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Lost In Translation

Friday October 24, 2014

Countdown Vol. 12, No. 33

 

Can I See ID?

Last weekend, the Supreme Court denied a request to stop a Texas voting requirement that necessitates all voters to show specific forms of ID before they cast their ballot. The law would disenfranchise an estimated 600,000 people – primarily African Americans and Hispanics – in the State. The law is the strictest of its kind in the US, allowing ID such as gun licenses, but not student ID. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg called the measure “a purposefully discriminatory law, one that likely imposes an unconstitutional poll tax and risks denying the right to vote to hundreds of thousands of eligible voters.” We agree that the stringent requirements are a discriminatory obstacle to voting and a step back for Civil Rights.

A Lot to Lose

Senator Mark Udall’s (D-CO) possible loss in his upcoming election would be a big loss for civil liberties advocates. During his time in Congress, Senator Udall has earned admiration and respect for his work in protecting the civil liberties of American citizens. At a recent rally to bolster Sen. Udall’s campaign, Hilary Clinton stated that Sen. Udall was, "leading the Senate in asking the hard questions about intelligence and the tradeoff between liberty and security.” Most notably, Sen. Udall was the first member of Congress who called for CIA Director John Brennan’s resignation after the public learned that the CIA had unauthorized access to Senate staff files and he continues to push for NSA reform. With mid-term elections around the corner, Sen. Udall finds himself in a very close race against Republican Cory Gardner. In a recent TV ad, Sen. Udall positioned him as the best person capable of protecting the civil liberties of his constituents from government interference. Although Gardner holds a slim lead over Sen. Udall, many political analysts believe that this significant Senate race will go down to the wire.

Setting the Record

We do have some good news from the midterms. A record number of African American candidates are on the ballot this election. With over 100 candidates running for office, this season holds the highest number of African American candidates since Reconstruction. Some experts are attributing the increase to President Obama’s election, noting that there was a similar spike after Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign. We think this is a tremendous example of a community realizing its power through political engagement. To learn about elections in your state and to see a list of Arab American candidates visit our Yalla Vote homepage – and don’t forget to Yalla Vote!  

Lost in Translation

For those of you who watched John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” this past weekend, you learned about Smoke the Donkey and Muhammad, an Afghan who worked as a translator for coalition forces in Afghanistan. Smoke the Donkey is an Iraqi donkey that befriended U.S. marines and was subsequently granted a visa to the US after an 8 month long process. On the other hand, Muhammad, John Oliver’s special guest during this episode, applied for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV), and waited three-and-a-half years before it was granted. Within those three and a half years, the Taliban killed Muhammad’s father, kidnapped his brother, and extorted $35,000 from him for the safe return of his brother. With the exodus of Iraqis attempting to escape ISIS’ brutality, it is demoralizing to learn that the Iraqi SIV program was not extended. We’ve urged Congress before to extend the SIV program before it expires at the end of this year. Even for a partisan “do-nothing” Congress it shouldn’t be difficult to see why we need to extend the SIV program.

Swept Under the Rug

Did the White House just use a rug to further its own political objectives with Turkey? It certainly looks like it. Last week, the White House confirmed that the Armenian Orphan Rug will go on display at the newly renovated White House Visitor Center next month.  The year 2015 will mark the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, and the last thing the Turkish government would like is to draw attention to this historical embarrassment. The carpet had been scheduled for display last winter, but its loan was suddenly canceled by the White House – some suspect at the request of the Turkish government. We’re not drawing any conclusions here, but the rug’s unexpected display makes it seem like the United States is using the artifact to send a message about Turkey’s refusal to allow Kurdish fighters or weapons to cross its border with Syria. On Monday, the Turkish government finally decided to open the border and to let weapons and aid cross over to Kobani after weeks of refusing to budge on the issue. Coincidence? Maybe. Thought-provoking? Definitely. 

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