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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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January 15, 2015 4

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 1

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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