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This was truly an honor. I would have never expected an award from anything South Asian. Heck, I don’t even identify as South Asian on most days.
I don’t get involved in South Asian diaspora politics. However, I do take offense when people assume I’m from India — my great-grandparents left India for Fiji in the 19th century, as part of the indentured servitude system. But if anyone asks, I am ethnically Indian. (And I bleed blue – Congratulations Team India)!
Talking about immigration with South Asians is a different ballgame. Maybe the lens is different. I’m not a South Asian concerned about immigration issues. I’m just concerned about survival. And I’m always in survival mode: how do I tolerate and maximize my time to enjoy life in a system that does not consider my mother as my immediate relative? How do I keep my family together in defiance of the arbitrary political violence that seeks to separate us? And finally, how do I beat the system at its own game?
As someone noted last night, I’m only half-illegal. I thought that was hilarious. I’ve learned to not only survive but thrive in this system. Despite the odds, I seem to have it all together but with the knowledge that it can be taken away at any second. I could probably pass for a model minority as long as I keep my mouth shut and not play gay.
While not homogeneous, the community does not have much exposure to outspoken undocumented young people. The stigma and shame is immense and resources quite limited. And it’s harder to stop the deportations of undocumented South Asian youth when they are so reluctant to talk about themselves. For example, the campaign to stop the deportation of Taha — a Bangladeshi-American teenager — was riddled with such problems but I won’t go into details about it. If you are an undocumented South Asian, I urge you to contact me or get in touch with the amazing people at The National Immigrant Youth Alliance. There’s safety in numbers and community. We can help but the first step is always to come out to yourself, and then to others.
But of course, our troubles with immigration are not limited to those South Asians who are undocumented. Ten years after 9-11, the country is still racially-profiling and targeting South Asians, especially at airports. “Muslim” has become synonymous with a racial classification and anyone who “looks” Muslim is a target for immigration and customs enforcement. And the problems that plague H-1 and H-4 visa holders continues.
Anyway, the conference was fantastic. It even ran on time! I thoroughly recommend people to check out SAALT, maybe come to a summit and get involved in their communities.