South Asians protest at ‘Families Belong Together’ rally

They joined the nationwide protests to support immigrant rights and protest the Trump Administration’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy


Ritu Jha


Drones hovered over the hundreds of people, activists and supporters, who participated in a rally where the beating of drums and cried of “Abolish ICE” that ended at a detention facility in Richmond, California.


Officials of ICE – or, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement – dourly watched the milling crowd from the rooftop of the facility, one of the only ICE detention centers in the Bay Area.


The rally, part of a national day of protest, called” Families Belong

Jail officers seen on the rooftop of the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, Calif., keeping eyes on Families Belong Together protesters, June 30.

Together” – and against the Trump Administration’s zero-tolerance policy, saw its fair smattering of South Asian protesters, too.


Sangita, who like many of those indica interviewed provided only her first name, said she had joined the 3,000-strong crowd as a representative of the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action.


She expressed her ire after the Department of Homeland Security’s revelation that from April 18 through the end of May, 1,995 children had been taken from 1,940 adults. By mid-June, the number of child separations under the new policy had reached 2,342.


Sangita, who is born in the US, said, “I think that as a child of an immigrant I have a lot of privilege. South Asians, in general, have this kind of good immigrant narrative… which is not true.”


She believes people should be aware and it’s their responsibility to say, “We are not your model minority good immigrants.”


There are many undocumented Indians in the US, she said, giving the example of the 52 Indian detainees held in a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon. Her argument is backed by the non-partisan non-profit, South Asian Americans Leading Together, which found that nearly 500,000 Indians and many more South Asian Americans remain undocumented in the US.


“We don’t really believe in this concept of borders,” Sangita said, adding that even if the new policies did not affect the community as much as it did others, “it’s our responsibility.”


Standing with Sangita was George, another Indian American protester, also a member of ASATA.

George, too was there to make his own point.

“All the things that are happening in this country cannot be justified,” he said. “I am here to show solidarity with the people who have been locked up.”


That was a view echoed by Chetana, who was holding a placard saying “End Family Detention” and who was at the rally with her friends. She told indica of how she first came on the H4 dependent visa 18 years ago.


“I moved here right after 9/11. I thought xenophobia was a kind of thing of the past. People have this sense that America is welcoming to everyone,” she said. “But America is putting up bigger barriers and borders today. I think it’s really important especially for South Asian Americans to use this opportunity to speak up for those who are disfranchised.”


Chetana also expressed her worries about the Green Card backlog, the other big issue that Indian nationals face in the US.

“It’s very disappointing and disheartening to see how those in the Republican Hindu Coalition think that just because a lot of them came here legally they deserve better [treatment than those who did not],” she said, asserting that these groups have created artificial divisions.


“They do not realize that at the end of the day we are the same skin color,” she said. “We are not doing anyone justice by closing our doors to these issues.”


Soha Ashraf (left) representing BAMN, a civil rights activist group, distributing fliers at the rally, June 30.

Soha Ashraf, distributed fliers to the people at the rally. Ashraf is a Pakistani American and a member of BAMN, a militant leftist group that used to call itself the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, before choosing to go by the last four words. It defends affirmative action, integration, immigrant rights and equality.


She told indica, “It’s about immigrant rights and we are here to spread our perspective – which means to provide more leadership. This is not just one isolated event. We’ll continue to mobilize again and again. I think a community should participate in mass direct action – come out and stop ICE buses from deporting people.”


She said many South Asians have been deported and that while everyone in her family is a citizen, they are concerned by the rhetoric that puts even Green Card holders at risk of detainment.


California Senator Kamala Harris who along with California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom addressed the rally in Los Angeles California said to thousands of people, “We are in an inflection moment in the history of our country.”

Congressman Ro Khanna, who represents California’s 17th District, spoke at a gathering in Fremont said, “This president is violating our values and making it less safe. “Of course we need to protect our border, and don’t want drug dealers and terrorist to come here and we have done that for years. with oversight at the justice department and respect for human rights but this president is leaving us more vulnerable and violating our ideals.”



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