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ASSOCIATION FOCUS


NORTH AMERICAN SOUTH ASIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NASABA)


40


PRIOR TO THE TURN OF THE 21ST CEN- TURY, AN INDIAN ATTORNEY IN NORTH AMERICA was likely to be one of few South Asian attorneys in the state in which he or she practiced. T ere were only a handful of local South Asian bar associa- tions (SABAs). T e National Asian Pacifi c American Bar Association (NAPABA), a national organization for Asian attorneys in the United States, was available as a resource, but its membership was predominantly Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. T ere was no national organization attuned to the specifi c experience of the South Asian1 population. Soon after, however,


the landscape changed. T e numbers of South Asians practicing law in North America increased and the local SABAs recognized


that there


was a clear need for a national


association. In


2003, eight local associations joined together to create the North American South Asian Bar Association (NASABA) to promote the South Asian bar and support the rights and liber- ties of South Asians across the continent.


UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE “South Asians were a small segment of NAPABA but we grew and we had unique issues to deal with,” explains Annapoorni R. Sankaran, president of NASABA. “Even though we’re all technically part of Asia, there are factors and issues that don’t necessarily impact all Asians. Our history is diff erent and our background is diff erent. So our perspective and voice is diff erent.”


DIVERSITY & THE BAR® MAY/JUNE 2011


BY KARA MAYER ROBINSON


A key issue that brought this to light involved civil


rights issues surrounding the events of September 11, 2001. Following the terrorist attacks, Muslim Americans faced an onslaught of civil rights violations, hate crimes, and selective prosecution. As a result, a primary initiative of NASABA focused


“IT’S NOT JUST A NETWORK, BUT AN ENTHUSIASTIC, SUPPORTIVE NETWORK WHERE PEOPLE HAVE EACH OTHER’S BACK.” —ANNAPOORNI R. SANKARAN


on off ering insights into such issues in the judiciary process. T e organization continues to draft and submit amicus curiae briefs as a means to enlighten and support the legal process as well as the community at large. T e organization recently sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) expressing its concern over hearings by his Committee on Homeland Security regarding the radical- ization of Muslim Americans. T e letter was signed by 15 NASABA chapters and reiterated concerns initially voiced by its New York chapter: “By narrowly targeting Muslim Americans, the committee’s hearings perpetuate the ste- reotype that Muslim Americans, by virtue of practicing Islam, are more likely to commit acts of terrorism.” “We try to be a


resource,” Sankaran


says. “We’re not pointing fi ngers, but we want to be part of the discussion and off er to help move the situation forward toward a better resolution.” In doing so, the organization relies on input from nine


internal committees: amicus, convention, criminal justice, endorsements, immigration, membership, newsletter, pub- lic interest, and public relations. T ese committees advise the national organization on specifi c topics.


ATTORNEY SUPPORT Currently, NASABA is one of seven national affi nity bar associations in the U.S. T ere are 27 chapters throughout North America representing more than 6,000 South Asian


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