AALDEF and South Asian Bar Association launch new fellowship

Erum Kidwai. PHOTO: aaldef.org

NEW YORK CITY – The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the South Asian Bar Association of North America (SABA) Foundation announced Sept. 25, 2023, the launch of a South Asian Legal Impact Fellowship, describing it as a ‘historic’ event.

The first two-year South Asian Legal Impact Fellow selected is Erum Kidwai, formerly with the Legal Aid Society and a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center. Kidwai also worked as a legal intern at Community Justice Project in Miami and the People’s Law Office in Chicago. Kidwai is Pakistani American and speaks Urdu fluently.

“This partnership with the SABA Foundation builds on the longstanding work AALDEF has done in collaboration with South Asian American communities across the country,” Razeen Zaman, staff attorney, Immigrant Rights Program at AALDEF, is quoted saying in the press release. “Immigration is increasingly becoming enmeshed with the criminal legal system and national security apparatus, which continues to distinctly devastate South Asian communities. We are so pleased to welcome Erum, who brings great passion and commitment to racial justice and public interest work at large and will provide critical capacity to our immigration work.”

“I’m thrilled to be working with AALDEF as their South Asian Legal Impact Fellow. During law school, I worked with movement lawyering organizations, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to apply those skills to serve my own South Asian community,” Kidwai said.

“The SABA Foundation is proud to begin meeting the longstanding need for advocacy that centers and focuses on the diversity of South Asian communities in the United States,” said Ritu Singh, SABA Foundation President. “We look forward to partnering with Erum and AALDEF to improve access to justice and address the critical civil rights violations facing our communities.”

Over the last nearly 50 years, AALDEF has worked on issues that have impacted South Asian American communities. Some of them include:

In the 1980s, AALDEF represented South Asians in New Jersey targeted by a hate group called the “Dotbusters.”

In the aftermath of 9/11, AALDEF represented thousands of South Asian, Sikh, and Muslim Americans targeted by hate violence and religious profiling.

In 2011, it represented Indian workers in an action against their former employer, Signal International, and its labor recruiters and attorneys for human trafficking, involuntary servitude, discrimination, and civil RICO violations.

In 2013, it sued the NYC Board of Elections for failing to provide Bengali ballots in Queens County, forcing NYC to hold its first elections with Bengali language election materials. In 2021, AALDEF sued the city of Hamtramck, Michigan, and again successfully secured access to Bengali language ballots, election information and oral language assistance for the city’s Bangladeshi American community.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here