Deepa Iyer

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Deepa Iyer

Deepa Iyer is a South Asian American activist, writer, and lawyer. Deepa is currently the Senior Fellow at the Center for Social Inclusion. She is an alum of the Rockwood Leadership Institute.[1]


In November 2015, The New Press published Deepa’s first book, We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future. Scholar Vijay Prashad has written that Deepa “brings the head of a lawyer and the heart of a community activist to bear on her remarkable book…It is a window into the struggles of the margins that allow the mainstream to remain humane.” Deepa’s book was selected by the American Librarians Association’s Booklist magazine to be one of the top 10 multicultural non-fiction books of the year.

Most recently, Deepa served as the Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). While at SAALT for nearly a decade, Deepa shaped the formation of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO), a network of local South Asian groups, and served as Chair of the National Coalition of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA).

Deepa’s work on immigrant and civil rights issues began at the Asian American Justice Center in the late 1990s. She also served as Trial Attorney at the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where with two other attorneys, she shaped an initiative to address post 9/11 backlash, and as Legal Director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC), where she worked on a multiracial, community-led campaign to pass the DC Language Access Act.

Deepa has also taught classes on Asian American movements and South Asian American communities at Columbia University, Hunter College. Deepa is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland where she served as Activist-in-Residence in the Asian American Studies Program in 2014.

Deepa’s opinion editorials on issues ranging from the post 9/11 backlash to immigration reform to anti-Black racism have appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, Al-Jazeera America, USA Today, The Nation, and ColorLines.[2]

"Building Resilience"


May 2020 The Raben Group's "Building Resilience"with Deepa Iyer, Greisa Martinez Rosas, Brittany Packnett Cunningham, Karine Jean-Pierre.

Presentations from Facing Race 2016

Presentations from Facing Race 2016:The War on Terror, 15 Years Later;

Muslim, Arab, Sikh and South Asian communities continue to face the consequences of the policies and actions taken after the attacks of September 11, 2001. In 2016, the year we marked the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, reports of hate violence, workplace discrimination and school bullying spiked around the nation. Surveillance and counterterrorism policies are placing communities in danger and setting the tone for a national climate of suspicion and fear. How are communities responding? Where do we go from here? How must broader racial justice movements include and incorporate issues confronting our communities? Our panelists - Kalia Abiade (Center for New Community), Azadeh Shahshahani (Project South), Arjun Sethi (The Sikh Coalition), and Deepa Iyer (The Center for Social Inclusion) - provide analyses and best practices.

Speakers: Deepa Iyer, Kalia Abiade, Arjun Sethi, Asma Elhuni.[3]

Brown is the New White: Changing Demographics and a New American Majority


Ford Foundation, Published on Apr 15, 2016

On April 6, 2016 the Ford Foundation hosted a discussion with civil rights lawyer, political leader, and author Steve Phillips about how America's shifting racial demographic landscape and its underlying disconnects are shaping this polarized election season.

Van Jones moderated Deepa Iyer, and Tamara (a Republican) were also participants.[4]