FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Dec 2, 2022
MEDIA CONTACT: SF Public Defender’s Office | PubDef-MediaRelations@sfgov.org | (628)249-7946
LGBT immigrant leader receives outpouring of support from community groups at upcoming bond hearing.
Salesh Prasad, beloved artist and activist, fears he’ll face anti-LGBT violence if deported
VAN NUYS, CA – Community organizations across California are mobilizing to support Salesh (“Sal”) Prasad—an LGBT immigrant, artist, and community leader who is currently suffering in ICE detention—at a bond hearing Monday, Dec. 5, at 2:30 p.m. in Van Nuys. Several supporters plan to attend the hearing in person at the immigration court, located at 6230 Van Nuys Blvd., 3rd Floor, Suite 300, while dozens of others will join the hearing virtually on Zoom to express their support for Salesh to be freed. Mr. Prasad and his attorney, Maddie Boyd, of the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office immigration unit, are available for interviews prior to and following the hearing.
Mr. Prasad has been in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention for over 15 months, after California state prison officials unnecessarily transferred him to ICE custody on the day he should have been released from prison after transforming his life and earning parole. This practice of “double punishment” has been widely criticized across California and nationally.
Salesh’s story of transformation and his activism on behalf of other detained people, have inspired organizations across the country, earning him support from Democratic County Central Committees in Stanislaus, Alameda, and San Francisco counties; the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Asm. Matt Haney, Asm. Alex Lee, Senator Scott Weiner, Sen. María Elena Durazo, LGBT leaders including former Asm. Tom Ammiano, as well as numerous faith and community organizations. Additionally, a moving video released last month by two immigrant rights coalitions highlights Sal’s story, drawing attention to the fact he was unable to attend his mother’s funeral because he was in ICE custody.
In a statement, Maddie Boyd, Mr. Prasad’s attorney in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, said:
“Sal is a beautiful person. He is a beloved brother, uncle, and nephew whose family is eager to embrace him after many years of separation. He is a powerful advocate for healing and resilience, from his work transforming himself and leading Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups in prison, to his plans to serve as a mentor to help survivors of childhood abuse. If Sal is released, he will contribute toward building stronger and safer communities for all. It’s moving to see the outpouring of support for Sal from across the state—and it’s an honor to be his attorney.”
Mr. Prasad, now 51 years old, experienced domestic violence and sexual abuse as a child, and the trauma pushed him to numb himself with alcohol and drugs and seek protection from gang members. At age 22, he took another person’s life during an argument, a crime for which he served 27 years in prison and is incredibly remorseful. While in prison, Mr. Prasad found healing through therapy, art, and helping others. He led Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous groups, and practiced non-violence and de-escalation among his peers.
Salesh has also fought to ensure availability of COVID-19 boosters for fellow ICE detainees. He has become an activist and advocate for California legislation such as the Mandela Act, to further limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons, and the VISION Act, to prevent transfers from jails and prisons to ICE.
A number of organizations have pledged their support for Mr. Prasad, including faith groups and reentry agencies that are poised to help him transition back into the community where he hopes to counsel others on surviving childhood trauma.
In addition to supporting Mr. Prasad at the bond hearing, organizations are also requesting that Gov. Gavin Newsom grant Salesh a pardon. This would prevent his deportation to Fiji, a country he left at age six, where he stands to face discrimination and persecution as a queer man and an Indo-Fijian minority. The Bay Area Reporter Editorial Board has also endorsed calls for Gov. Newsom to pardon Salesh.