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September 12, 2014 0

Anti-Immigrant Groups Attempt To Bring ISIS Into The Immigration Debate

anti-immigrant-islamIn response to the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted in the Mid­dle East by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a ter­ror­ist group, Amer­i­can anti-immigrant groups are attempt­ing to exploit the public’s legit­i­mate con­cerns about ISIS by warn­ing that the group plans to enter the United States via Mexico.

In a blog posted on Sep­tem­ber 8, a fel­low for the anti-immigrant think tank Cen­ter for Immi­gra­tion Stud­ies (CIS) argued that Sen­a­tor John McCain’s sup­port of the Senate’s immi­gra­tion reform bill S-744 in 2013, “has pro­vided ISIS with unfet­tered access to the United States for both its per­son­nel and their weapons of death and destruc­tion.” The blog con­cluded with the state­ment, “Should ISIS or some other ter­ror­ist group take advan­tage of McCain’s wel­come mat, he will only have him­self to blame as he goes in the eyes of many from war hero to collaborator.”

The anti-immigrant grass­roots orga­ni­za­tion Num­ber­sUSA and the California-based Cal­i­for­ni­ans for Pop­u­la­tion Sta­bi­liza­tion (CAPS) both sent fundrais­ing emails to activists in recent weeks link­ing ISIS to Pres­i­dent Obama’s rumored announce­ment of some form of exec­u­tive relief for undoc­u­mented immi­grants. Num­ber­sUSA claimed ISIS, “is cer­tainly encour­aged by the weak U.S. gov­ern­ment response to the bor­der surge this sum­mer…” A num­ber of state-based anti-immigrant groups also warned of the threat of ISIS ter­ror­ists enter­ing the U.S. via Mex­ico. Many of the groups cite a report from the conspiracy-orientated “watch­dog” group Judi­cial Watch. Judi­cial Watch is closely aligned with the anti-immigrant movement.

Some anti-immigrant groups are also respond­ing to the media spot­light on ISIS by espous­ing anti-Muslim rhetoric. In a Face­book post on Sep­tem­ber 9, the Tea Party Immi­gra­tion Coali­tion headed by racist Rick Olt­man asserted, “We must rethink the 1st amend­ment as it applies to Islam. Islam is NOT a reli­gion; rather, it is a supra­na­tional orga­ni­za­tion hell bent on world dom­i­na­tion and killing any­one, any­where and at any time to do so.”

The anti-immigrant move­ment often attempts to tie together the issues of immi­gra­tion and ter­ror­ism. This was the case even before the Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 ter­ror­ist attacks. Since 9–11, the move­ment has con­cen­trated on link­ing ter­ror­ism and immi­gra­tion under the guise of national secu­rity. This is a key argu­ment for the move­ment in oppo­si­tion to any form of immi­gra­tion reform.

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August 28, 2014 0

Town of Greece’s New Invocation Policy Excludes Religious Minorities

The U.S. Supreme Court’s recent per­mis­sive leg­isla­tive prayer deci­sion (Greece v. Gal­loway) allows for sec­tar­ian invo­ca­tions at meet­ings of local leg­isla­tive bod­ies. Open­ing prayer prac­tices, how­ever, are not with­out limit. The deci­sion requires that a local leg­isla­tive body must imple­ment a non-discrimination pol­icy with respect to prayer givers.  The Town of Greece, New York —  a party to the Supreme Court case – recently adopted a new Town Board invo­ca­tion pol­icy.  This pol­icy cer­tainly vio­lates the spirit of the Greece decision’s non-discrimination man­date, but it is an open ques­tion whether it  actu­ally vio­lates it.supreme-court-civil-rights

The new pol­icy allows pri­vate cit­i­zens to sol­em­nize the pro­ceed­ings of the Town Board by offer­ing a “prayer, reflec­tive moment of silence, or a short sol­em­niz­ing mes­sage.”  How­ever, the per­son pro­vid­ing the sol­em­niz­ing mes­sage must be an appointed rep­re­sen­ta­tive of  “an assem­bly that reg­u­larly meet[s] for the pri­mary pur­pose of shar­ing a reli­gious per­spec­tive.”  The assem­bly must either be located within Greece, or it can be located out­side of town if a res­i­dent reg­u­larly attends the assem­bly and requests its inclu­sion on an offi­cial “Assem­blies List.”

The term “reli­gious per­spec­tive” cer­tainly encom­passes minor­ity faiths and non-believers.  Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeat­edly ruled that athe­ism and eth­i­cal human­ism are sin­cerely held reli­gious beliefs.  How­ever, while there may be Athe­ists, Bud­dhists, Eth­i­cal Human­ists, Jews, Mus­lims, Sikhs or other reli­gious minori­ties resid­ing in Greece, they may not have a con­gre­ga­tion within or prox­i­mate to town.  So the new pol­icy effec­tively deprives reli­gious minori­ties from par­tic­i­pat­ing in the invo­ca­tion oppor­tu­nity.   This is one rea­son why ADL views leg­isla­tive prayer prac­tices as divi­sive and poor pub­lic pol­icy.  If the Town of Greece truly wants to be inclu­sive and live up to the spirit of the Supreme Court’s non-discrimination require­ment, it should give all res­i­dents a true oppor­tu­nity to sol­em­nize Town Board proceedings.

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August 28, 2014 0

Moving Forward From Ferguson

“His­tory sim­mers beneath the sur­face in more com­mu­ni­ties than just Fer­gu­son,” Attor­ney Gen­eral Eric Holder aptly rec­og­nized dur­ing his visit there. The con­ver­sa­tion about Fer­gu­son can­not start with the death of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man shot to death by a white police offi­cer.  Though tragic in and of itself, the story goes back much further.ferguson-civil-rights

It is a sad tru­ism that America’s laws—and the peo­ple charged with enforc­ing them—have not always pro­tected com­mu­ni­ties of color.  In the infa­mous Dred Scott case, which orig­i­nated just miles from Fer­gu­son, the Supreme Court shame­fully ruled in 1857 that African Amer­i­cans had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”  Though the case served as a cat­a­lyst for the Civil War and the 13th, 14th and 15th Amend­ments rat­i­fied shortly there­after to super­sede the rul­ing, deep-seated racism continued.

Jim Crow laws seg­re­gated soci­ety and rel­e­gated African Amer­i­cans to second-class cit­i­zens. Lynch­ings ter­ror­ized com­mu­ni­ties.  All too often not only did law enforce­ment fail to pro­tect African Amer­i­can com­mu­ni­ties, but police offi­cers par­tic­i­pated in the lynch mobs.  Dur­ing the Civil Rights Move­ment, now-infamous images cap­tured police offi­cers using dogs, fire hoses and billy clubs against peace­ful protestors.

Since the Civil Rights Move­ment half a cen­tury ago we have worked hard as a nation to move towards a more just and equal soci­ety. We have come a long way, but Fer­gu­son stands as a stark reminder that we still have a long way to go.

In address­ing the cri­sis in Fer­gu­son, the first step must be open and respect­ful dia­logue.  We can­not move for­ward unless and until we face the past.  Part of that dis­cus­sion must be about the role of law enforce­ment and their rela­tion­ship with the com­mu­ni­ties they have sworn to serve and protect.

Since 1999 the Anti-Defamation League, in part­ner­ship with the United States Holo­caust Museum, has con­ducted train­ings for law enforce­ment—from police chiefs and the head of fed­eral agen­cies to recruits and new FBI agents—exploring what hap­pens when police lose sight of the val­ues they swore to uphold and their role as pro­tec­tors of the  peo­ple they serve. By con­trast­ing the con­duct of police in Nazi Ger­many, and the role that law enforce­ment is expected to play in our democ­racy, the pro­gram under­scores the impor­tance of safe­guard­ing con­sti­tu­tional rights, build­ing trust with the peo­ple and com­mu­ni­ties they serve, and the tragic con­se­quences when there is a gap between how law enforce­ment behaves and the core val­ues of the profession.

We know from our work that the vast major­ity of offi­cers care deeply about the com­mu­ni­ties they serve.  But that is not to say police are infal­li­ble.  None of us is.  And there are cer­tainly some within law enforce­ment who engage in mis­con­duct, as is the case in every pro­fes­sion.  But the bad acts of some can­not and do not define law enforcement.

Amer­ica is strongest and safest when there is mutual under­stand­ing and trust between law enforce­ment and com­mu­ni­ties.  We must seek to build those bridges by rec­og­niz­ing our trou­ble­some past, acknowl­edg­ing the prob­lems per­sist­ing today, and com­mit­ting to changes that move us for­ward to a more per­fect union.

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