Over the last few weeks the Hindu American Foundation has partnered with various civil rights, human rights, and democracy rights organizations to address myriad challenges facing the American people as the White House and Congress respond to the increasing threat of the novel Coronavirus COVID-19.
As an active member of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR) Hate Crime Coalition, the HAF was proud to join over 200 organizations in a March 17 letter spearheaded by LCCHR to Members of Congress, Governors, and State Election Officials outlining voting rights and election related policy reforms related to voter registration, early in-person voting, voting by mail, polling place adjustments, voter education and combating misinformation.
Days later, HAF joined hundreds of national democracy rights organizations in a March 22 letter to House and Senate leaders urging “Congress to appropriate at least $2 billion and to adopt a number of key policy measures in the upcoming Coronavirus economic stimulus legislation that would ensure both the public’s safety and an inclusive and fair voting process for 2020 primary and general elections,” the letter states.
“Lawmakers are wrestling in real time with these difficult questions. But no matter what, every state must: Consider accessibility for voters who have historically faced barriers to the ballot, including Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American voters; voters with disabilities; and students; Expand voter registration, no excuse absentee voting, and safe in-person early voting; Give voters ample notice to avoid chaos and confusion; Adhere to CDC guidance.”
The funding request to ensure America’s democracy continues to move forward in an inclusive, safe, and fair manner accounts for approximately 0.1 percent of the nearly $2 trillion package currently pending in the Senate.
The House was set to return from recess this week, however, concerns over spreading COVID-19 on Capitol Hill kept House lawmakers away. The Senate canceled last week’s recess to address the disease and the devastating economic impact as news broke of at least three Members of Congress having contracted the disease as well as several Hill staffers.
In a similar effort, HAF joined forces with over 50 organizations in a March 23rd open letter to President Trump spearheaded by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA), calling on the Administration to cease referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” while expressing to the President that these and other minority communities in the U.S. are “allies in the effort to contain and eradicate the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.”
Later that same day, President Trump stated “It’s very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the U.S.” and acknowledged the “nasty language toward the Asian Americans in our country.” “These are incredible people, they love our country, and I’m not gonna let it happen,” President Trump said.
In addition to the Hindu American Foundation’s work with leading US rights groups, HAF is also working with Members of Congress on issues of concern to the Hindu American community surrounding COVID-19.
This week, HAF supported a letter initiated by Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA) and signed by 53 Members of Congress urging Congressional leaders to eliminate immigrant restrictions on COVID-19 testing.
The Cox letter calls on Congressional leadership to expand “the statutory definition of an emergency service to include COVID-19. Emergency response measures to COVID-19 must ensure that all persons are able to receive free COVID-19 testing and that none are left out of any new provisions for care and treatment. Leaving out some communities leaves all communities at greater risk,” the letter states.
“The Hindu American Foundation continues to work with partner organizations across the political spectrum to strengthen American democracy, ensure the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Americans are maintained and expanded, while encouraging Hindu Americans to step up and play a more active role in the democratic process,” stated HAF Managing Director Samir Kalra.
“We appreciate the President’s acknowledgement of the increased discrimination faced by the broader Asian American community and his outspoken support of these and other traditionally marginalized communities. However, we would like to see this rhetoric backed up with concrete policy proposals that address our communities’ mutual concerns. We also deeply appreciate the effort of several Members of Congress in this turbulent time and we look forward to working with them in the weeks and months ahead,” Kalra said.