On an ongoing basis, the Arab American Institute works with members of Congress, their staff, White Office officials, and key policymakers in the administration to advance the policy concerns of the Arab American community. With the civil rights of the Arab American community being undermined in the post 9/11 era of heightened national security – the Arab American Institute is a leading advocate protecting the rights and liberties of our community, and in so doing, upholding our Constitutional values.

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Civil liberties are personal freedoms granted to all United States citizens by the U.S. Constitution; these include freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, right to privacy, right to a fair trial, and equal protection under the law. Unfortunately, these rights are not always applied equally and consistently. This is especially the case with minority and immigrant communities. Individuals within these population subsets are subject to arbitrary profiling and unlawful surveillance on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, or national origin. Read our full issue brief here. 

See also: NSEERS, TSA Spot ProgramDomestic Implications of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 

The U.S. Census

Currently, there is no ethnic category for Arab Americans on the U.S. Census. This has led to a significant undercount of the community, creating barriers to many basic rights and services. While the Census Bureau estimates the number of Arab Americans in the United States at 1.8 million, the Arab American Institute estimates that the total is actually closer to 3.7 million. Federal data on Arab Americans is obtained through ancestry data from the American Community Survey, a yearly survey that collects economic, social, demographic and housing information from a small sample of the population. Read our full issue brief here.

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)

In 2011, the White House released the “Strategic Implementation Plan for Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” The plan was introduced as a domestic counter-terrorism strategy in response to the recruitment efforts of organizations such as Al-Qaeda or the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). This report became the foundation for the federal government’s Countering Violent Extremism programs, or CVE. Read our full issue brief here.

Anti-Arab & Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry challenges the diversity of American culture and society, proliferates misinformation and stereotypes, fosters hostility- in some cases violence, and stigmatizes an entire community. We understand today’s anti-Muslim bigotry as partly rooted in anti-Arab bigotry, which classifies individuals based on their national origin and political views. What began as xenophobia directed at individuals with origins in the Middle East morphed into anti-Islamic sentiment that targets an entire faith. Read our full issue brief here. 

See also: Anti-Sharia Bills in State Legislatures; Refugee Backlash and Resettlement 

For more on AAI's pilot program in Pennsylvania, see: Anti-Sharia Legislation in Pennsylvania | SEPTA and the AFDI Bus Ads 


In the wake of 9/11, Congress rushed to pass a wave of national security legislation that has since been used to conduct mass surveillance of American citizens’ phone and internet data. Since then, Congress and the public have learned how the authorities granted in those laws have been used in ways that Congress never intended or foresaw, and that represent a massive expansion of the government’s surveillance of U.S. persons. Unfortunately, the conversation about reforming those important pieces of legislation has typically pitted privacy against national security concerns. Read our full issue brief here.

Voting Rights

President Obama’s 2015 speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the bloody march in Selma, Alabama reignited a long fought battle to protect the right to vote for all citizens. As the President noted, voter ID laws and the 2013 Supreme Court ruling on Shelby County v. Holder have seriously impeded and infringed on that essential right. Read our full issue brief here.


The U.S. immigration system is broken and does not reflect the historical, cherished identity of America as a nation built by the diversity and contributions of immigrants. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed to address the many ways that immigrants have been impacted by increased and heavy-handed immigration enforcement policies over the last 10 years. Whether through the denial of family reunification visas, refusal of entry, border security programs, or deportation, the Arab American community is confronted with the implications of policy failure. Though our government can and should determine immigration status and enforce immigration laws, the enforcement of these laws must be performed humanely, within the scope of the U.S. Constitution, and it must prioritize due process and equal protection. Protecting the rights of immigrants must remain a priority without compromising our right to control who enters and works in the U.S., to enforce the integrity of our borders and to formulate immigration policy. Read our full issue brief here. 

Israel Visa Waiver

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) authorizes the Attorney General and Secretary of State to allow temporary visitors from certain countries to come to the U.S. without nonimmigrant visas. Central to the Visa Waiver Program is a provision that guarantees reciprocal travel privileges for American citizens seeking to visit that country. Given Israel’s long-held practice of detaining and denying entry to American citizens predominantly of Arab descent at the border – a practice acknowledged by the U.S. Department of State – Israel’s entrance in the Visa Waiver Program will implicitly sanction the discriminatory treatment of U.S. citizens traveling to Israel and Palestine. Read our full issue brief here.