Press Release

Public Statement from Concerned Organizations regarding the Recent Incidents in Edison, NJ involving the South Asian Community

 
 

We, the undersigned organizations, issue this public statement to express our deep concerns about the recent incidents in Edison, New Jersey that have led to the arrest of an Indian man at a public rally, and have strained tensions in Edison among members of the South Asian community, the Edison community at large, elected officials and the police department.

Background

Community members in Edison gathered on August 2nd, 2006, at a rally to protest incidents of police brutality that an Indian man, Raj Parikh, allegedly experienced on July 4th, 2006, by an Edison police officer. The rally on August 2nd occurred after several unsuccessful attempts by community members to address their concerns with government officials.

At the rally, a group of approximately 60 South Asians were met by counter protesters who made anti-immigrant and racist slurs, such as, “How many of you are illegals? You must’ve slid under the border to come here”; “You’re all cockroaches! Go home!”; and “If you behave like animals you will be treated like animals”. Mr. Parikh was scheduled to speak at the rally but was unable to do so, because Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials appeared and arrested him. Apparently, Mr. Parikh was out of status and had an order of deportation against him.

Our Concerns

We are concerned with the following issues:

  1. The presence of ICE at the public rally, and the subsequent arrest of Mr. Parikh. We are concerned that ICE’s presence at the rally, coupled with the arrest of Mr. Parikh, will have a chilling effect on immigrants who wish to exercise their rights to free speech and expression in public places. Undocumented immigrants may also feel intimidated and hesitant to approach law enforcement due to fear of arrest and deportation.
  2. Potential of collaboration between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities. Cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities can have far-reaching consequences, such as community distrust, suspicion and fear. Since ICE’s arrest of Mr. Parikh, the Mayor and the Chief of Police have denied working with ICE to arrest Mr. Parikh at the rally. Yet, ICE officials have reportedly stated that they closely coordinated with the Edison Police Department in this incident. The community deserves to know what actually occurred.
  3. Racial tensions between Edison’s South Asian community members and non- South Asian community members. As seen by the anti-immigrant and racist slurs used during the August 2nd rally, there are open and escalating tensions between the South Asian and non-South Asian communities of Edison. Community members, organizations, elected officials and other stakeholders must take steps to stem such tensions now through communication, education and coalition-building.
  4. Tensions between the South Asian community, local law enforcement, and government officials in Edison. There is growing miscommunication and misinformation that is widening the gap between the South Asian community and government officials. All those involved must take steps to effectively communicate and to address community concerns in a collaborative manner.

Recommendations

We recommend the following actions to address the above concerns:

  • Mayor Choi’s office has launched an investigation into whether local law enforcement collaborated with federal immigration authorities in this matter. The Mayor’s office should ensure that this investigation is detailed and thorough, and that the results are publicly reported.
  • Mayor Choi’s office and the Edison Police Department should clarify what the official policies are regarding coordination between local law enforcement and immigration authorities. We recommend that the city adopt a “no-coordination” policy in order to maintain community trust and preserve civil liberties.
  • Elected officials and civic leaders within and outside the South Asian community should commit to taking steps to address racial tensions by holding community forums where Edison residents can express their concerns publicly and safely. Our organizations stand ready to assist in these efforts.
  • The Edison Police Department’s employees should be required to receive diversity and cultural competency training and meet with South Asian community members regularly to understand emerging concerns and issues, in order to build community trust.

ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING THIS STATEMENT INCLUDE:

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (New York)
Asian American Political Coalition (New Jersey)
Families for Freedom (New York)
Indo-American Cultural Society, Inc. (New Jersey)
Manavi (New Jersey)
New Jersey Immigration Policy Network (New Jersey)
Sikh Coalition
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow
South Asian Health Project
United Indian Forum (New Jersey)

Contact us for more information related to this statement, or to get involved in addressing the issues stated above:

Reema Desai
New Jersey Outreach Coordinator
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT
(732) 635-0800 ext. 225
reema@saalt. org

Deepa Iyer
Executive Director
South Asian American Leaders of Tomorrow (SAALT)
301/270-1855
deepa@saalt.org