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June 20, 2016 5

LGBT Communities at Risk: Another Case for Immigration Reform

By Jonathan Green­blatt
CEO of the Anti-Defamation League

This blog orig­i­nally appeared on Medium

The assault on the les­bian, gay, bisex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) com­mu­nity in Orlando last week­end that left 49 dead and more than 50 wounded in its wake was in many ways unprece­dented and, in many oth­ers, far too famil­iar. It was the dead­liest mass pub­lic shoot­ing in Amer­i­can his­tory. And it shat­tered sacred moments of mul­ti­ple communities.

First and fore­most, it vio­lated Pride Month, des­ig­nated as the time of year when LGBT peo­ple and their allies can cel­e­brate their dif­fer­ence. The vio­lence occurred dur­ing the week­end when we marked the Jew­ish fes­ti­val of Shavuot — the cul­mi­na­tion of a 49-day count between our fes­ti­val of lib­er­a­tion from slav­ery in Egypt and the moment when the Jews remem­ber receiv­ing the wis­dom of our holy Torah at Mount Sinai. And the attack tore at the peace of Ramadan, when Mus­lims seek to be closer to God and to focus on their inner selves.

All of the Abra­hamic reli­gions are rooted in texts that pave the way to peace. It is in these times that we must find those strands of faith which bind us together. Already, many faith com­mu­ni­ties have come together in cities across the coun­try, united in grief, stand­ing in sol­i­dar­ity with the LGBT com­mu­nity, and look­ing for answers as to how a lone gun­man with hatred in his heart could wreak such devastation.

But even in this moment, we must take note that it is not just in this coun­try where the LGBT com­mu­nity is at risk. Across the globe, LGBT peo­ple face per­se­cu­tion, legal­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion, and the threat of both state-sanctioned vio­lence and bru­tal­ity at the hands of non-state actors.

Across the globe, LGBT peo­ple face per­se­cu­tion, legal­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion, and the threat of both state-sanctioned vio­lence and bru­tal­ity at the hands of non-state actors.

We have seen the mem­bers of the Islamic State ter­ror­ist group (ISIS) lit­er­ally throw indi­vid­u­als from rooftops, sim­ply for being sus­pected of the “crime” of being gay. Hamas exe­cutes indi­vid­u­als with­out trial for the same “offense.”The Islamic Repub­lic of Iran also has been known to hang young men sus­pected of homosexuality.

The vio­lence in Orlando and the ele­vated risk of vio­lence that LGBT peo­ple face around the world can­not be sep­a­rated. There is some debate about the motives of the gun­man, Omar Mateen. Dur­ing the crime, he claimed alle­giance to ISIS and his appar­ent homo­pho­bia is con­sis­tent with their big­oted teach­ings. At the same time, some have claimed he was wrestling with his own repressed sex­ual identity.

What­ever the cause, accord­ing to the U.S. Office for Refugee Reset­tle­ment, an esti­mated 3,500 LGBT refugees land on our shores every year, seek­ing to escape tor­ment in their home­lands. This also is true of the mil­lions of Mus­lims flee­ing the bru­tal­ity tear­ing apart their home­lands, such as the civil war in Syria or the destruc­tion of Iraq. They are not alone — we also see other embat­tled minori­ties, includ­ing Chris­tians from the Mid­dle East and abused women from around the world com­ing to our shores, seek­ing refuge from vio­lence and oppression.

As we pause and con­sider World Refugee Day, our com­mon human­ity and Jew­ish val­ues com­pel us to hear their cries and embrace these victims.

The notions espoused by cer­tain pub­lic fig­ures of refus­ing refuge to the down­trod­den, or reject­ing wid­ows and chil­dren at our bor­ders sim­ply because of the sins of a hand­ful of their co-religionists, is not a pol­icy. It’s a trav­esty, an affront to all notions of decency. We can do bet­ter on behalf of those who have lost everything.

To date, the trickle of such refugees per­mit­ted entry into this coun­try pales in com­par­i­son to the scores of mil­lions who come to our shores every year through busi­ness and tourism visas. In 2015, the U.S. Depart­ment of Stateapproved 10.8 mil­lion non­im­mi­grant travel visas, as com­pared to 531,463 immi­grant visas.

Nonethe­less, we should strengthen the screen­ing processes to ensure that those who come to our shores are legit­i­mate refugees who need our sup­port. And indi­vid­u­als hail­ing from illib­eral democ­ra­cies undoubt­edly need edu­ca­tion and inte­gra­tion to main­stream them into our lib­eral democ­racy to ensure they embrace and under­stand our civic cul­ture and com­mon values.

On this day, as we acknowl­edge and ele­vate the plight of refugees around the world, let us root our work in chesed, the Jew­ish value of benev­o­lence and com­pas­sion. Let us remind our­selves that we were once strangers, as we are told in the Torah and as we have expe­ri­enced through­out history.

Let us remind our­selves that we were once strangers, as we are told in the Torah and as we have expe­ri­enced through­out history.

We can anchor this approach in the endur­ing words of Emma Lazarus, inscribed on the Statue of Lib­erty: “Give me your tired, your poor; Your hud­dled masses yearn­ing to breathe free….” And we can gal­va­nize this com­mit­ment by reclaim­ing what the ter­ror­ist attempted to take from us in Orlando — our com­mon humanity.

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September 11, 2015 22

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller promotes anti-refugee rhetoric

“Immi­gra­tion Jihad” is a newly minted term by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller to describe the cur­rent refugee cri­sis in Europe, where thou­sands of refugees are try­ing to find a safe haven for their fam­i­lies away from the war-torn Mid­dle East.

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

As wrench­ing images of Aylan Kurdi, a tod­dler lying dead on a Turk­ish beach after he and his fam­ily sought refuge spurred the world to take action to help save more refugees, Geller advanced her claim that the flow of refugees is a Mus­lim inva­sion that needs to be stopped. “How this new inva­sion will end is anyone’s guess – but it won’t be pretty. Today’s refugee is tomorrow’s jihadist,” Geller wrote on Sep­tem­ber 6 on World­Net­Daily (WND), a con­ser­v­a­tive website.

Geller exploits con­cern over ter­ror­ism to get an audi­ence for her anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda. She equates Mus­lim refugees with ter­ror­ism and pro­motes the idea that every Mus­lim wants to wage Jihad against the West.

She wrote on Sep­tem­ber 6, “The ques­tion no one is ask­ing is why all these peo­ple, all of a sud­den? Did mil­lions of Mus­lims across the Mid­dle East and Africa get a text mes­sage that said, go now? This is clearly orches­trated, and as I pre­vi­ously reported, ISIS warned Europe of an inva­sion of ‘migrants.’ This, too, is an act of war. How many jihadists are among the hordes?”

Geller also con­nected the refugee cri­sis in Europe to the United States. She wrote on her offi­cial blog post on Sep­tem­ber 7, “This is a cau­tion­ary tale for Amer­ica. We must not allow these invaders into our coun­try. This is a hijrah, a migra­tion to Islamize a new land.”

In addi­tion, Geller’s cam­paign against refugees also recy­cles some of her anti-Obama con­spir­acy the­o­ries. In August, she accused Pres­i­dent Obama of reset­tling a large num­ber of Syr­ian refugees as part of a plot to destroy Amer­ica. She claimed, “Obama is bring­ing Mus­lim refugees into this coun­try by the hun­dreds of thou­sands in his unceas­ing pur­suit of the destruc­tion of Amer­ica.” She also called for an end to the U.S. refugee reset­tle­ment program

Geller has waged an anti-Muslim cam­paign for years by hold­ing con­tro­ver­sial events such as the “Draw Muham­mad” con­test, plac­ing anti-Muslim ads on buses, and giv­ing speeches claim­ing that Mus­lim immi­grants pose a threat to the U.S. Her increas­ing anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric not only con­tra­dicts the Jewish-American val­ues which she claims to defend but it also vio­lates basic human decency.

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August 25, 2015 1

When Hateful Speech Leads to Hate Crimes: Taking Bigotry Out of the Immigration Debate

By Jonathan Green­blatt
National Direc­tor of the Anti-Defamation League

This arti­cle orig­i­nally appeared on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Blog

When police arrived at the scene in Boston, they found a Latino man shak­ing on the ground, his face appar­ently soaked in urine, with a bro­ken nose.  His arms and chest had been beaten.  One of the two broth­ers arrested and charged with the hate crime report­edly told police, “Don­ald Trump was right—all these ille­gals need to be deported.”

The vic­tim, a home­less man, was appar­ently sleep­ing out­side of a sub­way sta­tion in Dorch­ester when the per­pe­tra­tors attacked.  His only offense was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  The broth­ers attacked him for who he was—simply because he was Latino.

In recent weeks anti-immigrant—and by exten­sion anti-Latino—rhetoric has reached a fever pitch.  Immi­grants have been smeared as “killers” and “rapists.”  They have been accused of bring­ing drugs and crime.  A radio talk show host in Iowa has called for enslave­ment of undoc­u­mented immi­grants if they do not leave within 60 days.  There have been calls to repeal the 14th Amendment’s guar­an­tee of cit­i­zen­ship to peo­ple born in the United States, with alle­ga­tions that peo­ple come here to have so-called “anchor babies.”  And the terms “ille­gal aliens” and “ille­gals”— which many main­stream news sources wisely rejected years ago because they dehu­man­ize and stig­ma­tize people—have resurged.

The words used on the cam­paign trail, on the floors of Con­gress, in the news, and in all our liv­ing rooms have con­se­quences.  They directly impact our abil­ity to sus­tain a soci­ety that ensures dig­nity and equal­ity for all.  Big­oted rhetoric and words laced with prej­u­dice are build­ing blocks for the pyra­mid of hate.

Biased behav­iors build on one another, becom­ing ever more threat­en­ing and dan­ger­ous towards the top.  At the base is bias, which includes stereo­typ­ing and insen­si­tive remarks.  It sets the foun­da­tion for a sec­ond, more com­plex and more dam­ag­ing layer: indi­vid­ual acts of prej­u­dice, includ­ing bul­ly­ing, slurs, and dehu­man­iza­tion.  Next is dis­crim­i­na­tion, which in turn sup­ports bias-motivated vio­lence, includ­ing hate crimes like the tragic one in Boston. And in the most extreme cases if left unchecked, the top of the pyra­mid of hate is genocide.

Just like a pyra­mid, the lower lev­els sup­port the upper lev­els.  Bias, prej­u­dice and discrimination—particularly touted by those with a loud mega­phone and cheer­ing crowd—all con­tribute to an atmos­phere that enables hate crimes and other hate-fueled vio­lence.  The most recent hate crime in Boston is just one of too many.  In fact, there is a hate crime roughly every 90 min­utes in the United States today.  That is why last week ADL announced a new ini­tia­tive, #50StatesAgainstHate, to strengthen hate crimes laws around the coun­try and safe­guard com­mu­ni­ties vul­ner­a­ble to hate-fueled attacks. We are work­ing with a broad coali­tion of part­ners to get the ball rolling.

Laws alone, how­ever, can­not cure the dis­ease of hate.  To do that, we need to change the con­ver­sa­tion.  We would not sug­gest that any one person’s words caused this tragedy – the per­pe­tra­tors did that; but the rhetor­i­cal excesses by so many over the past few weeks give rise to a cli­mate in which prej­u­dice, dis­crim­i­na­tion, and hate-fueled vio­lence can take root.

Rea­son­able peo­ple can dif­fer about how we should fix our bro­ken immi­gra­tion sys­tem, but stereo­types, slurs, smears and insults have no place in the debate.

Immi­grants have been a fre­quent tar­get of hate, and unfor­tu­nately, prej­u­dice and vio­lence are not new.  Many of our ances­tors faced sim­i­lar prej­u­dice when they came to the United States. In the 1800s, the attacks were against Irish and Ger­man immi­grants. Next was a wave of anti-Chinese sen­ti­ment cul­mi­nat­ing with the Chi­nese Exclu­sion Act in 1882. Then the hatred turned on the Jews, high­lighted by the lynch­ing of Leo Frank in 1915.  Then came big­otry against Japan­ese immi­grants and peo­ple of Japan­ese dis­sent, which led to the shame­ful intern­ment of more than 110,000 peo­ple dur­ing World War II.  Today, anti-immigrant big­otry largely focuses on Lati­nos.  The tar­gets have changed, but the mes­sages of hate remain largely the same.  It is long past time for that to end.

ADL, as a 501(c)(3), does not sup­port or oppose can­di­dates for elec­tive office,but we have a sim­ple mes­sage for all pol­i­cy­mak­ers and can­di­dates:  There is no place for hate in the immi­gra­tion debate.  There is noth­ing patri­otic or admirable about hatred and hate-fueled vio­lence.  The only accept­able response to hate crimes is unequiv­o­cal, strong con­dem­na­tion.  And the same is true for the bias, prej­u­dice, and big­oted speech that have recently per­me­ated the immi­gra­tion conversation.

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