The 2016 presidential election is an important moment for the Arab American community. Below are a list of issues that are uniquely - but no means exclusively - important to our community. To find out what each candidate running for president has said on a given topic, visit Election Central for their statements on all of the policies below.

 

Foreign Policy     

Domestic Policy

   

U.S. Role in the Middle East 

Voting Rights 

 

U.S. Response to ISIL

Civil Rights + Civil Liberties


 

 

Syria 

Surveillance


 

 

Israel/Palestine 

Policing

 

Lebanon

Bigoted Speech

 

Iran Negotiations 

Immigration Reform

 

U.S. Role in the Middle East

Given the uninterrupted presence of American troops in the Middle East, and the importance of economic, cultural, and business ties to the region, regional stability is of great important to U.S. presidents. Candidates seeking office will have to assert their strategic vision for U.S. engagement - from North Africa to the Gulf countries and Palestine. While some might advocate for stronger U.S. leadership in determining the outcome of regional affairs and protecting U.S. interests, others might advocate for a measured approach to interference. A candidates overall approach to foreign policy strategy is of critical importance.

U.S. Response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)

The self proclaimed "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant" poses a significant risk to the political, economic and social fabric of the region. The global community cannot turn a blind eye to the reprehensible crimes against humanity that ISIL has committed. Candidates vying for the presidency in 2016 must demonstrate their approach to defeating ISIL and also address the underlying causes for the group’s emergence. And specifically for Iraq, 2016 candidates must develop a nuanced strategy that not only addresses the security threat posed by ISIL, but also empowers Iraqis to rebuild their nation which has been in shambles since the 2003 U.S. war.

Syria 

Entering into its fifth year, the Syrian civil war has had a devastating impact on the Syrian people. The United States must develop a comprehensive strategy on Syria that seeks a political resolution to the conflict and ensures humanitarian assistance to the people of Syria. 2016 candidates will have to reveal how they will act to end the plight of the Syrian people and work towards political stability in the warring state.

Israel/Palestine

Following the collapse of the peace process in May 2014, new rounds of confrontations and heightened tensions between Israel and Palestine make the future even more uncertain. With many important procedures now being taken at the United Nations, and with Israel's concerns over the outcome of the Iranian nuclear negotiations, candidates will inevitably be forced to take a stance on the U.S. special relationship with Israel and the chance of peace.

Lebanon

In the war against ISIL, Lebanon has become “the forgotten front.” Lebanon is a historic U.S. ally but the Lebanese state is under incredible political, economic and humanitarian duress. 2016 candidates must finally pay attention to the dangers and hardships Lebanon faces in the context of Middle East foreign policy discussions.

Iran Nuclear Deal

The ongoing negotiations with Iran represent a potentially significant turning point in American history and the world. The outcome of these negotiations will have a major impact on the Middle East and North Africa region. Presidential candidates will be compelled to decide whether they will continue to enforce punitive polices or alter the diplomatic status quo that is poised to reshape regional dynamics. 

Voting Rights 

The landmark decision in Shelby County v. Holder in 2013 severely undermined the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Several states will be voting under new laws and new district maps in the 2016 elections, and in many cases these changes are making it more difficult to vote for elligible citizens. 2016 candidates will be pressed to either stand with those looking to disenfranchise voters under the guise of "voter fraud", or stand up for voter protections that ensure every eligible citizen is granted their constitutional right.

Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

This past year saw a regression in several civil rights and civil liberties areas including voting rights, racial profiling, immigration, surveillance and anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia. As the nation reaches a critical juncture in our history, 2016 candidates will be pressed to take a stand in defense of our inalienable rights.

Surveillance

The passage and implementation of the USA Freedom Act was considered a victory for civil rights and civil liberties, but this legislation failed to institute meaningful change. Safeguarding national security is a critical priority but accomplishing that need not come at the expense of constitutionally guaranteed civil rights and civil liberties. 2016 candidates will have to articulate the balance they aim to strike between national security and illegal spying activities that have infringed on the rights of millions of Americans for too long.

Policing

The tragic deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio and Eric Garner in State Island, New York, all at the hands of local police officers raised important questions about police practices. The Arab American and American Muslim communities, too, face a difficult problem in their relationship with law enforcement. Racial, ethnic, and religious profiling must addressed in addition to the militarization of police and the excessive use of force. With news cycles still driven by these types of crimes, candidates will need to discuss what their plan is to address the fundamental issues underlying the fractured relationship between law enforcement agencies and the communities they are tasked with protecting.

 Bigoted Speech: Instances of Condemnation and/or Use

In previous elections, candidates have used Arab baiting and Islamophobia as political tactics to earn more votes through fear mongering and misinformation. With the American public increasingly concerned with the threat posed by the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), there is a serious concern that 2016 candidates will fan the flames of anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia. On the other hand, many candidates and both political parties have the opportunity to engage, uplift, and court votes from our growing constituency.

Immigration

The Obama administration’s executive actions last year provided a temporary band-aid to the significant immigration challenges facing our nation. Immigration is not just a single constituency issues, it is an American issue that directly speaks to our heritage and history as a nation of immigrants. Candidates in the upcoming election will be pushed to articulate their solution to fixing (or not fixing) our broken immigration system.