UPDATE April 18, 2023: On April 18, HAF submitted the an updated Opposition letter after Senator Wahab released an amended version of SB-403. Read the letter here.
On March 23rd, HAF wrote to California State Senator Aisha Wahab expressing strong opposition to proposed bill SB-403, which would specifically add “caste” to California non-discrimination policy.
HAF’s letter reads, in part:
“We share the admirable goals of standing up for civil rights and eliminating all forms of prejudice and discrimination, including based on caste. So the question is not whether we should deal with any allegations of caste discrimination, but how. As such, if and when incidents of caste discrimination occur, they should be brought to light, thoroughly investigated and rectified under existing law in its current form.
We oppose SB-403 because both its legislative intent and impact will result in an unconstitutional denial of equal protection and due process to South Asians (the vast majority of whom are of Indian origin) and other vulnerable ethnic communities. SB-403 unfairly maligns, targets and racially profiles select communities on the basis of their national origin, ethnicity and ancestry for disparate treatment, thereby violating the very laws it seeks to amend, the Unruh Civil Rights Act. It further violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the US and California State Constitutions.”
HAF looks forward to educating Senator Wahab on the complex issue of caste and how this bill as currently drafted threatens to infringe upon the rights of all South Asians in California, even if unintentionally.