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June 20, 2016

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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January 15, 2015

Anti-Immigrant Group Exploits MLK to Rail Against Immigration Reform

Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), a Santa Barbara-based anti-immigrant group, launched a TV ad campaign that manipulates Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words in order to rail against President Obama’s executive action on immigration. The Santa Barbara-based group began airing the ads on January 13 on national cable networks and local TV stations in Los Angeles.

Joe Guzzardi

Joe Guzzardi

In the press release announcing the 2015 ads, Joe Guzzardi, CAPS national media director, claims that President Obama’s policies disproportionately harm minority Americans. Guzzardi’s expressed concern for minorities is questionable. Guzzardi was an editor and writer at the racist, anti-immigrant website VDARE until 2010. In addition, in 2012, Guzzardi presented at The Social Contract Press (TSCP) Writers Workshop, which often features racist speakers. Racist John Tanton, the architect of the modern anti-immigrant movement founded TSCP and white supremacist Wayne Lutton edits TSCP’s journal, The Social Contract. In addition, CAPS appointed another racist, John Vinson, as a senior writing fellow in 2013.

The CAPS ads imply that President Obama’s efforts to provide some undocumented immigrants with work permits runs counter to Dr. King’s vision of racial equality in America. In reality, CAPS is exploiting the occasion of King’s birthday to promote intolerance towards immigrants who work and live in this country. The ads stress that undocumented immigrants are taking away jobs from African-Americans and Hispanics in the United States. CAPS ran similar ads around Martin Luther King Day last year, as well.

Since 2013, CAPS has gone beyond promoting its anti-immigrant agenda in California and has moved on to the national stage. It has been one of the most active organizations attempting to derail immigration reform. In addition to ads mentioned earlier, the group has run ads targeting politicians for their support of immigration reform.

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December 10, 2013

Promoting Human Rights on the 65th Anniversary of the Historic Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first ever global assertion that “all human beings are born with equal and inalienable rights and fundamental freedoms.” The world celebrates annual Human Rights Day on December 10th each year.  This December, ADL honors the UDHR’s 65th anniversary by continuing to fight for the rights enshrined in that momentous declaration and by teaching new generations of children to learn about the principles it reflects.

Eleanor Roosevelt holding the Human Rights Declaration

Human Rights Day has particular meaning for ADL because anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews was the touchstone for the creation of some of the foundational human rights instruments in the aftermath of the Holocaust.  ADL is committed to educating youth about the lessons of the Holocaust and how bigotry and exclusion can lead down a slippery slope toward unspeakable atrocities, and our web site features a short list of books for children on the UDHR and how it relates to the rights of children globally.

ADL is engaging activists in protecting the rights championed by this historic document whether it is by protecting the right of all children to an education, freedom of religion and belief for all, or freedom to associate and to seek asylum from persecution. This month, our priority human rights issues have put the spotlight on:

Today, through our activism and raising awareness, we honor the spirit of the moving words of, one of the UDHR’s authors, Eleanor Roosevelt, who asked:

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerned citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.


— Eleanor Roosevelt, “In Our Hands” (1958 speech delivered on the tenth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)



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