What Obama’s Immigration Action Means for Indian Americans

My article in India Currents on how the immigration actions announced in November 2014 by the President impacts Indian Americans is finally available here. While some of the most pivotal programs such as expanded DACA and DAPA are currently on hold due to the Texas v. U.S. lawsuit, the Administration is moving ahead with the other proposed changes, through the issuance of more guidance. Feedback on the article is much-appreciated!


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Where to Go and Where to Get Gifts for Diwali

I don’t usually do this, but I’ve several shameless plugs to make in the next few days, so please bear with me.

First, for everyone who is away from home this Diwali and does not have access to a local neighborhood Indian store, you can now check out eBay India’s new Diwalimicrosite. You can get a great selection of necessities for your Diwali celebration, and gifts for your loved ones, including Bollywood movies! They even have a special handcrafted section for goods that are made by artists in India. And for every purchase made from www.ebay.com/handcraftedinindia from Oct 18 – Nov 10., eBay will donate $1 to the National Rural and Development Association (NARAD), a non-governmental social service organization in India that provides self-help training, motivation and skills to farmers, women and youth, who work to support their families and keep these traditional Indian art forms alive.

Second, if you live in the DMV area, I’d suggest attending the Diwali Banquet on Nov 9, held by the GW South Asian Law Students Association. You are sure to enjoy an evening with an unlimited Indian Buffet, DJ, and Indian drum player in a great location. Tickets are on sale here.

Third, please donate to the Prerna Needs a New Bike fund. I am going to have a hard time doing my daily trips from home to the office, going to school, back to the office and back home again for a while, and any little bit would help.


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Bay Area Solidarity Summer

I am terrified and hyper-ventilating about doing an opening keynote in front of 14-21 year old desi-American youth at the Bay Area Solidarity Summer. I haven’t tried my charm and sense of humor on that age-group yet.

While you await this amazing weekend, read TazzyStar’s interview with me, which is up at SepiaMutiny:

This weekend, Desi youth will be convening in Oakland, CA and Washington DC for the primary purpose of getting activated and politicized. DCDesi Summer will be holding it down for the East Coast, and I personally have been involved in getting Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) off the ground here on the West Coast. Not only am I excited about the FUNraiser we have scheduled, I am particularly excited about the opening keynote speakers for the weekend – author of Desis in the House Sunaina Maira and dream activist Prerna Lal.

I met Prerna Lal last summer at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. I quickly learned that she was a quite the firecracker. Desi via Fiji, Prerna is a founder of DreamActivist, a current law student, a writer, a SAALT Changemaker, queer, an activist and… is undocumented. Her journey as a struggling youth trying to navigate the broken immigration system is one she is very vocal about sharing, whether on blogs or on twitter. Her tenacity is one to be admired and bravery is one to be inspired by.

Just a few months ago, Prerna was served deportation papers – but being who she is, she’s not leaving without a fight. Here’s what she had to say

I’m not apologetic in it so it will rub a lot of people the wrong way. That’s fine with me. I don’t need to justify why I think it is unfair that my own mother is not considered my immediate relative. The people who usually leave hateful and judgmental comments are Americans so wrapped up in their privilege that they forget American laws grant everyone due process. In this country, you are innocent until you are proven guilty. They are also most likely to deride my criticism of America while ignoring that it is America that has made me unapologetic, unashamed and unafraid.

I’m fighting for my legal right to not be separated from my entire family. I was brought here forcefully and compelled to live here against my wishes. I built a new home here and became a contributing member of society. I was atrociously (and illegally) aged-out of two family petitions and told that I was a “line-jumper” only because I was over 21 by the time USCIS could issue my parents green-cards. Unlike my older sister, I couldn’t adjust my status through “marriage” since that isn’t a legal right for me as a queer person in America. I couldn’t get a “student visa” because my entire family is American. Then, I was placed in removal proceedings, which may result in a ban from the United States, my home and family for the next 10 years. Regardless, I only need to convince an Immigration Judge in San Francisco of the merits of my case. The peanut gallery really doesn’t matter.


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Speaking Out: Invisible South Asian Americans

I guest-blogged this relatively nice piece for South Asian Americans Leading Together last week:

Six undocumented immigrant youth — Dulce (18), Jessica (17), Felipe (24), Richie (16), Nataly (16) and Leeidy (16) — sat down in the middle of an intersection in Georgia this past week, in a protest against the latest wave of anti-immigrant terror unleashed by the Southern state.

It is not the first act of civil disobedience led by undocumented youth and it is certainly not the last as more of us come out of the shadows and demand our right to live in the United States.

And yet, where are the undocumented South Asian youth in this movement? As part of the sixth largest population of undocumented immigrants in the United States, it often pains me to be one of the only vocal ones.

“Rehne do. Chodho. Jaane do.”

These are infamous South Asian attitudes passed on to us by our wonderful mothers and fathers — to suffer in silence and not say anything, to not protest or create a fuss when things are not right, to not step into the public arena to fight for justice. It’s a conditioned survival skill that may even come handy at times. But it is troubling when that survival skill propagates and perpetuates a fear that makes it hard to live our lives fully.

That’s how a lot of the South Asian 1.5 generation grows up in America. Afraid about what people would say. Afraid to shatter expectations. Afraid to live. Afraid to breathe. Afraid, afraid and more afraid till the die we finally die. Yeh bhi koi jeena hai kya?

I lived like that for many years. It wasn’t living; it was surviving. Then I decided that I’m not interested in surviving. I’m interested in thriving.

Read more at The Invisible South Asians in the Undocumented Immigrant Youth Movement


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My Email to the Homophobic Health Minister, Ghulam Azad

I think I just got banned from India too.

Note of caution: Homophobia in India is mostly a relic of British colonial rule. We wrote the Kama Sutra, which is full of queer portrayals of sex. Hijras — what is seen as India’s third gender — are considered auspicious for many occasions. The last thing I want or need to see is a bunch of Westerners touting their exceptional “progress” in institutionalizing gay rights at the expense of “Third World” backwardness on the issue. Seriously, don’t let me see this.

I’m left wondering what part of the gay non-profit industrial complex is going to build its email list from the Azad homophobia first.


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