states have additional identification requirements. To learn more
about voter identification requirements in your state, visit the
National Conference of State Legislatures’ website for further
information.

Action Alert: Indian Guestworkers
Mobilize for Protection
In 2006, over 500 Indian guest workers skilled in pipefitting and
welding paid up to $20,000 each to U.S. and Indian recruiters who
promised them green cards and visas for their families. However, once
they arrived in the U.S., workers merely received temporary H-2B
visas. In addition, their employer, Signal International, held the
workers in forced labor camps and subjected them to humiliating
treatment, racial slurs, and threats of deportation. In March 2008,
over 100 workers broke the trafficking chain by walking off their
jobs,
reporting Signal to the Department of Justice, and filing a
class action lawsuit.

These workers have mobilized, through the support of the New Orleans’
Workers Center for Racial Justice, and started a series of actions,
including a hunger strike, on May 14th. The workers’ demands include
the right to stay in the U.S. to participate as witnesses in the
trafficking investigation of their case and action from the Indian
government to protect their families and future guestworkers.

Members of the South Asian community have provided an outpouring of
support through financial contributions, in-kind donations, and local
solidarity actions. However, more support is still needed. There are
a number of ways that people around the country can show support for
the workers:

Donate – the workers need financial support to continue their
struggle for justice. Please consider donating by sending a check to
National Immigration Law Center (3435 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 2850, Los
Angeles, CA 90010) with NOWCRJ/IWC on the subject line; or
contributing online to the campaign.
Ask Congress to Take Action – Rep. Kucinich (D-OH) is sponsoring a
letter among members of the House of Representatives asking the
Department of Justice to protect these workers as they participate in
the investigation against their employer. Call your member of
Congress through the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask
them to sign onto the letter.
Host a Solidarity Event on June 11th – There will be a national day
of action on June 11th across the country. You can show your support
for the workers through a local solidarity event in order to raise
awareness about the issues the workers have faced and the guest
worker program in the United States. You can host these discussions
on your campus, place of worship, or cultural/professional
organization. SAALT can provide articles and materials for
discussion. Email saalt@saalt.org or call (301) 270-1855 for more
information.

For those living in the Washington DC Area:
Observe or monitor during the hunger strike (no legal experience
necessary, training will be provided on-site). If you are interested,
please email saalt@saalt.org with your name, cell phone number, and
days and hours you are available (either 9am-1pm; 1pm-5pm; or 5pm-8pm
shifts).
Visit the workers as they continue with their actions and offer your
support and encouragement. Click here for their schedule.

Identify faith-based or community leaders who can visit with the
workers to provide moral support
Donate Malayalam, Tamil, or Hindi reading materials, such as books,
magazines or newspapers
Drop off in-kind donations (cases of water, folding chairs, bedding,
kitchen items or rain gear such as ponchos, umbrellas and tarp)
Please contact SAALT at 301-270-1855 or saalt@saalt.org if you would
like to drop off donations to the SAALT office (6930 Carroll Avenue,
Suite 506, Takoma Park, MD 20912).
To learn more about the workers’ campaign, visit the New Orleans
Workers’ Center for Racial Justice blog. You can also read a recent
article on the workers and the implications of trafficking written by
Svati Shah featured in SAMAR Magazine.

Immigration: Legislation in CongressJust and humane immigration laws
are vital for the South Asian community in order to ensure family
reunification, access to better job opportunities in the United
States, and fair treatment of those who are navigating the
immigration system. While federal lawmaker have yet to pass a
comprehensive solution to the broken immigration system, various
pieces of legislation are currently being considered in Congress.

Family and Employment Visa Backlogs

Due to bureaucratic delays and caps placed on visas, many South
Asians wait years to be able to sponsor loves ones for immigration to
the United States and to gain green cards through employment-based
categories. In fact, Indian siblings of U.S. citizens must curretly
wait 11 years for their green card applications to be processed. In
addition, certain skilled workers from South Asia applying for
employment-based visas must wait almost seven years. To alleviate
some of these delays, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Rep. James
Sensenbrenner (R-WI) have sponsored a bill which would allow family
and employment-based immigrant visas that have been unused in the
past to be reallocated for the visa backlog and ensure that more
visas are not wasted in the future. It would also provide some relief
to immigrants who came under temporary employment visas for high
skilled labor under the H-1B program. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has
also introduced a bill that would similarly allow unused visas to be
reallocated; not count spouses and children of green card holders
towards the worldwide visa cap; and increase the per-country limits
on visas. Such measures would promote family unity and make it easier
for immigrant workers to obtain green cards in the future.

Medical Care for Immigrant Detainees

Another issue affecting the South Asian community is the increased
detention of immigrants, particularly since 9/11. As highlighted in a
series of articles in the Washington Post and New York Times, for
those in immigration detention, many suffer from inadequate medical
care. According to these reports, over 80 immigrants have died in
custody. Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
recently introduced the Detainee Basic Medical Care Act which would
require procedures for the timely and effective delivery of medical
and mental health care to immigration detainees; ensure that all
treatment decisions be made by impartial medical or mental health
professionals; and require that the Department of Homeland Security
report all immigration detainee deaths to the Office of Inspector
General and to Congress.

These pieces of legislation are vital to ensuring fairness in the
immigration system. South Asian community members are urged to call
their members of Congress to express your support for these bills.
You can reach your Representative and Senators by calling the Capitol
Switchboard (202) 224-3121.

Education: Immigrant Safe Zone Victory in New York City Public School

Since 2005, South Asian immigrant youth leaders of Desis Rising Up
and Moving (DRUM), a local community-based organization in New York
City, have been surveying hundreds of immigrant students about the
fears and access barriers they face in schools, particularly for
undocumented students and their families. In its report "Education
not Deportation: Impacts of New York City School Safety Policies on
South Asian Immigrant Youth", DRUM found that 51% of youth reported
exposure to harassment by authorities and nearly half of youth
reported being asked about their immigration status by authorities.
Many undocumented South Asian youth struggle to find a safe space in
schools because of police and immigration enforcement in the
classroom as well as ineligbility for financial aid and scholarships.

On May 15, DRUM’s YouthPower project celebrated a victory in its
campaign with the signing of the first immigrant safe zone in a New
York City public school. Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens,
with over 3,500 largely immigrant students, became the first school
to create protections and needed services to immigrant students to be
able to access education without fear. The Immigrant Safe Zone at
Hillcrest High School will:

Ensure city and Department of Education laws are being followed to
protect immigration status information of students and their families
Ensure that immigration status is not being asked, compiled, or
reported at all

Train school workers in the full rights of immigrant students to
education and to better serve immigrant youth
Create services for immigrant youth and families within the school in
partnership with community organizations
DRUM will also begin regular programs for youth and parents at
Hillcrest High School this year, including immigration and
deportation advocacy as well as "Know Your Rights" trainings.

If you are in the New York City area, come out to support the signing
of this groundbreaking declaration:

Wednesday, June 4th at 3:30 PM
Press and Community Signing of Immigrant Safe Zone Declaration
Hillcrest High School
160-05 Highland Avenue
Jamaica Estates, New York 11432
[F train to Parsons Blvd. in Queens]

Community Resource Spotlight:
Night of 1,000 Conversations on June 19

On June 19th, thousands of people from across the country will gather
in homes, offices, coffee shops, and places of worship to discuss how
the overreach of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is
undermining the civil liberties and human rights of people living in
America. In the name of national security, DHS has adopted practices
that routinely violate basic rights of immigrants in this country,
including legal residents and citizens. Organized by the Rights
Working Group, of which SAALT is a member organization, Night of
1,000 Conversations will promote awareness and mobilize our
communities. People all over the country will engage each other in
discussions about actions to help restore accountability to DHS’
practices.

The Night of 1,000 Conversations will be the critical first step to
launch a larger Rights Working Group campaign to hold DHS
accountable. The campaign to hold Department of Homeland Security
accountable will ask DHS to:
End immigration raids that lock up people without due process.
Stop inhumane detention conditions and arbitrary jailing without
trial.
Provide fair and efficient mechanisms to end the backlog in
processing citizenship applications by September 2008.
What You Can Do
Host a Conversation-Invite your friends, family, neighbors, co-
workers, softball team, PTA, poker partners and religious community
to a coffeehouse, your church, your home or any other meeting place.
Break the ice-Use a fun and interactive tool to introduce the topic
of discussion.
Get Them Talking-Engage your guests in a hour-long discussion about
what matters most to them on this topic.
Take Action-Actions can be as simple as signing a petition,
registering to vote or more involved like committing to a letter
writing campaign.
To learn more and get involved, sign up at Rights Working Group.
Join the Movement!

http://www.nightof1000conversations.org/

Are you a SAALT member yet?

Have you become 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.

https://128bit.clickandpledge.com/default.aspx?ID=626&cid=US&a=

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national non-
partisan, 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.

Forward email
South Asian Americans Leading Together | 6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite
506 | Takoma Park | MD | 20912

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About reality

Also, thanx for signing my petitions, et al, please consider sharing them. Also, since Admin. of change.org aren't allowing me to invite people to do my actions lately and are switching my urls for my petitions so when I invite people off their site they can't get to the petition either (ergo 3 possible urls for each petition), here's a few of my latest actions; do as few or as many as you'd like (there are 3 linx for each petition because admin. switches between the 3 of them so people trying to sign the petition can‘t get to it): This post on Disabled Greens News and discussion: Haiti disaster anniversary, please, do what you can: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DisabledGreensNews/message/9033 This petition on change.org: Haiti disaster anniversary: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/haiti_disaster_anniversary_2?share_id=yIpWHEHxri&pe=pce http://uspoverty.change.org/petitions/view/haiti_disaster_anniversary_2 http://www.change.org/petitions/view/haiti_disaster_anniversary_2   This post on Disabled Greens News and discussion: Green, Indigenous, Native American, etc., actions: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DisabledGreensNews/message/9026 This petition on change.org: Green, Indigenous, Native American, acts: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/green_indigenous_native_american_acts?share_id=NHvTtQadfP&pe=pce http://uspoverty.change.org/petitions/view/green_indigenous,_native_american_acts http://www.change.org/petitions/view/green_indigenous,_native_american_acts   This post on Disabled Greens News and discussion: Art/Act: celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, holiday: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DisabledGreensNews/message/9024 This petition on change.org: Art/Act: celebrate Dr. M.L. King, Jr.'s holiday: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/artact_celebrate_dr_ml_king_jrs_holiday?share_id=QjOkAUGeBQ&pe=pce http://uspoverty.change.org/petitions/view/art_act_celebrate_dr_ml_king_jr_s_holiday http://www.change.org/petitions/view/art_act_celebrate_dr_ml_king_jr_s_holiday   This post on Disabled Greens News and discussion: Green; NA; the evolution; Civil, Human, LP, Prisoner's Rights; Poverty; etc..: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DisabledGreensNews/message/9022 This petition on change.org: Economically empower through advocacy: http://www.change.org/petitions/view/economically_empower_through_advocacy?share_id=WZNqBQWcXE&pe=pce http://uspoverty.change.org/petitions/view/economically_empower_through_advocacy http://www.change.org/petitions/view/economically_empower_throug
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