Posted on June 30, 2017 in Countdown

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We Hate the Hate That Leads to Hate Crimes

The rise in hate and bigotry in our public discourse doesn’t just impact policy in a negative way, it also afflicts a heavy toll on people who become victims of hate crimes, including Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, immigrants and others. That’s why we joined the Department of Justice’s Hate Crime Summit, to enhance efforts to identify, prosecute, and prevent hate crimes, though we were fully aware of the irony of the Trump Administration holding a summit on this topic. You see, this effort goes against the very climate that the Trump Administration itself created around Muslims, immigrants, and other minorities. And then there is the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office in the department of homeland security, which arbitrarily focuses on the crimes of one particular class of people, contributing to the very anti-immigrant hostility that the Justice Department now wants to combat. By the way, do you know who commits fewer crimes than US citizens? Immigrants! But we were there engaging with partner advocates and career professionals who have devoted their careers to the protection of our rights and the prosecution of hate crimes—almost all of whom were there before the Trump Administration and will likely be there long after. So what did we discuss? We talked about the surge in hate post-election and the president’s use of the bully pulpit to increase fear instead of temper it. We talked hate crimes prosecutions and the need for better training, including making sure bigoted material is not part of the curriculum as it has been. We talked about the detrimental role certain police practices, like the demand that local law enforcement act as ICE agents, play in destroying community trust, which in turn reduces reporting of hate crimes. We talked about the need to tie federal resources to local municipalities based on their full participation in reporting hate crimes. We talked about budget allocations matching the rhetoric instead of the cuts we are seeing. We talked about the need to separate hate crimes prosecutions from surveillance of impacted communities. We could keep going but you get the point. 


Will SCOTUS Ban the Ban?

The Supreme Court broke the hearts of many by agreeing to hear Trump’s travel ban case affecting six Arab or Muslim-majority countries after it was blocked by lower courts. While we’ll have to wait until October for a final ruling, it was alarming to see the aspects of the Muslim and refugee ban that were “stayed” (effectively reinstated), which were restricted to foreign nationals who cannot claim a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” So at least relatives can visit in the meantime, so that’s not too bad, right? Wrong! Because this administration apparently couldn’t bear the joy children might feel if their grandparents came to visit from one of the targeted countries. The State Department issued new enforcement guidelines on what counts as “bona fide”, and it’s bizarrely arbitrary. In case you ever wondered about the intent of the ban architects (which we didn’t), the guidance issued is down right mean, and legal experts are making the case they may have defined the court’s decision too narrowly. For example, grandma can’t be allowed to visit because her role in the family is not “bona fide?" Yes, because Teta being the matriarch of a family must be discarded because she is a terrifying security threat. October can't come soon enough!



Discrimination Won’t Fly Around Here

You’ve heard the stories: People are being thrown off flights (not, like, from the air -- thank God, but like, just before takeoff) for merely speaking Arabic, wearing hijab, or having Arabic-looking writing on their computers. Indeed, the Aviation Consumer Protection Division received 37% more reports of discrimination on our nation’s airlines last year compared to the year before. And did you ever get the feeling that complaints about, say, bad airline meals were being treated more seriously than discriminatory profiling with the arbitrary removal of passengers? Yeah, we kind of agree. So to address the problem of an increase in discriminatory incidents, Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey has introduced language in S.1405, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Bill, to require the development of Department of Transportation best practices with respect to training policies regarding racial, ethnic and religious nondiscrimination. Part of the training involves learning about Italian mathematicians. Ok, no, it doesn’t but we sure are grateful for Senator Booker’s leadership on this. And you can take some action to show your support too.


A Deeper Gulf in the Gulf

Some three weeks into the Arab gulf crisis, and signs of hope for resolving it have yet to emerge. Saudi Arabia had issued a 10-day ultimatum to Qatar with a list of 13 demands, and they include shutting down Qatar’s global media empire “Al Jazeera”, shuttering the Turkish military base in the country, and scaling back its ties with Iran. Qatar dismissed this list of demands, but said it was ready to negotiate over “legitimate issues”. Saudi Arabia, however, insists the list of demands is “non-negotiable”. And while President Trump praised the actions against Qatar, the US State Department has all but condemned Qatar’s isolation. If you find that strange, you’re not alone. Reports emerged of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson being “absolutely enraged that the White House and State Department weren’t on the same page.”  Will they get on the same page in time? They theoretically have two days to do it, the 10-day ultimatum is about to expire. #Tiktok


One Month, 500 People

Donald Trump recently warned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad personally, as well as his military, of paying a “heavy price” if they were to conduct another chemical weapons attack, after stating that the US “identified potential preparations” for such an event. The Pentagon eventually confirmed the White House’s suspicions, but not before “many officials across the Pentagon [said they] did not know what the White House was referring to” until the next morning. The Trump Administration has since taken credit for preventing this prospective attack. At the same time, however, a watchdog group reported that nearly 500 civilians, including more than 100 children, have been killed in a single month in Syria due to bombings by the US-led coalition. The party responsible and the kind of weaponry used is really secondary, it’s the fact that Syrians continue to die in such horrific numbers while the world has grown numb that’s incredibly tragic. We must resist the urge to accept this as “normal”. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Syrian people.