By Guest Contributor: Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote (@apiavote)
Edison town council member Sapana Shah realized something was wrong the moment she checked social media, learning that she and her neighbors received the same anti-Asian mailer Wednesday which featured a “deport” stamp on the photos of two Asian school board candidates. The postcard also read, “The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Targeting candidates based on bias and hate toward various ethnic, racial or religious identity is not new. And Shah is no stranger to it as a candidate. She recounted multiple incidents to me over the phone. Shah, a long-time resident in the Edison township of Middlesex County, New Jersey, was told to go back to her country when she ran for local elected office. She once found her campaign signs inscribed with the words “dot head,” an offensive racial slur. As a town council member, Shah endured insults from residents who shouted her down at the end of a public meeting for voting to include Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as a school holiday.
When individuals are targets of hate, it not only affects them but also entire communities.
The Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) reports that over one hundred Cambodian American refugees have been arrested and detained for deportation after one of the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) mass round-up operations in history.
The arrests come shortly after the Cambodian government announced over the summer that they would temporarily halt the issuing of travel visas for refugees facing deportation by the US government to Cambodia. Cambodian officials are seeking renegotiation of a 2002 U.S.-Cambodia agreement to address the separation of deported refugees from the American families.
This past week, Asian American scholars and activists (organized under the group, AAPIVoices) staged a nationwide week of action (#AAPIAction) around topics of immigration justice and the future of Asian American & Pacific Islander political organizing. Compelled by recent assaults on immigrant rights and the Muslim community by the Trump administration, advocacy groups across the country hosted events — including many held on college and university campuses — to promote AAPI political activism around social justice issues.
On event associated with #AAPIAction was hosted at the University of Maryland last Monday. While participants sought to raise the profile of Asian Americans in opposing the rescinding of DACA and anti-immigrant policies, the gathering at UMD was part of a larger effort among coalition partners, including a diverse group of student organizations, staff and faculty to stand up for immigrants, counter xenophobia, and recognize Indigenous People’s Day. At the event, nearly a hundred students gathered around a statue of writer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass — situated outside the campus’ R. Lee Hornbake Library — to protest in support of documented and undocumented immigrants, and against the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to pass a Muslim travel ban. During the event, several students took to the base of the statue to share their perspectives on immigration justice and other social justice issues.
The event was courageously held at a time when the campus is also experiencing several racist on-campus incidents: the University of Maryland’s Diamondback newspaper reports that a former UMD employee was arrested and charged for spraypainting a swastika on-campus, and in a separate incident, a UMD lecturer revealed on Facebook Live that he has been targeted with numerous racist phone calls after an appearance on Fox News.
After the jump, please check out photos from the event.
In a historic vote, the third largest political party in Canada — the social democrat New Democratic Party (NDP) — has elected Sikh-Canadian Jagmeet Singh as its federal party leader, making Singh the nation’s first non-white leader of any major political party.
Singh won 53.8% of the New Democrat vote on Sunday in the first ballot of the NDP Leadership race, far out-performing the other candidates vying for the position. The position of NDP leader was vacated after Singh’s predecessor — former NDP leader Tom Mulcair — lost a leadership review vote at the party’s convention in April.
Hours after winning the NDP leadership vote, Singh declared he was challenging Justin Trudeau to be the next Prime Minister of Canada in 2019.