Posted on November 14, 2019 in Countdown

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More Death in Gaza

Over the last couple of days, Israeli bombardment killed 34 Palestinians, including 8 members of one family. The violence was triggered by Israel’s assassination of an Islamic Jihad commander, killing his wife and injuring their children in the process, which the militant group responded to with rocket fire. Despite the fact that the death toll mounted exclusively on the Palestinian side, the reaction of U.S. politicians was the same old predictable madness: Pete Buttigieg condemned the rocket fireaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself, and that was it. Joe Biden did the same. Amy Klobuchar did the same as well. Cory Booker? Yup, pretty much the same. Come to think of it, they were practically reading from the same script, reciting standard talking points that are totally divorced from reality. If they took about three seconds to think about what they’re saying, they may notice that defending the occupiers’ right to “self defense” while ignoring the ordinary Palestinians who are the daily victims of the occupiers’ aggression is a grossly lopsided and inadequate way to address the crisis; but they’re busy campaigning, so three seconds is too much to ask.  There is a fragile ceasefire that’s holding at the moment, and we hope it lasts longer than our politicians’ common sense impairment on this issue.

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Three Cheers for the Arab Americans on Last Week’s Ballot

Last week’s election saw a large number of Arab Americans on the ballot, many of whom won their races, and all of whom ran impressive, responsive campaigns. The Blue Virginia Wave included three Arab Americans who were reelected to the House of Delegates: Sam Rasoul, Hala Ayala, and Ibraheem Samirah. On the local level, city councils across the country are welcoming new & returning faces to their ranks. In Lewiston, Maine, Safiya Khalid became the first American of Somali descent and the youngest person ever elected to the council; in Dearborn Heights, Michigan, Dave Abdallah was welcomed back to his seat; and Annissa Essaibi-George won a tight race to hold on to her seat in Boston, Massachusetts. Arab Americans won in races up and down the ballot, which is going to translate into effective, responsive policy-making in schools, towns, cities, states, and beyond. Also worth noting: New York City overwhelmingly approved Question 1 to bring Ranked Choice Voting to the city. This ballot initiative implements a voting system that empowers voters, saves time and money, and ensures candidates are bringing their best to all communities. There is good news all around the country, and we want to congratulate every candidate, volunteer, and organization that engaged in elections this year.

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Last Black Republican’s Message to His Party

Countdown has been keeping you abreast of the GOP's retention issues lately, as Republican members of the House have been in a retirement frenzy, announcing they will not seek re-election. One of those members whose departure is raising extra eyebrows is Texas Rep. Will Hurd, the last remaining Black Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives. Hurd's retirement is troubling to those who continue to push for a more diverse GOP, including the Representative himself. In an interview with Politico, Hurd said, "If people don't think you care about them, they're not going to listen to your idea regardless of what that idea is. And the only way you solve that is by showing up, the only way you solve that is by not saying mean things and saying misogynist things, not saying racist things, not being homophobic or any kind of phobic." You know, we sort of get it when the GOP doesn’t pay adequate attention to us  calling on them to take a stand against bigotry. But when departing members of Congress of your own party are saying this to you directly, how are you still not listening? Come on, GOP, bigotry is not a partisan issue, it’s a blight on what America is supposed to stand for, for all of us!

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TPS extended for Sudan

Last week, DHS officially extended TPS for nationals of Sudan, as well as El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, and Nicaragua. This was not out of the kindness of the hearts within the Trump Administration, however. Remember that the administration extended, but did not re-designate, TPS for Syria this summer, and did the same for Yemen last summer, which means protection is restricted only to beneficiaries of earlier TPS designations, but not to new applicants. So why was TPS extended for Sudan and other countries? That’s because of a lawsuit, Ramos v. Nielsen, which has resulted in the court enjoining DHS from terminating TPS for these countries. The reason for the injunction? Because the administration changed the criteria for granting TPS “without any explanation or justification.” TPS for Sudan was originally set to expire January 2, 2020, but it will now be valid through January 4, 2021 (yay). This is an automatic extension, meaning holders will not have to take any actions at this time, and which also means beneficiaries can rest a little longer, knowing that they are safe while their home countries are in turmoil. For more information, see the Federal Registry Notice announcing the change.

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Hate, Up Close and Personal

As you (better) know, we do a lot of work on hate crime statistics and data collection, trying to ensure they are counted accurately so we can get a better sense of the true scope of the problem and how to deal with it. The deeper we dive in the numbers and down the bureaucracy rabbit hole, the more distant the human impact of these crimes feels. But an infuriating story out of San Diego recenters the human impact and reminds us why this work is so important. A 17-year-old Syrian refugee was sitting on a trolly on his way home from school, talking to a friend in Arabic on his phone. That’s when a man sitting next to him ripped the earbuds out of his ears and said: “What trash are you speaking?” When the kid answered that he was speaking Arabic, the assailant unleashed what the Washington Post described as a “brutal assault,” punching him in the face five or six times while repeatedly yelling “F&#% Arabs.” The perpetrator pleaded guilty to hate crime and assault charges and will be sentenced next month. Meanwhile, and as AAI Executive Director Maya Berry pointed out in a recent NPR story, the Trump Administration has advanced policies and the President has engaged in rhetoric targeting the same communities that have suffered an increase of hate crime. 

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