February 4, 2013 – The Sikh Coalition participated in a six-month follow-up meeting convened by the United States Justice Department to discuss the ongoing needs of the Sikh Oak Creek community six months after the August 5, 2012 mass shooting.
The meeting was organized by the Community Relations Service of the United States Justice Department and held on February 4th in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. In addition to local community members, the meeting included Jim Santelle, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Oak Creek Mayor Stephen Scaffidi, Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards, Oak Creek School Superintendent Dr. Sara Burmeister, and representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office.
Included below is a summary of key agenda items discussed during the meeting:
- The Oak Creek gurdwara received approximately $77,000 from government officials to beef up on-site security. Current security measures in place include: security cameras, an on-site security guard, and ongoing patrols by police officers, who also frequently stop in for tea and to meet with the sangat.
- As the local police commented on the need for security measures, “It is not their temple [gurdwara]. It is now our temple [gurdwara].”
- The Sikh Coalition confirmed with Police Chief Edwards that the security measures will continue indefinitely.
Crime Victim Compensation Funds
- Qualified survivors and family members of survivors received funds from crime victim compensation programs from the Department of Justice to cover medical costs and other expenses associated with the attack.
- These funds were made available to victims regardless of immigration status.
- The Sikh Coalition previously arranged for pro bono immigration representation of qualified family members of victims that are Indian nationals and currently on visitor’s visas (i.e. individuals who qualify for U-visas, available to immediate family members, including spouses and unmarried children under 21, of victims of serious crimes). We are pleased to report many of these applications have been filed and/or will be filed shortly.
- The Sikh Coalition continues to partner with federal and state officials and Milwaukee immigration attorneys in finding alternative solutions for individuals who may not qualify for U-visas and wish to remain in the country.
Sikh Awareness Trainings
- The Sikh Coalition applauds the government’s commitment to finding a permanent immigration solution for these families.
- The Mayor’s office and local law enforcement both reported that prior trainings have been a success.
In the six months since the attack, our community has demonstrated that it will persevere, stronger than ever before.
- In local schools, in the past six months as a result of these trainings, there is now an increased focus on awareness and diversity.
The Sikh Coalition would like to thank all federal, state, and local government officials, the local community, and the pro-bono immigration attorneys for their tireless efforts in the days and months following the shooting. We continue to keep those recovering and their families in our prayers, including Baba Punjab Singh Ji and Lt. Brian Murphy, as well as the rest of the community.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges all Sikhs to practice their faith fearlessly.