Updated April 25, 2019​ 

Sri Lanka Express

Plight of family of murdered Lankan highlighted, help sought

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Hilton Joseph Dias & (R) his children.  Photos from

During a visit to Sri Lanka earlier this year, Staten Island resident Hilton Joseph Dias was stabbed to death when he confronted a group of people who were trespassing on his property.  Now his family is facing hard times and could lose their home.  While several Sri Lankans have contributed online more is needed to help the Dias family stay in the house.  A Staten Island news website has highlighted the family’s struggle.

Dias moved to the United States in the 1980’ and worked as a cab driver.  On a trip back to to Sri Lanka he met Ruwini in his hometown and they got married in a church. The family grew to eight and had a comfortable life.  Hilton was a lectern at St. Roch Church, which the family attends every Sunday.  While visiting their hometown in Sri Lanka on April 11, 2016, Dias confronted trespassers on the family's property and was stabbed him five times. He died in the hospital two days later.

Ruwini now works full time at McDonald's, where her two eldest sons also work part time to help support the family.   The family was planning on buying their Mariners Harbor house before Dias died, but now they can no longer afford it and the landlord is planning on selling it.

There's an online fundraising campaign for the family.

A memorial mass will be held for Hilton Dias at St. Roch Church on 602 Port Richmond Ave. on July 11 at 10 a.m.

Asian Groups vow to Continue Immigration Fight after SCOTUS Blow

By Hassina Leelarathna

Immigrant advocates in Los Angeles (Photo by Hassina Leelarathna Archives/2007)

Asian-American advocacy groups and elected officials voiced disappointment with a 4-4 Supreme Court split Thursday that will prevent President Barack Obama from carrying out an executive action on immigration but vowed to continue the campaign for change.
The U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked on the question of whether President Barack Obama’s use of executive action to suspend deportations and grant work permits to millions of undocumented immigrants was constitutional. The deadlock lets stand an order by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals blocking the actions, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and the expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), from taking effect.

The case, U.S. v. Texas, examined the constitutionality of Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and expanded Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), both announced in 2014.

On Friday (June 24), leaders and members of organizations serving Asian American and Pacific Islander immigrants gathered to express their deep disappointment at the Supreme Court’s inaction on the President’s proposed expansion of immigration relief programs.

Announced in November 2014, these programs the new Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and an expansion of the original Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) would have benefited an estimated 65,000 Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) immigrants in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) said Obama's executive action was necessary in the face of a gridlocked Congress that would not pass immigration reform.

"Today's ruling is a catalyst for the next Congress to act and ensure that all immigrants have a path to the full benefits of citizenship and allow us to live up to our core values of fairness and opportunity," Suman Raghunathan, SAALT's executive director, said in a statement.  “Congress needs to do its job. Polls continue to show that a bipartisan majority of Americans support a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Today’s ruling is a catalyst for the next Congress to act and ensure that all immigrants have a path to the full benefits of citizenship and allow us to live up to our core values of fairness and opportunity,” she said.

Although the Court’s decision blocks implementation of the new DAPA and expanded DACA programs, it does not affect the original DACA program. Created in 2012, the original DACA program offers eligible young immigrants a two - year reprieve from deportation, work authorization and a social security number. It does not offer a path to citizenship

Nationally, an estimated 152,000 AAPI immigrants are eligible for the
original DACA program, including 22,000 in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Only 20 percent of eligible AAPIs have applied for DACA, compared to an estimated 80 percent of eligible Latino immigrants.

“Thankfully, the Supreme Court’s decision does not affect the original DACA program,” said Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice - Los Angeles, which has assisted with over 2,500 DACA applications since August 2012.

“There are thousands of eligible undocumented immigrants who have yet to seek  DACA. If you believe you or a family member is eligible, we encourage you to speak to our organization or another trusted legal or community non - profit.

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund executive director Margaret Fung said her organization is urging the Justice Department to seek another hearing on the executive action when a ninth Supreme Court justice is confirmed.
"While the Court's split decision is a setback that has delayed the hopes of millions of undocumented immigrants and their families, we will explore all options in continuing the fight for immigrant rights," Fung said in a statement.

First SL Theravada Temple in USA Celebrates
50th Anniversary

May 1, 2016 declared the day as “the Washington Buddhist Vihara Day

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser attending the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Washington Buddhist Vihara on May 1, 2016 declared the day as “the Washington Buddhist Vihara Day”, recognizing in the Declaration that the District of Columbia is the home to the first Theravada Buddhist Temple in America and that the Vihara has been dedicated to presentation of Buddhism and extending welcome to all.  Ambassador Prasad Kariyawasam joined Mayor Muriel Bowser on this occasion.  The Chief Prelate of North America and Chief Incumbent of the Washington Buddhist Vihara, the Most Venerable Maharagama Dhammasiri Nayaka Thero presided over the ceremony and conducted the religious program.

Message of President Barack Obama felicitating and congratulating the Washington Buddhist Vihara on this occasion was read at the ceremony. 

Ambassador Kariyawasam read the message of President Maithripala Sirisena for this occasion which stated “The 50th anniversary of this renowned establishment provides an ideal moment for us to reflect on the wide-ranging role played by the Washington Buddhist Vihara in the cultural and religious spheres in the American Buddhist Society in general and for the welfare of Sri Lankan American community in the region as well.” 

President Sirisena further said “And admirably, the Vihara has become a centre for taking teachings of Lord Buddha and Buddhist practice to the wider American community as well.  Sri Lankan Buddhist temples abroad function as a window to Sri Lankan culture and as a platform for socio-cultural interaction for those of Sri Lankan origin living abroad.  I recognize the role that the Buddhist temples can play for wider socio-cultural harmony and for the upliftment of societies both at home and homeland.  At a time when my government has embarked on a new historic journey in building a more inclusive and harmonious society, Buddhist temples outside Sri Lanka can play a crucial role by bringing all expatriate Sri Lankans together, irrespective of their ethnicity and belief, to direct their energies and strengths towards inclusive national development with the objective of building a peaceful and prosperous country.  I am happy to learn that the Washington Buddhist Vihara is playing this role successfully.”

Venerable Buddhist monks from several temples in North America were present at the day long celebrations, sermons and religious ceremonies attended by a large group of Sri Lankan-Americans, American Buddhists and other nationalities.  Among those Venerable Theros present at the occasion were, Ven. H.Siriratana Nayaka Thero, Ven.K. Uparatana Nayaka Thero, Ven.Pasado Nayaka Thero, Ven. K. Dhammavasa Nayaka Thero, Ven. K.Nagitha Nayaka Thero, Ven. V.D.Vimalananda Nayaka Thero, Ven. K.Dhammaloka Nayaka Thero,  Ven. P.Maithri Maha Thero,  Ven. Vimala Thero, Ven. M.Saddhaloka Maha Thero, Ven. K.Vimaladhamma Maha Thero, Ven. T.Mahanama Thero, Ven. Vijitha Thero, Ven. U.Lankananada Thero and Ven. A.Mahanama Thero.

Source: Sri Lankan Embassy, Washington DC