South Asian Network

Bridging Communities, Empowering People Welcome to SAN’s first online quarterly newsletter! Look out for updates once every three months and stay connected to us! Have suggestions? Click here!

Fall 2009, Volume 1, Issue 1

AWAZ Online Release of Public Service Announcement - By Saima Husain, AWAZ Associate Coordinator and Preeti Sharma, Communications Associate The AWAZ Voices Against Violence unit and the survivor’s support group are proud to announce both the television release and online release of their jointly created Public Service Announcement (PSA)! Starting mid-September 2009, the PSA began screening on the U.S. version of the national Bangla channel, Ntv, and is now available for viewing on youtube here. The PSA plays a large part of AWAZ’s efforts to prevent domestic violence and to develop leadership amongst survivors Continued on Page 3. Pioneer Blvd. Worker’s Rights Project Successfully Launched - BY Sannah Rahim, SAN Intern Forty workers attended SAN’s official launch of the Pioneer Blvd. Worker’s Rights Organizing Project. The event took place at Heritage Park in Cerritos on Monday, August 3rd, 2009. Held in response to the prevalence of labor rights abuses impacting low income workers, the event is a part of a larger goal to end the exploitation of South Asian and Latino workers on Pioneer Blvd., and build relationships between them. Continued on Page 1.

IN THIS ISSUE
UNIT UPDATES:
* Online Release of PSA! – pg. 1 * Worker’s Rights Project Launched! – pg. 1 * Isolation and Belonging – pg. 1 * Koreatown Residents Host Unity Townhall – pg. 5

ACTION ALERTS:
* ICE and Police Scaring Communities, Not Securing – pg. 4

COMMUNITY STORIES:
* Survivor Battles Systemic Violence – pg. 6

Wo rkers spea k ou t at Laun ch o f Orga nizing Project

Isolation and Belonging: SAN’s Older Adults Walk it Off!

- BY Preeti Sharma, Communications Associate On Wednesday, September 30th, twenty-five older adults stretched near the benches outside the Artesia Senior Center. Like longtime friends, many chatted about their children, their children’s children, and family matters. Amidst the camaraderie and laughter, everyday activities suddenly transform into moments of excitement. A group of seniors gather outside the center two times a week –Wednesdays and Fridays – to walk. Continued on Page 2.
Wa lking Club Memb ers Play Games

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Wa lking Club Memb ers and CHAI Sta ff Ga ther Tog eth er After a Po tlu ck

(From Isolation and Belonging, Pg. 1) The “Walking Club,” as addressed by both SAN staff and the seniors, is a space where elderly members of Artesia’s South Asian community participate in exercise and social activities. South Asian Network’s Community Health Action Initiative (CHAI) began case management with the elderly South Asian community in late 2003. In between case management visits and

attends the club because “it helps me deal with my depression. I don’t feel stuck at home anymore.” This is the first formal South Asian walking club to form across the country. “In the beginning, some members were quiet. They never shared anything,” says Prakash Ghimire, a SAN Lead Community Advocate, “These days, they are speaking more, visiting each others homes, and bringing other people who live alone to the club. We don’t even have to outreach about the club.” However, the club’s walking path has not been an easy one. While community partners, like the Asian Pacific Islander’s Older Adult Task force commend SAN’s walking club, building bridges with the Artesia Senior Center has been a challenge in terms of integration due to language and cultural activities. Despite the differences, SAN’s walking club continues to meet twice a week to share their stories and to go for a walk. SAN Artesia Office: 18173 Pioneer Blvd. 2nd Floor, Suite I Artesia, CA 90701 Phone: (562) 403-0488 Fax: (562) 403-0487 www.southasiannetwork.org
email: saninfo@southasiannetwork.org

intake questions, lead advocate Farhana Shahid constantly heard undertones of isolation and longing. In late 2008, older adults clients, community leaders, and CHAI staff researched ways to gather the seniors in the area. They decided upon forming a space where elderly can both walk and talk. Elderly play games like cards or antakshari (a popular Desi singing game), engage in light exercise of stretching aerobics and walking, and also participate in workshops on nutrition and health. Santosh, one of the walking club members,

The South Asian Network (SAN) is a grassroots community-based organization dedicated to advancing the health, empowerment, and solidarity of persons of South Asian origin. Fundamental to SAN’s mission is equality for all.
SAN is a 501 c(3) Non-Profit Organization * Tax ID No. 33-0608166

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barriers, immigration status, age, problems finding transportation, fear of retaliation, the pressure of the economic crisis, isolation from mainstream discrimination
Timelin e fo r Wo rkers Righ ts at Disp la y

Many workers shared their stories, willingness and strength to fight against these injustices and to demand their rights. In the last two years, SAN helped workers obtain over $75,000 in back wages and penalties. SAN’s strategies include: writing demand letters, holding settlement meetings, and organizing visits and public actions in front of violating stores. SAN hopes that the Pioneer Blvd. Worker Right's Organizing Project will bring together diverse communities and create change, ultimately allowing the employerworker relationship to be supportive, rather than exploitative.

America comprise

and other

obstacles for workers. During part of the picnic,

(From Pioneer Blvd., pg. 1) Low income workers in this area face many challenges

staff and workers made plans for the next year to challenge and end exploitation Additionally, in the area. Zrucky,

Steve

including: denial of minimum wage, lack of overtime pay, long work hours, denial of meal and rest periods, and a general lack of health and safety in the

Senior Attorney at Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles,

Employment Law unit, conducted a “Know your Rights”

presentation around CA labor laws.

workplace. In addition, language

(From Online Release, Pg. 1) Addressing the prevalence of domestic violence in the South Asian community, the PSA shares the story of a young South Asian family. The family appears in “marital bliss” on the outside, yet, behind close doors, their conflict escalates and violence occurs. Through dialogue and positive behavior, the PSA encourages violence prevention and healthy relationships. After a feedback session for the PSA, an anonymous survivor asserted, “I wish my in-laws and ex-husband
PS A Acto rs Dep ict Fa mily Add ressing Vio lence

could have seen this PSA. It openly deals with poor family dynamics and how to change.” In addition to the PSA’s new availability online, and its current run on channel Ntv, the PSA was shown at Naz’s Artesia Theater through summer 2009. It also played on local Los Angeles South Asian television programs earlier in the year. AWAZ estimates that over 50,000 people have already viewed the PSA. The PSA, from the start, remained a community-wide effort. While survivors and staff came up with messaging, a local production group (the Narra Group) wrote, directed, and edited the PSA, and a local musician, Manisha Shahane, provided the music.

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ICE and Police Scaring Communities, Not Securing Them

- BY Tamia Pervez, Policy Organizer During the last couple of years, many troubling enforcement strategies have been introduced by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency that have negatively impacted immigrants and has been in contact with the immigration system in any way, will now be referred to ICE. ICE can then decide to place an individual in deportation proceedings, either after any jail time is finished or even without being charged with a crime. So far, ICE has not provided much information about how it is implementing this policy. A few initial areas of concern include immigrants who were covered by the Special Registration Program (in effect from after September 11, 2001 until December 2003) or persons who are questioned by the FBI and whether ICE would decide to hold these people for deportation proceedings as well. Another cause for

communities of color. Since August of 2007, ICE has provided local law enforcement agencies the opportunity to partner with it to carry out federal immigration law enforcement under a program called ICE ACCESS (Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security). While not mandatory, many states and counties have started to take up these offers. Los Angeles County is one of the most recent ones. Now, almost a year and a half after its introduction nationally, L.A. County has decided to implement “Secure Communities,” which is one of the programs under ACCESS. This policy requires that everyone

concern is that this policy has the potential to allow our communities, especially immigrants, to be targeted for how we look rather than any wrongful or criminal behavior. Another subprogram included in ACCESS is 287(g), which allows local law enforcement officers to enforce civil immigration laws. This program is also troubling due to many issues of racial profiling and misuse of discretion because local officers are still largely untrained and culturally insensitive. For the time being, we advise community members to know their rights, stay vigilant and avoid contact with ICE or local law enforcement agencies as much as possible. Additionally, we must come together as a

arrested by any local law enforcement agency also get checked to see if he or she is in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) database, in addition to the usual check with the FBI’s database for any past criminal history records. While some of this has been on-going for quite some time, the main difference now is that the doublechecking of backgrounds applies to everyone who is simply arrested (whether guilty or innocent, whether charged with a crime or not), and that both the FBI and DHS databases are checked. This means that anyone picked up by Los Angeles Police who is here without immigration status or who

community and fight against these types of policies that target and discriminate against immigrants under the name of “national security.”
To Jo in Us, Plea se email S ANin fo @s outhAs iann netwo rk .o rg

SAN Upcoming Events October Sunday, October 4th: Free Health Fair, 8am – 1pm, SAN Artesia Office Sunday, October 11th: Visibility March in Little India, 2pm4:30pm, Meet at SAN’s Artesia Office Parking Lot Monday, October 12th: Health Workshop, Time TBD, SAN Artesia Office g Tuesday, October 13th: Free Housing Legal Clinic, 6:30pm 8pm, Legal Aid Office (1102 Crenshaw Blvd.)

Saturday, October 18th: Residents Committee Meeting, 6pm, SAN Koreatown Office Saturday, October 24th: Right to the City Los Angeles, Leaders Gathering, 10am -2pm, SAN Koreatown Office November **SAN Annual Fundraising Dinner: November 7th ** 7pm, USC Town and Gown Hall Have you bought your ticket yet?

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Koreatown Residents Committee Host Unity Townhall to Challenge Economic Crisis

-BY Sannah Rahim, SAN Intern The thousands economic of people, downturn has affected people in

low-income

particular, across the country. In an effort to address the effects of the economic crisis, SAN held a townhall in partnership with the Bangladeshi community in Koreatown. Seventy-five people gathered together to discuss how they were experiencing the downturn and ways to cope with the situation. SAN staff member, Riffat Rahman, began the townhall by affirming the community’s ability to rely on one another for support and resources, “Akota means unity. We are united here to discuss our economic problems, to see what our rights and resources are; we are going to see what we can all do together.” Through skits, community members learned about worker’s rights, tenant’s rights, and health access. Aditi Mahmud, SAN’s Koreatown Tactics, DV and Mental Health, Tenant’s Rights/Gentrification, Police Brutality & Mutual Aid programs, and Health & Low-income Benefits. Community members discussed coping with job loss stress, workers’ compensation, government benefits, and challenging the Obama Administration’s bail out and how impacts on low income communities. Concluding the townhall, youth members of the Resident’s Committee strongly encouraged
Steve Zrucky, LAFLA (left) and Riffat Rahman (right) Memb ers Ga th er for Townhall

Resident’s Committee member, elaborated, “In Koreatown there are problems with housing, we pay high rent and there are many issues with the apartments, things are broken etc and we know we live in a kind of slum but we do not say anything to the manager as we are afraid of being evicted.” Local agencies across Los Angeles gave presentations on Unemployment & Job Search

community members to attend their organizing meetings, which are held once a month at SAN’s Koreatown Office. For more information, please email Preeti Sharma at preetis@southasiannetwork.org.

SAN Board Aman Thind Asad Ayaz Binna Chahal Hamid Khan Manju Kulkarni Nitin Shah Reshma Shamasunder Sumun Pendakur

SAN Staff Asha Gandhi Bhasker Shah Dolly Husein Farhana Shahid Ghulam Ali Bashir Hamid Khan Joyti Chand Prakash C. Ghimire

Preeti Sharma Rajwinder Kaur Ramji Gautam Ranjeeta Chhetry Riffat Rahman Saima Husain Tamia Pervez Vrunda Merchant

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Survivor Battles Systemic Violence!

-BY Parul Mehta, Mental Health Consultant On a cold November afternoon last year, South Asian Network was approached by a demure individual, almost hesitant to ask for help with the situation she was facing, fearing that she might be causing too much trouble for the other. Apologetic and shy in her mannerisms, Maya* had and continues to have the weight of the world on her shoulders. Having had to take her infant son and flee the country to escape abuse at the hands of her then husband, Maya was arrested at LAX airport upon her return to the U.S. eighteen years later , in August 2008, with charges of abducting her child. After fleeing the U.S. in 1990, Maya went back to her country of origin – India. In India, her family informed her husband that she relocated to protect herself and their child from his abuse. When initially residing in the U.S. Maya and her husband were on temporary visas. Thus, fleeing to India proved the only logical choice for Maya, where she felt she would at least have the support of her family. Maya hoped for reconciliation, so she did not inform the Indian police of her situation. She wanted to save her marriage but not at the compromise of personal safety. The estranged husband never attempted to visit, nor reconcile with her. In 1995, Maya was granted a divorce, child custody and child support by the Indian courts. Over the years, Maya’s ex-husband made sporadic efforts to establish contact with his son. In the meantime, Maya focused all her energies in raising her son in a positive environment. Her parents helped financially, but they still lived on a tight budget. When her son was granted a full scholarship to an university in the U.S., Maya was elated. Little did she know that eminent disaster awaited. At Maya’s suggestion, her son contacted his father to give him the thrilling news. However, when her exhusband learned about their upcoming trip to the U.S.,

he vengefully filed child abduction charges against Maya, eighteen years after the fact. (Child abduction has no statute of limitations, so it is enforceable at any time.) Maya now faces several difficult decisions and punishment for a crime she never committed. Will the U.S. criminal court accept legal documents from Indian courts? How can she prove abuse that occurred 18 years ago? Why accept a guilty plea for something she had to do to save herself and her child? After immense internal battling, seeking advice from professionals including lawyers, advocates and psychologists, and keeping in mind financial constraints, Maya decided not to fight a court battle that might have landed her a two-year prison sentence if she lost at trial. Instead, Maya reluctantly accepted a guilty plea, which imposes three months of house arrest, followed by three months of jail time, after which she will be deported to India, and banned from ever re-entering the U.S. Many questions arise as we examine Maya’s situation and realize that clearly the law does not afford protection to women facing a predicament such as Maya’s. During the last several months, Maya has been proactive in contacting several advocates and other women who have faced similar unfair charges for exercising the basic human right to protect their children. How, in the face of such unfairness, can we work together to advocate for policy change and protect children and parents from unjust punishment? How should the law be amended to recognize the plight of an abused woman who faces several barriers in a foreign country to ensure safety for herself and her child?

* A true story. Names have been changed to protect the confidentiality of the parties involved.

Newsletter Edited by Preeti Sharma

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