Posted on May 14, 2013 in Countdown
For 30 years, AAI has raised concerns about Israel’s treatment of Arab Americans who try to enter Israel or Palestine. And, with recent legislative efforts introduced in both the House and Senate to include Israel in the Visa Waiver Program, we’re stepping up our game. (Apparently, it’s not enough that there are reports Israeli authorities are allegedly issuing separate stickers for Arabs and Jews during the screening process.) The Arab American Institute is collecting stories of American citizens who have been harassed, detained, or deported when attempting to enter Israel or Palestine. If you've personally been targeted by Israeli authorities in such an incident, fill out our Israel Border Harassment Reporting Form. All personal information will be kept private and stories will not be distributed without your expressed permission. As we make the case for why we should not reward Israel with visa waivers, we need to hear from you about personal accounts. We have a duty to educate our members of Congress, and let them know about the injustices at the border.
Across the board consensus that profiling is bad should be a no-brainer, right? Well, in Washington, not so much. With the Senate “Gang of Eight” immigration bill (S.744) in markup, the Senate Judiciary committee is still weighing whether or not profiling, in its entirety, should be written out of the bill. Don’t get us wrong, it’s not that the current version of S. 744 includes language that calls for profiling; it’s that it doesn’t include all the necessary language to prevent it. Since the beginning of the national debate on much-needed immigration reform, Arab Americans and our friends in Washington have worked to make sure that legislation includes provisions to protect Arab Americans and other communities impacted by racial, ethnic, and religious profiling, and that it eliminates the national security loophole that has allowed more than a decade of unfettered profiling of Arab Americans, American Muslims, and others. Currently, the bill prohibits profiling on the basis of race or ethnicity (good), but it does not include language to prevent discrimination based on national origin or religion (bad). And, remember that national security loophole? Yeah, it’s still there (worse). Luckily, there are senators who get it, like Sen. Hirono, who may introduce a bill this week that would close the loophole and prevent profiling in all its forms. We’re asking members to TAKE ACTION by telling their senators to oppose profiling and to support the Hirono amendment.
Remember the Guantanamo Bay detention center? Virginia Congressman Jim Moran hasn’t forgotten. He’s at the head of a new push to refocus the administration’s attention on closing Guantanamo, something President Obama promised he’d do in his first term. Last Friday, Rep. Moran and The Constitution Project held a panel to discuss the transfer of 86 cleared detainees from Guantanamo back home and the reinstatement of a special envoy in charge of closing Guantanamo. “It should never have come into existence,” Rep. Moran said of Guantanamo. If you recall, in January, the Obama Administration signaled that it had essentially given up on closing Guantanamo when it shut down the office charged with that very task. It’s great that Moran, a Democrat, has shown willingness to break with the president and lead on this important issue. Someone has to. Thanks to Rep. Moran for his steadfast leadership. We hope he can raise public opinion in favor of closing the facility.
Did you find it odd that former Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman was called upon to give testimony at the first congressional hearing on Boston? We did, too given the fact the he is no longer in a position to have access to up-to-date and sensitive counterterrorism intelligence. But when Lieberman went toe-to-toe with Erroll G. Southers, a counterterrorism expert and professor at the University of Southern California, it became abundantly clear why Lieberman had been selected. Beyond securing a former Democrat to bash the administration’s apparent inability to identify Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a threat, Lieberman provides the perfect cover to bring up the “default” taking point that we failed to recognize the threat because of “political correctness.” Here’s the narrative: “I presume it’s because of a sensitivity that if you use the term Islam or Muslim at all with relationship to violence or extremism or terrorism, that it will do offense to Muslims, but I’m privileged to know a lot of my fellow Americans who are Muslim. They’re law abiding. They’re patriotic.” Well, thanks, Joe that’s awfully nice, but we’re quite sure it’s not political correctness that’s the problem or the solution; it’s getting the intelligence right. Want a counter to Lieberman’s testimony? Take a look at Erroll G. Southers’ opening statement. It’s where politics ends and intelligence begins.
We’d like to take a moment to welcome AP to the club. Like the Arab American and American Muslims communities, the Associated Press [now] knows what it’s like to have its rights infringed upon by law enforcement - in this case, the nation’s top law enforcement agency. Make no mistake: the seizure of the AP’s phone records, as ordered by Attorney General Eric Holder, and the Department of Justice’s indifference to the NYPD’s spying program targeting our community are two sides of the same coin. They reflect the rampant culture of surveillance and infringement on civil liberties that has gone unchecked for too long. Hopefully, the firestorm around what is clearly an infringement on freedom of the press will help increase pressure for the DOJ to withdraw its support and resources from questionable surveillance practices. Now - as if that wasn’t enough - on to the other controversies involving the administration: Last week, the IRS admitted that it subjected Tea Party groups to extra scrutiny when filing for tax-exempt status. Arab American Congressman Darrell Issa is up in arms, and he’s not alone. Some Democrats are also furious, and Eric Holder announced today that the DOJ and the FBI would launch an investigation.