Tag Archives: Trump

7th Grader Fights Anti-Asian Sentiment

The coronavirus is our generation’s distorted empathy quotient. As this life-threatening disease ravages low-income and minority communities, it becomes the world’s responsibility to protect our society’s most vulnerable. And from the mass-anxiety of COVID-19, the best and worst of society has bled into our daily lives. On one hand, GoFundMe is flooded with pages raising money for coronavirus victims. Young teenagers are distributing groceries in working-class neighborhoods while retweeting instructional videos for public safety. But the less endearing side to this narrative is also the most difficult to confront; Coronavirus concerns are being transformed into socio-political dog whistles for xenophobia and hate crimes.

Since the outbreak in January, New York City alone has reported 248 cases of race-based discrimination. On March 14th, a young man stabbed a family of three because they were of Asian-American descent and thus ‘spreading the virus’. A Chinese-American couple in Minnesota reported finding a derogatory and racist note left on their door. Without necessary precautions, our country may succumb to paranoia and racism before it caves into COVID-19. 

OCA letter signed by Teens For Vaccines.

To discuss the implication of such violence, I had a chat with 7th grader, Arin Parsa, a Davidson Young Scholar and founder of Teens for Vaccines. A strong proponent for public health and safety, Arin reached out to OCA, a national organization dedicated to preserving the rights of Asian-American Pacific Islanders. On March 31, Arin’s Teens for Vaccines co-signed OCA’S letter to President Trump, the FBI, and the DOJ demanding the urgent creation of a Task Force via Executive Order. This Task Force, Arin hopes, will allow the FBI to increase data collection and the DOJ to prioritize prosecutions against COVID-19 hate crimes. But his efforts extend well beyond preventing prejudice. Deeply concerned about PPE shortages (Personal Protective Equipment) for health care staff and senior citizens, Arin is raising awareness for sophomore Aditya Indla’s GoFundMe campaign to 3D Print Face Masks for healthcare professionals. When we spoke with Arin about his efforts, he discussed both his inspiration and ambitions for the near future. 

KN: First of all, your contributions to public health and safety amid the COVID-19 outbreak are absolutely amazing. What drew you to establishing Teens For Vaccines?

Arin Parsa: Thank you for the kind words! I founded Teens for Vaccines in August 2019 when herd immunity in California was falling dangerously below 95%, a risk for yet another measles outbreak. The bill, SB 276, had to be pushed through to stop fraudulent medical exemptions to vaccines. 

I was inspired by Ethan Lindenberger, an Ohio teen, who fearlessly testified in Congress about his decision to vaccinate himself despite his anti-vax mother’s beliefs. I spent my summer in NY at a research camp to truly understand what makes people anti-science. I found that, although skepticism was legitimate during the smallpox era, it had no standing in the modern world. Many are swayed by misinformation on social media about vaccine safety and vaccine ingredients (e.g. derivatives of pork, fetal strain from the 1960s), spread by a highly vocal anti-vax minority funded by alternative medicine practitioners and anti-government interests. Millions are being made by peddling dietary supplements as a replacement for vaccines. Sure, science isn’t perfect, and there are rare cases when vaccines are not suitable, but deliberately misleading vulnerable parents and religious communities, putting entire neighborhoods at risk, is deplorable. Over 140,000 have died from measles globally when we have a vaccine for it. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for all of us.

KN: For those who are unaware of your cause, would you like to explain the purpose of Teens For Vaccines? As the response to the coronavirus develops, what is the group’s primary goal for the future?

Arin Parsa: Teens for Vaccines is about educating teens on vaccine safety and minor consent laws from trusted sources, and connecting teen advocates worldwide. I recently connected with an HPV Vaccine advocate from Ireland! 

Education empowers us from falling prey to misinformation and rhetoric of medical freedom and anti-government messages. Amplifying the voices of immunization coalitions, doctors, and epidemiologists is a huge endeavor, whether in our local communities or through social media. In fact, as we speak, anti-vaxxers are denying the COVID pandemic, questioning social distancing, and peddling false cures.

Teens for Vaccines is also anti-hate since a lot of teens like Ethan face dire threats when they go against the anti-vax lobby. A huge realization I had a few weeks ago was the extreme racism suffered by Asians. Teens feeling isolated, alienated, spit on, hit, yelled at, and attacked is not good for their mental health. Suicide rates among the teen demographic are at dangerous levels. Teens for Vaccines is first and foremost about teen health, and I sought out OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national organization to co-sign their letter and demand action from President Trump, FBI, and DOJ. 

KN: What do you hope to accomplish with the creation of an Anti-Asian Hate Task Force via an Executive Order? Why a Task Force, specifically? 

Arin Parsa: A Task Force will put a light on the escalating violence against Asians, sending a very strong signal throughout America that we will not tolerate the insidious hate that is riding on the coattails of this pandemic. Being a history student, I know racism is a deep-rooted belief. As much as we want to change people through messages of empathy and solidarity, sometimes only fear of consequences will stop such people in their tracks. A federal task force, working together with local law enforcement, can bring in swift action in collaboration with the FBI’s deep data collection programs, and DOJ prioritizing prosecuting hate crimes.

KN: Do you think government authorities are not taking swift action in ensuring the security of minority communities — including Asian-Americans — during this outbreak? How do you think their action — or lack of it — impacts the current socio-political climate?

Arin Parsa: No one realized how quickly deep-rooted racism would come to the surface. It is not that the government isn’t doing anything about it: the FBI has warned of a surge. President Trump, after having said “Chinese Virus” tweeted that he didn’t intend to use it derogatorily. But, it is clear that more needs to be done than just condemning the acts. 

The Asian demographic is a huge contributor to America’s scientific and technological advancements. Lack of immediate action can lead to an extremely fractured America and potential intellectual drain out of America. 

KN: Despite the mass-anxiety of a global pandemic, how do teens cross boundaries and establish solidarity with other ethnicities and groups? 

Arin Parsa: The power of the internet can truly be harnessed in these times. Joining diverse groups through social media of their choice,  whether it is Discord, Slack, Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, we can reach out and understand others. Teens can join the r/StopAntiAsianRacism, follow @BurntRiceBunch to show support to Asian teens who are suffering.  Empathy is about listening and can be really powerful, so responding with thoughtful comments can go a long way.  I also welcome everyone to TeenOpinions.org to write and show solidarity. Music is a universal language, so joining online concerts such as One World: Together at home on April 18 can build a feeling of togetherness. Locally, in our communities, we can make a difference too. Even a hand wave and a smile to the ones in your neighborhood can be extremely uplifting. 

KN: It’s wonderful that you’re so involved and politically self-aware. Any advice for other teenagers who want to support society’s most vulnerable during this difficult time? 

Arin Parsa: Thank you. First and foremost, respecting the shelter-in-place orders itself is a show of support to those who are most vulnerable. Protecting ourselves is protecting others. Checking out state and county websites are great places to know how we can help: sewing masks (with mom’s help if needed) or using a 3D printer if you have one, creating care packages, writing thank you emails to hospitals,  making yard signs of hope, doing grocery runs for our elderly neighbors, or simply calling a senior center and enquiring are ways we can help. Having a sense of purpose and togetherness can help us get through these difficult times.

Kanchan Naik is a junior at The Quarry Lane School in Dublin, CA. Aside from being a Student Intern for India Currents, she is the editor-in-chief of her school’s news-zine The Roar. She is also the Teen Poet Laureate of Pleasanton and uses her role to spread a love of poetry in her community.

Rapid Renewal

With the entire world seemingly off the highways and on WebEx or Zoom, I got to thinking if there is some good that will come out of this pandemic, a silver lining in the polluted clouds.  For those of you not feeling terribly hopeful right now, isn’t it wonderful to know that when there’s a burning platform in front of us, we will come together to take action?  It gives me hope around what we, 7.6 billion, can collectively do to turn the tide on climate change!

To be sure, these trying times of the coronavirus might reverse the progress made with controlling carbon dioxide emissions; but in the first quarter of 2020, global emissions were down considerably.  Like an overweight sick person who loses weight, at least we plump citizens of the earth now empirically know that we can do something to manage our over-consumption.  Here’s a somewhat optimistic article I wrote from a family trip last year to Kerala, India’s own version of paradise.

On a hopeful day after Christmas in Kochi, I am reflecting on what a solar eclipse means to me.  While I can focus on the darkness, given the many blessings that have come my way I prefer the light.  Perhaps it is merely the spirit of the season that has given me hope in what otherwise has been a rather dispiriting close to the past decade.  Or perhaps because, here in Kerala, I’m reminded of the diversity that has long been India’s strength.

This inclusive sense of all religions sharing India as a welcoming home is reflected in a favorite ditty of mine from Manmohan Desai’s film Amar Akbar Anthony:

Anhoni ko honi karde honi ko anhoni | We make the impossible possible and the possible impossible!

Ek jagah jab jama ho teeno | Together in one place, we three stand united:

Amar Akbar Anthony

This is the first time in nearly two decades that I have not spent Christmas Eve at the Stanford Theater on University Avenue in Palo Alto, California.  My family has made a tradition of going to see a film quite different from Amar Akbar Anthony, but one with a similarly hopeful heart: It’s A Wonderful Life, the holiday classic directed by Frank Capra.

My family missed seeing our favorite Christmas movie because we were in Cherai Beach, at a resort some 45 minutes north of Kerala’s Cochin International Airport (COK).  We were having a reunion of sorts, with family in India coming from Hyderabad, Kolkata, and Pune, and family from outside of India coming from Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.  It has been a time of great joy, but I find myself reflecting on the past “dumpster fire” of a decade. 

I’m usually a hopeful sort, but as I look back over the past ten years, the metaphor that haunts me is a heartless fire.  I smell this place that I call home burning. Home is Earth. Home is India. Home is America.

Our planet is literally on fire.  According to nasa.gov, “The world is getting warmer. Whether the cause is human activity or natural variability—and the preponderance of evidence says it’s humans—thermometer readings all around the world have risen steadily since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.”  The website proceeds to ask (and then answer), “But why should we care about one degree of warming?” I think each of us must answer that question in our own way. 

Raj with his granddaughter, Eshni.

For me, it’s not just the Earth science, although that, too, is vitally important.  It is about the world that my granddaughter, Eshni, will inhabit long after I am gone.  Already, I am distraught about the fact that while she was in New Delhi, Eshni was smoking nearly 50 cigarettes each day.  Okay, my daughter and son-in-law’s nine-month-old baby wasn’t actually dragging on several packs of Marlboros or Charminars, but she might as well have been.  The smoke in the capital of the country of my birth is intolerable and getting worse. I can barely imagine what is worse than intolerable. Unlivable? 

And the United States is not much better.  Although we Americans don’t have the daily visual clues to tell us that our planet is burning, I, as a Californian, can attest to the fact that the blue sky is a false harbinger of things to come if we don’t manage the change of climate change.  For two weeks last year, I could not step out of my home without tearing up. Yes, I’m an emotional sort who is easily moved to tears in sentimental Bollywood and Hollywood movies. But these weren’t filmy tears. No, the sun in my gray sky was eclipsed by smoke from fires burning thousands of acres over 100 miles away.  The sting of the smoke caused the tears and required me to wear a mask so that I could breathe. And if we can’t breathe, our world becomes unlivable, acre-by-acre. California’s thousands of charred acres have now given way to Australia’s millions of scarred acres. I take in the smoky air and choke at the impossibility of doing anything substantial about climate change.

When troubled by national and international issues, I look to good governance to save the day.  Surely the United Nations or the Prime Minister of India or the President of the United States have the foresight to envision a world that is habitable for my little Eshni.  Hooray for the UN. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has a fine objective to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”  If this were baseball, I would be shouting, “Hip, hip, hooray! Let’s put the UN Secretary-General into the Hall of Fame!” I would throw a parade for our collective grandchildren’s happy future world. Well, it seems that the UN does throw parties of a sort.  Year after year since 1995, there has been a Conference of the Parties. And year after year, the climate gets hotter and hotter. Protocols such as the Paris Agreement are ratified and rejected by the countries I call my own.

America and India’s positions on the protocols are quite telling and put one nation firmly in a disquieting Hall of Shame and the other in a disorienting Hall of Mirrors.

Trump’s United States is a rejecter of the protocols. Modi’s India is ostensibly a supporter. Both Trump and Modi remind me of those afflicted with the disease of hubris that has them looking directly at a solar eclipse as if their retinas could withstand fire.

In his first year in office, President Trump said, “The Paris accord will undermine (the U.S.) economy,” and “puts (the U.S.) at a permanent disadvantage.”  Donald Trump moved the needle from intolerable and unlivable to unthinkable. Midway through Trump’s term, The Atlantic Monthly listed some 50 unthinkable acts that characterized the Trump Presidency.  In essence, while the earth burns, Trump fiddles on his many incendiary interests including the following from the past 12 months:  building a wall at the US/Mexican border, adding trillions to the fiscal deficit, overseeing a contraction of domestic manufacturing, threatening and waffling on tariffs, recklessly executing an unethical—if not illegal—assassination of a foreign official to gin up a war to win votes, and responding to the inquiry of impeachment with a multitude of distracting lies.

On paper, Prime Minister Modi is the anti-Trump, almost an exemplar of climate change leadership.  He has done much to champion India as a global green leader; indeed, one can see solar panels floating on acres around COK, making Kochi’s airport the first in the world running fully on solar power.  But despite his laudable renewable energy investments in solar and wind farms, the Prime Minister was a reluctant signatory to the Paris Agreement; he has argued that as a developing country focused on giving her citizens a better life, India must not be constrained from investing in coal and other dirty fossil fuels.  There is much truth to the position that emerging economies merit dispensations not afforded to countries, which developed during the Industrial Age’s plunder of the Earth, but one must ask questions about Narendra Modi’s commitment to giving all Indians a better life.

What is the Prime Minister’s philosophy of social justice?  What are his intentions to make India not only a global green leader but also a moral leader?  Why does his office in Delhi encourage policies that are Hindu-centric rather than Hindustan-centric?  Perhaps the Modi Ministry could benefit from a rereading of Section 420 in the Indian Penal Code to clarify its disambiguation in how Muslims are treated as a source of terror. Certainly, a unified India would be more influential on the world stage if her fissiparous tendencies did not distract from the real terror of global warming.

Imagine an Earth with the blood-red skies of Australia where people flee to beaches to escape bushfires racing towards the coast. In Kerala, my hope is that we are not required to retire to backwaters houseboats to escape the fires of climate change; my hope is that we are not all sidetracked by our “Distractors-in-Chief;” my hope is that with a Surya Namaskar, we salute the sun as it rises; my hope is that hope is not eclipsed. 

While it has been lovely to celebrate time with family on the tranquil waters in what Keralites call “God’s Own Country,” inevitably all of us want to return to our wonderful lives in Pune, Melbourne, London, Kolkata, Hyderabad, and California. None of us desire a world where we, or our brothers and sisters, are climate refugees, or refugees of any sort seeking to escape home due to persecution of our race, religion, or sexual identity.  How about we convey our belief in the art of possibility and translate “Amar Akbar Anthony” for the next generation of (grand) children making Planet Earth their home?

We make the impossible possible and the possible impossible!

Together in one place, we three stand united:

Eshni, Ayesha, Emily.

Dr. Rajesh C. Oza, a Change Management Consultant, envisions 2020 as a transformative year.  His vision: Replace shortsighted politicians with clear-eyed leaders like Greta Thunberg (climate strike activist and Time’s 2019 Person of the Year) and Varshini Prakash (challenger of climate change’s status quo and Executive Director of the Sunrise Movement).


Featured image drawn by Mangla Oza.

Untold Stories: Agra Beyond the Taj

While one of the highlights of President Trump’s recent visit to India was a stop at the enchanting Taj Mahal—I happened to discover a whole new dimension of the timeless city which is its home. While most visitors (especially ones from neighbouring Delhi) make quick day trips to Agra—and that says a whole lot about the impressive expressway connecting the two cities—they often miss out on some of the city’s relatively lesser known treasures. It was some of these rare gems that I happened to explore during my recent visit—and the experience was an eye opener to say the least.

Aaraam Bagh on the banks of river Yamuna

Agra has some of the most exquisite riverfront Mughal gardens, on the banks of the Yamuna river. One such garden is the Aaram bagh, the first garden built by Babur. Babur wanted to create gardens using the water system from the flowing river—the kind he had seen existing in Samarkand. It was in Aaram bagh for the first time that the terraced and four-quartered garden plan was introduced. In 1878, the British renamed it as Ram Bagh, or the honeymoon garden, and used it to stay and even auction fruits of the several trees growing there, such as orange, guava, dates, gooseberry, papaya, tamarind and pomegranate. The garden even has some Cypress trees growing in it—a symbol of sadness—as they were also used for funeral purposes. 

Planned and built as an integral part of the Taj Mahal’s original design, is another garden called the Mehtab bagh. In fact, Shah Jahan built it with the primary intention that no one builds anything behind the Taj Mahal. Also known as the moon garden, it is the place where the emperor would sit on a moonlit night for a special view of the Taj Mahal. This garden too consists of a variety of flora, including wood apple, hibiscus, bottle brush and frangipani. Further, Chini Ka Roza contains the tomb of Shukrullah Shirazi Afzal Khan, a scholar and poet who was Shah Jahan’s Prime Minister. Using glazed ceramic tiles that pictorially depict various flowers, such as jasmine, tiger lily and crown imperial, the monument was restored by Lord Curzon in 1899. 

The I’timād-ud-Daulah Tomb

About a kilometer away, lies the beautiful I’timād-ud-Daulah. Popularly known as the Baby Taj, it was built by Nur Jahan as a resting place for her parents, Mirzā Ghiyās Beg and Asmat Begum. Built in the 17th century, it was for the first time in Indian architecture that marble was used for a tomb. The 22nd wife of Emperor Jahangir, Nur Jahan was known to be his favourite and ruled the Mughal empire from behind the curtain for 16 years (1611-1627). At one time, her face was even imprinted on coins. Also known as the cobra queen, she had once been protected by a cobra as a baby. The structure has a gold painted ceiling and its intricate pietra dura inlay work resembles that of an ornamental jewellery box. The garden still has the ancient water channel system intact, complete with walkways and chutes.

A paan shop in the old city

Further, Agra also offers a quaint heritage walk in the old city, which reminds you much of the cluttered by lanes of Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. Up first is the Jama Masjid built by Shah Jahan in 1648. Just opposite is the city’s old railway station that has been in existence since 1853. Then, there are several iconic local spots, such as Agra’s oldest poori shop that has been open since 1840 and the city’s very first X-ray clinic. Scattered around are also dozens of shops selling locally produced milk cakes, homemade pickles, flowers and paan shops that source betel leaves from nearby towns such as Benaras and Mahoba. There is also the ancient Mankameshwar Mahadev temple dedicated to Lord Shiva nearby. People believe it was here that Lord Shiva stayed when he came to meet Lord Krishna when the latter was born in Mathura.  

Further down the walk, one encounters several late 19th century havelis, where a number of people continue to live and run businesses till this day. The oldest haveli in the area has a board outside it that reads Kokamal Market. Kokamal was a very rich banker who would lend money to the British. The British got a grill from England to be put outside his haveli long before iron work started in India. As one walks down, you come across a spice market, selling everything from turmeric to nutmeg, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom and cumin. Further down is the Seth gali, consisting of several printing shops.

Agra is also an absolute gastronomic delight. Some of the street food one should not miss out on when in the city, is the deep-fried kachori that is eaten with alu ki sabji; the lip smacking tikki chaat; and the small, crispy jalebis. If you’re a fan of Mughlai cuisine, then you’ll be spoiled for choice, with everything on a platter from galouti kebabs, shammi kebabs and sikandari raan. Some of the popular local delicacies to carry back home are the dal moth namkeen and petha (from Panchhi or Gopaldas Pethe Wale). It is believed that Shah Jahan’s chef wanted to commit suicide after he was dismissed. When he saw a pumpkin floating on the river, he decided to make a petha out of it, which the emperor really liked. That was how petha became synonymous with Agra. Everything about Agra reeks of the history of a bygone era, and one need not dig too deep for an untold story to emerge from somewhere beneath the surface…

Neha Kirpal is a freelance writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Wanderlust for the Soul, an e-book collection of short stories based on travel in different parts of the world. 

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behavior one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foreign policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

Trump in a Landslide? Yes!

By Rameysh Ramdas

Recently, the highly predictive Moody’s election model projected President Trump would easily win re-election by a wider margin and could even win a Reagensque landslide.

Despite my Democratic Party affiliation, I must regrettably agree with Moody’s model. With unemployment at a historic low of 3.5%, the S&P has risen 28% since the day he was elected, and we are on the cusp of ending the trade war with China with a deal, and possibly a denuclearization accord with North Korea.   

Whether it is due to Trump’s policies is arguable, but Trump has certainly boosted consumer and business confidence to new highs. Many areas in the nation face acute labor shortages in this expansion. It was a streak of political genius that he ran and won with a catchy slogan- “Make America Great Again.” Those four words were more powerful than the lengthy policy prescriptions that Hillary patiently presented.

With this economic tailwind behind our nation, the Democrats seem determined to lose in 2020. A motley crew of far left wing zealots like Senator Warren, Reps Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Tlaib are driving the direction of the party and forcing candidates to fall in line.  Warren wants to almost criminalize wealth creation and corporations in this country. This is the only nation on earth where a graduate student like me could land with a meager $520 and today, 30 years later, live in a million plus dollar home and achieve a successful career while still enjoying all the rights and privileges of native-born fellow Americans. 

The Democrats promise a “Medicare for Allthat essentially strips people of their choice of employer provided health care and impose fines if they do not enroll in Medicare. The Democrats would cripple life and commerce in the U.S with their  maniacal focus on climate change, forgetting that China, India and Mexico are the major polluters of this planet. The Democrats want to also make college tuition free, even for millionaire’s kids or those underperforming 

The average American, while certainly willing to make reasonable accommodations, is more focused on providing for their family, educating their kids, retaining their jobs in this rapidly changing workplace, having a secure retirement and on being able to pass on their life’s savings to their loved ones without the Government raiding them. The Democrats and their agendas are completely divorced from this reality. 

At the end of the day, as the old adage goes, Americans vote with their pocket books. Till Trump keeps our pocketbooks filled, the majority will gladly re-elect him in a heartbeat.  The Democrats have given me, this moderate, middle of the road Democrat nothing to say “Yes” to! 

Mark my words, with the Democrats not relating to mainstream  and rural America, and if the economy continues to boom and associated optimism continue to hold up, President Trump will be reelected, and yes, possibly in a landslide. 

Rameysh Ramdas, a resident of the SF Bay Area, has a keen interest in Politics and Current Events. 

Trump in a Landslide? Absolutely Not!

By Mani Subramani

Moody’s model predicted the wrong outcome in the 2016 elections. “In response to the miss, Moody’s expanded the range of potential voter turnout and made several other changes to how it assesses voter reaction to economic conditions. If applied now, Moody’s says the altered models would have called 2016 for Trump,” says this article. That’s the nature of statistical models – they are sometimes wrong!   

Americans are tired of Trump style over substance approach. They are sick of him labeling critical media outlets as fake news, overruling US institutions (CIA) in favor of foreign entities (Putin), disrespecting decorated veterans (Senator McCain), making crude remarks about women, denying climate change, peddling fake conspiracy theories about the deep state and now, potential impeachable offenses!  

In order to justify Trump’s behaviour one needs to disbelieve all media outlets, ignore the obvious effects of climate change, accept incompetent foriegn policy, believe the fake theory that coal jobs are coming back and that globalization can be reversed. 

Trump has always been a conman with a solid base of supporters. Proving the adage that you can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time.  Let’s hope, for the sake of this great democracy, that he cannot fool all the people all the time!!

A lot has been made of US economic strength under Trump. However, these analyses ignore several factors. With the exception of a three quarters of 3+% growth, it has been around ~2% to below 2% in the most recent quarter –  a rate which Trump characterized as “weak” while campaigning in 2016.  

Similarly unemployment rate decline, which began in 2010, has just continued to decline and now stabilized around 3.6%. On the other hand budget deficits have exploded. Three consecutive years of rapidly rising deficits threatens to break the trillion dollar mark this year. Having this occur during an economic expansion shows dangerous underlying economic weakness. In sharp contrast, after a high in 2009 the deficits steadily reduced under Obama. Proving once again that whatever Trump does, he does horribly. Exactly what you would expect from a man who specialized in serial bankruptcies! 

This does not mean the voters are going to hand the election to the Democratic nominee. The nominee needs to articulate the message that an irresponsible and crooked leader has wastefully spent the public treasure on wealthy individuals and corporations who spent it on stock buybacks. 

This money would have been better spent on addressing inequality, health security, infrastructure, job training and securing the world for future generations for all Americans. Such investment would lead to sustained economic growth, jobs of the future and improved quality of life.  

In July 2019 the support for impeachment was around ~40%. Recent polls show a majority supporting impeachment. The Democratic nominee must inspire a robust voter turnout. There are a few candidates in the pool who are articulating populist ideas well and practicing good retail politics.  They are quite capable of unseating Trump. 

Mani Subramani is a veteran of the semiconductor equipment industry.  He enjoys following politics and economics.

The Growing Political Power of Indian Americans

Indian Americans are a growing political force who are being wooed as potential donors by Election 2020 presidential hopefuls  – though they represent just over 1% of the US population, Indian Americans have donated more than $3 million so far towards the 2020 presidential campaigns.

Both Democrat and Republican candidates are courting Indian American constituents not just because this second largest immigrant group in the US is growing wealthier, with median household incomes at $107,000,  but also because Indian Americans are successfully permeating the establishment in industry, academia, and other fields, and actively engaging in politics to make their voices heard.

As more Indian Americans from across the political spectrum participate in US politics to advocate for their community’s interests, several political action groups have been formed to promote issues that matter to their members, among them, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT),  the United States India Political Action Committee, and the Republican Hindu Coalition

A 2018 survey confirms that South Asian communities are steadily developing a civic and political network  of ‘voters, donors, elected officials, appointees and public policy advocates’, that is driving engagement in the political process.  The AAPI reports that as more individuals from Asian American communities run for office (over 80 in 2018),  “they engage their network of extended family and friends to become involved.” 

This infrastructure is pivotal in driving voter registration and voter engagement in primary and special elections. Indian Americans, one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the United States, register and vote at high rates, a fact not lost on political contenders trying to claim a portion of the vote share in the upcoming elections. 

In early September, Sen. Kamala Harris used a video tweet to launch her  “South Asians For The People” initiative, to muster support from Indian Americans for her election campaign. She expressed pride in her South Asian heritage and in her grandfather, a freedom fighter who believed that, “all people should be treated equally – regardless of the circumstances of their birth”. 

Maya Humes, a spokesperson for the Harris campaign told India Currents that several Indian American volunteers had revealed “how much Kamala’s run for president means to their community.” Harris’ campaign has set up a hub on its website to bring South Asian supporters across the country together to help them “get to know each other, host events, and spread the word about Harris’ plans to enact bold change within their communities.”

In another event on September 28, Dr. Jill Biden, wife of VP Joe Biden, sought support for her husband’s presidential bid at a fundraiser in Fremont, CA, hosted by tech executive, community leader, and philanthropist Ajay Bhutoria and his wife Vinita Bhutoria. 

Dr. Biden shared her thoughts about stories that “remind us that our differences are precious and that our similarities infinite— that our community, our country, is capable of beautiful and powerful things.” 

Although Indian Americans have traditionally voted Democrat,  (over 62% in an AAPI poll), President Trump has sought and received support from a cohort of Indian American community leaders.

Before the 2016 elections, a video ad sponsored by Chicago-based billionaire Shalabh Kumar, featured then candidate Trump exhorting Indian Americans to vote for him, “Ab ki baar Trump sarkar”. That refrain was repeated at the recent Howdy Modi event at Houston’s NRG stadium in September, which was attended by President Trump.

Adi Sathi, Chief of Staff at the Young Republican National Federation explained that many Indian American business leaders support President Trump’s commitment to tax reform and economic deregulation

At the Howdy Modi event, Trump, who has strategically appointed at least 22 Indian Americans to important government jobs, solicited Indian American support for his re-election bid by highlighting his 2017 tax cuts and business friendly agenda, “I want you to know my administration is fighting for you each and every day.”

In his speech Trump lauded his Indian American audience saying, “You enrich our culture. You uphold our values. You uplift our communities. You are proud to be Americans and we are truly proud to have you as Americans.”

With sentiments like these and the 2020 election in their sights, the quest by presidential candidates for Indian American support symbolizes the potential power and remarkable political influence of this ethnic community in the next US election.

Image source: biden-viks-photography-1835.jpg

Meera Kymal is a contributing editor at India Currents.

 

Indian Americans – Inclusive in US, Intolerant in India?

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the United States to join President Trump to address a gathering of over 50,000 Indian Americans is an opportunity to not only strengthen the ties between the oldest and the largest democracy, but also to pressure the Prime Minister to stand up to his promise of an inclusive and secular India.

To Prime Minister Modi’s credit, he has implemented developmental plans from space exploration to health insurance schemes at a rate unheard of in Indian politics. After a decade of unprecedented corruption and poor governance, Modi’s vision of India as a developed country has captured the dreams and imaginations of many.

But the economic strides comes with a cost: intolerance, bigotry and hate crimes.

Modi’s right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) and allies have made no secret of their vision of India as a Hindu country, contradicting India’s secular founding principles.

Just months after the B.J.P.’s rise, a Hindu right wing group induced over 3000 Christians to participate in mass conversion ceremony to Hinduism by a combination of intimidation and bribery. In a move unbecoming of the largest democracy, the B.J.P. endorsed sedition charges against students who had cheered for the Pakistani cricket team in an India-Pakistan cricket match.

This August, just a few months into his second term, Modi revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed state of Kashmir. Not by debate and deliberation, but by a security clampdown that left the residents of the Muslim-majority valley without internet, mobile and even healthcare services for weeks.

The rising intolerance is all too palpable on social media too.

The slightest hint of dissent is quickly silenced with raucous accusations of anti-nationalism.

Nobel Laureate Malala Yousaf was trolled for tweeting her concerns about the ongoing crisis in the Valley affecting the education of school children. Hindu American Foundation, an American non-profit and ally of the Modi government lambasted Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders for speaking out against curtailing civil liberties in Kashmir.

The similarities in the politics of Trump and Modi are hard to miss.

Both  are immigration and national security hardliners, ran for elections on populist policies, and frame any criticism of their policies as unpatriotic. Their majoritarian beliefs have galvanized the far right of their respective countries resulting in a wave of bigotry, intolerance and hate crimes.

Despite their similarities, it is ironic that the popularity of the two leaders are at polar opposites among the Indian diaspora.

As minorities in the US, we desis accept and enjoy the benefits of secularism, freedom of religious expression, and evangelizing (the Hare Krishna movement).

We vote for secular left wing policies in the US, and accuse Trump of instigating hate crimes  against Indian Americans, like the killing of an Indian engineer in 2017, by his racist and anti-immigrant rhetoric.

Yet, Indian Americans, the majority of whom are Indian-born Hindus, hypocritically champion the Hindu nationalist policies of Modi in India, the very policies that we are critical of in the American setting.

If we want an inclusive and tolerant America, we must start by cleaning our own backyard. We must insist that Prime Minister Modi create a secular, inclusive and multicultural India, much like the America we seek for ourselves.

Ashwin Murthy is a software engineer at LinkedIn and a freelance writer of Indian descent.

Kamala Harris takes on Trump

The ten contenders who faced off in the third Democratic Presidential debate hosted by ABC on August 12 sent a powerful message to voters – it was time to get rid of Donald Trump and each of them was ready and equipped to do it.

Senator Kamala Harris, looking directly into the camera in her opening statement, attacked first, “I have some words for Donald Trump, who we all know is watching.”

The president, said Harris, spent his first term sowing “hate and division among us”  and used fear, intimidation and over twelve thousand lies “to distract from failed policies and broken promises.” She argued that the only reason Trump escaped indictment is because a sitting President cannot be charged with a crime.

The crowd roared with approval when Harris suggested the President “go back to watching Fox News.”

The final ten candidates who qualified for the third round of debates met fundraising and polling requirements set by the DNC (at least 2% support in at least four polls and donations from at least 130,000 unique donors), presented a remarkably diverse group across the spectrum of age, gender and ethnicity. Harris is the only woman of color to make the cut.

As the first front runner of dual Indian-American and African-American heritage, Harris is uniquely positioned to represent both groups in her presidential campaign, so her platform and policies have come under close scrutiny from both communities.

So how did she do?

What the American people know, said Harris, is that “the vast majority have so much more in common than what separates us, regardless of race, where we live, or the party with which we are registered to vote.”

Her plan is to stay focused on “our common issues, common hopes and desires and in that way, unifying our country, winning this election and turning the page for America.”

During the three-hour long debate, Harris came under fire for her record on crime, compared Trump on trade policy to the ‘little guy’ in the Wizard of Oz, and laughingly offered V P Biden an awkward “Hey Joe, let’s just say we can,” when he queried her proposed executive order to ban assault weapons.

And yet, the debate on mass shootings allowed Harris to dig deep into her experience on handling gun violence, “I’ve seen more autopsy photos than I care to tell you,” she said, protesting the  trauma of young children forced to practice gun drills in primary school. It also gave her one of the best lines of the night when commenting on the El Paso’s mass shooting that claimed 29 lives, ‘Trump did not pull the trigger, but he’s certainly been tweeting out the ammunition.”

ABC moderator Linsey Davis confronted Harris with some tough questions on her prosecutorial record, calling her newly released plan for criminal justice reform contradictory to her prior positions. “When you had power why didn’t you try to affect change then?”

Harris disputed the challenge as distortions of her record which did not reflect reforms she had initiated, that required law enforcement to wear cameras and racial bias training for police officers. Her message about changing the system from the inside outlined future plans to end mass incarceration and solitary confinement, shut down for-profit prisons, and hold law enforcement, including prosecutors, accountable –  a plan that she said, activists called ‘bold’.

Harris also swung the healthcare discussion away from her opponents’ well-intentioned proposals for every American to have healthcare coverage, to focus instead on Donald Trump and the end goal. “Let’s talk about the fact that Donald Trump came into office….and spent almost the entire first year of his term trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act.”

She drew applause from an appreciative audience with a reminder about the late Senator John McCain’s surprise 2 am vote, against a GOP-sponsored limited repeal of Obamacare. Harris’ cue to her sparring opponents who basically agree on healthcare coverage, was to frame the real threat to millions of Americans and the ACA, “Lets focus on the end goal. If we don’t get Donald Trump out of office, he’s going to get rid of all of it.”

Topher Spiro, from the Center for American Progress said, “Kamala Harris won the opening statement and the health care debate. Just sayin!”

Currently, Kamala Harris ranks among the top five candidates in a YouGov/FairVote of national Democratic voters. Will she be the one to stop Trump from taking away healthcare from 300 million Americans?  And will Democratic voters think Kamala Harris is the one who can get on stage in a debate with Donald Trump and take him down?

 

 

Appeal to Aunties: Help End Family Detention

Auntie, I feel like I grew up with you. When I pass you in the street or see you in the spice store, I feel like you’re one of the people who saw me grow up, kept my welfare close to your heart, and had an unspoken authority in my community.

I grew up in one of the most South Asian places in the United States, and when I was young, I knew I had many people I could depend on. I was raised by my aunties, by my best friends, and by my parents, who came here to learn, to work in business and public service, and to raise children that are Indian and American.

I don’t know if everyone understands how precious immigrant communities are. It is so special to know, deeply, that there are people who care for you in ways you never had to ask for. As a child of immigrants, I knew that even when my elders didn’t understand me, they were doing their best to care for me. And I knew that sometimes, when I wore jhumki to school, knew something about Pakistani history, or could recite the names of my favorite Tamil language poets, folks from my immigrant community would be brilliantly delighted to find a piece of their home in this country.

This is a request, auntie, as the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) works to divide and traumatize immigrant communities of color, including South Asian immigrant communities. This is a request to help those fighting against the truly evil work of ICE under the Trump administration.

“This is a request to help those fighting against the truly evil work of ICE under the Trump administration.”

Auntie, ICE was founded in 2003. In the US, immigration enforcement through handcuffs, raids, deportation, and detention is a recent development. And I think it’s more and more clear that these people aren’t just earnestly enforcing U.S. laws. They’re waging a targeted, cruel war against immigrants and refugees.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen that ICE under Trump is comfortable detaining children who came to this country seeking asylum, detaining 1,500 boys at a time in former Walmarts, and toddlers in “tender age shelters.” Donald Trump signed an executive order ending “family separation,” but he simply promised “family detention” instead, and the order did nothing to re-unite more than 2,000 children with their families. The American Academy of Pediatrics has called this state-sponsored child abuse, depriving children of playing in the sun and eating their mothers’ food. What ICE is doing has to end.

I am so proud of being of immigrants, being from so many places at once. I am so happy so many in my immigrant community have done well; have made beautiful things for themselves and their children. Auntie, I’m asking you to help make it so more people grow up like I did: safe, free, and with my immigrant family.

Here’s what you can do:

Join the National Day of Action June 30. On June 30, organizers across the country will host “Families Belong Together” protests in response to the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance immigration policy. Find an action near you: https://www.familiesbelongtogether.org/

Call your elected officials. Make your voice heard on the issues that matter to you. 5 Callsshares relevant contact information and frequently updated scripts on a number of issues to help callers Demand the Reunification of Migrant Children With FamiliesBlock the Indefinite Detention of Migrant Children and FamiliesAbolish Ice, and more.

Support organizations doing front-line work with legal services, translation assistance and advocacy. Your support can be spread among up to 14 such organizations via this donation page. Read this Colorlines post for more ways to support front-line advocacy.

Discuss, support, and join organizations with your community.

In DC: Support SAALT and United We Dream
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States.

United We Dream is the largest immigrant youth-led community in the country. It empowers people to develop their leadership, their organizing skills, and to develop youth-led campaigns to fight for justice and dignity for immigrants and all people.

In California: Support CIYJA
The California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA) focuses on strategically placing youth in advocacy and policy delegations. CIYJA is dedicated to building a mass immigrant youth movement that challenges the model minority narrative and acknowledges the struggles of all oppressed people as one.

Join a local South Asian organization and amplify your voice:
http://saalt.org/the-coalition/meet-the-ncso/

Check out the Rapid Response Guide for Muslim, Arab, South Asian Orgs/Advocates
This evolving document was developed for Muslim, Arab, and South Asian groups and advocates interested in taking immediate action to end the inhumane family separation policy of the Trump Administration. The guide provides 10 action steps with resources and links.

Sagaree Jain is a writer, researcher, and poet. She grew up in the Silicon Valley and studied history at the University of California at Berkeley. She is the co-creator of the Turmeric Project, which spotlights queer South Asian art, and she works in human rights. Sagaree is fascinated by women, South Asia, poetry, scientific racism, reproductive justice, queer health, decolonization, migration, surveillance, on and on. She lives in Brooklyn.

This article was originally published in The Aerogram. It is being republished with the author’s permission.

Sizing Up Immigrant Rights—Best Hope In Ballot Box

Less than two weeks after the Trump administration’s arbitrary deadline for Congress to take action on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) came and went with no solution, four veterans of the immigrant rights movement agreed that the outlook is bleak and the challenges are significant. The greatest hope lies in the voting booth –a shift of power out of Republican hands after the November elections – and the fact that those most impacted are taking action to protect themselves and inform others in their communities.

“It’s highly unlikely that Congress is going to pass any relief to benefit young people who make a huge contribution to the country they call home,” said Frank Sharry, Director of America’s Voice in Washington DC.   “Congress and the White House are no friends.”

Sharry was joined by attorney Joshua Rosenthal of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC) deputy director Sally Kinoshita, and California Labor Federation field coordinator for southern California Hector Saldivar. The four spoke on a national telebriefing for ethnic media on March 13, hosted by ILRC’s Ready California.

Calling it a “war on immigrants,” Sharry said the  administration aims to “slash immigration by 50%, turbocharge deportations and construct a border wall as wasteful as it is insulting,” He counted five failed bipartisan efforts to provide the “bill of love” the president claimed to want while decreeing the end of DACA.

Democratic leadership, for its part, “despite a lot of effort, a lot of back and forth,” simply “couldn’t cut a deal with a leadership that doesn’t want to make a deal.”

“It’s a cynical, cruel strategy that the White House has pursued,” Sharry said. “Our best hope is that litigation will allow Dreamers to keep their status until hopefully we get a new Congress (in November’s elections).”  If power shifts out of Republican hands, there will be “a much better chance – although not a slam dunk – that legislation will be able to move forward.”

In the meantime, people are forced into “a horrible decision, to stay without papers or leave. We’re hoping to protect as many people as possible, buy them as much time as possible.”

NILC lawyer Rosenthal was also cautious in his assessment of efforts to challenge the Trump campaign through the courts.   “Courts are only able to go so far. They’re not going to be the final answer. We can’t ignore the role of Congress and the states in providing protection for immigrants.”

He cited as good news rulings in California and New York this year that found the Trump administration’s Sept. 5 announcement it would cut off DACA applications a month later to be “arbitrary and capricious.”   When the government tried to fast-track an appeal of those rulings to the Supreme Court, the justices refused to consider taking the case until they had gone through the remaining lower-level appeals courts, meaning that those eligible to renew their DACA status can continue to do so. If they do eventually review the case, their decision wouldn’t arrive until the spring of 2019.

Even then, he added, the injunction “is a limited, temporary form of relief.” It leaves out an important set of people, those unable to receive DACA status prior to the Trump administration’s decision to end the program.

Rosenthal recommended visiting informedimmigrant.com and its Spanish version, immigranteinformado.com, for lists of trustworthy service providers sorted by location for help in applying for DACA, and other information.

With almost a third of  the country’s undocumented immigrants, California has mounted the most comprehensive effort to resist the Trump administration’s “war on immigrants,” declaring itself a sanctuary state.

Sally Kinoshita of ILRC noted that there is no legal definition of the term “sanctuary.” But she cited several state measures that provide some resistance to federal efforts against immigrant communities.   These include SB 54, AB103 and AB540 which respectively restrict the ability of local law enforcement to cooperate with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement); require the state attorney general to inspect detention facilities operated under contract with the federal government; and require judicial warrants in advance of detentions.

“These laws help to make clear that California is much safer for immigrants,” Kinoshita said.  Despite that, ICE recently launched a four-day campaign in Northern California in which 40% of the more than 200 arrested had no criminal records.  The raids aim to stoke public fear by portraying immigrants as a threat.

Kinoshita noted that the state has budgeted $45 million for immigration education, outreach and legal services.

The state’s Department of Social Services’ website lists 100 nonprofits that receive state funding and have either free or low cost services.  She recommended those in California refer to ready-california.org, with its lists of trusted service providers, trainings and events.

For those all-important screenings, Kinoshita recommended the website immi.org, which enables people to do them anonymously and online.

Hector Saldivar, who coordinates field activities for the California Labor Federation, spoke of increased fear and anxiety throughout immigrant communities. Himself a DACA recipient, he described his own family’s agonizing situation when his mother was recently denied re-entry into the country.

Like Kinoshita, Saldivar praised AB540 for its role in curtailing ICE’s ability to enter work places at will without a judicial warrant. On the ground, he said, forming a network of rapid response units has “provided solidarity and support” for workers facing ICE raids and “silent raids” – audits of a workplace’s I-9 forms that verify workers’ identity and employment authorization.

“This is the most crucial time to go out and show our support,” he said, “particularly for those whose status is secure.  We’re not going to allow them to be picked up or detained and then forgotten.”

Kinoshita agreed. “We can no longer ask those who are most vulnerable to take the most risk.  People who are eligible to naturalize need to do it now,” she said, even if only to vote.

Voting, she said, falls “on the less risky side” of actions people can take and “is so critical.”  “We need Congress to step up. We’re relying heavily on the judiciary and can’t take it for granted.”

Calling the current political climate “one of the darkest chapters in American history,” Frank Sharry said his biggest worry going forward is that “Republicans will maintain control of Congress.”

He’s hopeful, though, that immigration activists are going to prevail, not only in the courts and on the streets, but at the ballot box.

“We’re on the right side of history.”

 

Made in the Divided States of America

Made in the Divided States of America

There is a woman holding a cardboard, hand-lettered sign outside of the little artisan produce mart in Glen Park, near the geographic center of San Francisco, where I live. She has it right now, as I type this.

“Please help. Husband deported. I have three kids.”

She—the woman with the sign, has been there for at least a week.

I was in high school during the first Gulf War, in Small town, Michigan. Yellow ribbons went up, “These  colors don’t run” T-shirts were donned, American flags were smeared onto every blank windowpane and surface, and some of the more creative ethnic slurs were coined and hurled at the very few of us with dusky skin.

I’m half-Indian, born and raised in the Midwest, someone who could employ one hand to count the number of times I’ve visited the motherland.
Still, as a kid, I was accustomed to representing it. I was one of …well you could count us on one hand at our school. We were few. I dealt with it, got into fights, got into college, and left as soon as I could, imagining that I had left that hell there, where it belonged.

Years later, after the towers came down, I was on my way to my firs

t job,  teaching at an all-black inner city school. I stopped at the gas station—it was smeared with American flags.

“Dear God, not this again!” I thought to myself. At first glance, the guy manning the counter looked black. He had dark skin, a doo-rag wrapped around his head, with a baseball cap perched on top in a gangsta lean, a common sight in the predominantly black southside of Chicago. When I got closer, though, I noticed his wispy sideburns—this guy was a Sikh. The elaborate headgear was meant to disguise his turban. He was frightened, and for good reason—the citizenry of Chicago was burning down mosques, mistaking anything dark with Osama bin Ladin’s extremism.

At the school where I taught, a couple of kids took to yelling “ Osama bin laden!” when they saw me before running away, although to be honest, I  didn’t feel particularly threatened or offended by it. I think they were just curious and testing the waters, now that there was another minority that, for once—however temporarily—ranked below black people.

I really hate to be here again, as many of us do. I want to bury my head in the sand, but I have a kid. She may be a quarter Indian—and certainly not visibly so, as she has her mom’s chestnut hair and stunning blue-green eyes—but she is quite aware of her heritage, down to the Bengali, although she confuses it sometimes, like when we listen to 92.3, The Bay Area’s Bollywood station, and she asks:

“Bolly? Like Bengali?” So, not exactly the same thing, but close. She’s aware.

And to my point—this is not the same situation, especially in the Indian-American community. Like many others, I entertained fantasies about Canadian citizenship—I certainly helped in a modest way in crashing their immigration website on the night of the election—but things are different. We aren’t the slightly confused, recently off-the-boat crew of almost exclusively third-preference visa’ed doctors and engineers who all claim—lacking proper birth certificates—that their collective birthday is January first, because that makes the paperwork easier.

We have figured out what a lawn is, and how to mow it (make the kids do it) and while hamburgers are technically are a sin for many of us, turkey burgers are actually pretty good. We have mobbed the tech industry, we teach in public schools, we have novelists, comedians and musicians that are uniquely American.

If my daughter is any indication, we might have the first Indian-American pro hula-hooper(she really is that good) even though that’s not a thing—yet. We  are raising the first generation of kids who might not speak the mother tongue, because their ABCD parents—yes, our clever Gen X acronym designed to define us as distinct from the adults—has aged into parenthood.

We were born in Michigan, Louisiana, Utah and California. We are here to stay. We have a damn Bollywood radio station, for Krishna’s sake.

Which begs the question—what are we going to do with this hot mess? It’s easy to want to remain uninvolved, to detach to the insular desi-land, to consider this the Americans’ problem, maybe look into our cousin’s offer of a desk job in Hyderabad with a life-style lined with servants. But we don’t have that luxury any more—our kids, and our kids’ kids only know this country; going back is simply not an option for most of us. The fruit from the first orchard has dropped, and the seedlings have rooted into this soil.

So—what do we do? Things are different now. A commercial on our Bollywood station assures me that the South Asian community is the “fastest growing, most affluent demographic in the Bay Area” and while this sounds a touch immodest to my liberal-American-NPR-junkie ears, it is also true. Make no mistake, if you simply extracted every desi from Silicon Valley simultaneously, it would fall apart. California, as a state, is the eighth biggest economy in the world—in tech, media and agriculture, providing one-third of the nation’s produce. Let’s also be quite sure that the Trump administration will make no discernible difference between Mexican, Indian, Arab, Black, Jewish, LBGT, or anything else—it doesn’t see when it looks in the mirror. We are the next to go, whether or not that is uncomfortable to realize.

I can’t afford that, my daughter and wife can’t afford that, our children can’t afford that, and the woman out in front of the fancy produce store can’t afford that. What are we going to do?
I’m not sure myself. If I may tap my very personal cultural hallmarks (Star Wars) I’m going to resist. Get involved with the rebellion. Do what I can. I’m going to stop typing now, head home, make a curried turkey burger for the kid, and later see if anyone agrees with me. But on the way out, I’m gonna hand that woman a few dollars, because I’m lucky, she isn’t, and if I may be Indo-Californian on this one, “Karma’s a b***h!” It’s not much to start with—but it’s a start.

Shumit DasGupta is a science education professional, bicyclist and musician who writes op-ed pieces and children’s books.  Some of them make it on radio stations and magazines that you have actually heard of.

 

Legal Advice for Traveling Back to the US

In a major shift to U.S. visa policy, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Entry into the United States by Foreign Nationals” on January 27, 2017.  The order went into effect immediately. Numerous lawsuits were filed and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has currently banned the implementation of the order. Because the situation remains fluid, I thought that it is critical that when traveling, you are aware of your rights.

1. U.S. Citizens
U.S. citizens have the right to enter the United States, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) is required to allow U.S. citizens entry. U.S. citizens should always travel with a valid U.S. passport. U.S. citizens also have the right to have an attorney present for any questioning.

2. Non-U.S. Citizens
The U.S. government clearly has the authority to determine whether a non-U.S. citizen is “admissible” under the applicable regulations. Non-U.S. citizens generally do not have the right to an attorney after arriving at an airport or port of entry while being questioned by CBP. However, there is a limited right to legal counsel if the CBP’s questions do not relate to immigration status.

3. Searches
CBP can search (www.cbp.gov/travel/cbp-search-authority) all persons, baggage and merchandise arriving in the United States. CBP can also examine computers and cellphones, to obtain information about prior travel, eligibility for visa category, and/or evaluate admissibility. However, there is no requirement to unlock an electronic device, or to provide CBP access to social media accounts or passwords to mobile applications.