In Wake of Impeachment Proceedings, 10 Issues Arab Americans Must Move Forward On
By Heba Mohammad/Arab America Contributing Writer
The last few weeks in Washington, DC have been exceptionally raucous as impeachment proceedings move along, but while that story takes up much of the country’s attention, issues affecting Arab Americans have not slowed down. Many of the issues at the forefront of the community’s collective consciousness will impact the country for years to come, making now a vital pivot point that requires the community’s full attention.
Come April of next year, one of the country’s largest and most important democratic processes—the decennial census—will be underway. The Census Bureau and advocacy organizations are working hard to ensure an accurate count at the end of the process. The census results will determine a multitude of policies, including school funding, community maintenance funds, redistricting, and representation in Congress, among other things. The #YallaCountMeIn campaign, a national campaign specific to the Arab American community, was launched earlier this year to provide vital information to Arab Americans in English and Arabic. Amongst the greatest census challenges right now is that of disinformation, which is “false information made with the intent to harm and deceive.” Now is the time to formulate a rapid response to potential census-related disinformation, and the best way to fight disinformation is with accurate information. Take time today to pledge your family & friends to fill out the 2020 Census and receiving updates. Yalla, can we count you in?
Impeachment aside, it’s no secret that the Trump Administration has tried to distract and deflect blame when it comes to its policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The decisions being made by this administration are emboldening Israeli officials to pursue increasingly dangerous policies that violate human rights and international law. Stateside, there is a long list of bills being introduced in Congress to support Israel and stifle pro-Palestine advocacy. One of the most recent bills to pass the House this summer is HR 1850: Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act of 2019. The bill gives the PLO & PA a choice between two impossible scenarios: either remain a UN member and be held accountable for previously dismissed terrorism cases or settle for a downgraded status at the UN and start receiving US security aid again. In either scenario, Palestinians give up their right to self-determination and independence, and prospects for a negotiated peace will become nonexistent. The Senate will be considering the companion bill, S.2132, the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019. Call your Senators (202-224-3121) today to urge them to oppose S.2132 that will end any meaningful chances for a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine.
The Trump Administration announced last month its intentions to limit the number of refugees admitted to the United States this fiscal year to just 18,000. The Administration provided flawed justification for its decision and has ignored the repeated criticism from advocates and members of its own government. These cuts are sending a clear message that addressing humanitarian needs is no longer a US priority, which will have devastating consequences on vulnerable populations all over the globe. To combat the deterioration of the US’s refugee resettlement program, the GRACE Act was introduced in the House this year. If passed, this act will guarantee the acceptance of 95,000 refugees annually. Many organizations are calling on the House to pass the GRACE Act, and you can add your voice to the chorus by completing this action alert to let your representative know you stand with refugees.
Later this year, the FBI will share hate crime statistics from 2018, and there is a reason to expect the data will show another overall increase in hate crimes, making it the fourth consecutive annual increase. Hate crimes are notoriously underreported by victims and misunderstood and misreported by law enforcement. The Arab American community only recently began gaining insight into anti-Arab hate crime when the FBI reinstated the bias motivation category in 2015. There is a crucial attempt to remedy both the underreporting and law enforcement’s response to hate crimes through the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act. When passed, this bill will help better identify the problem of hate crimes in order to reach a more effective solution to them. Fill out this action alert today to ask your representatives to pass this important legislation in both the House and Senate.
July 2019 was the hottest recorded month on Earth. With these new highs come tremendous challenges—shrinking ice caps, more extreme natural disasters, droughts & famine, and more—many of which will soon be irreversible. The impacts are being felt in the United States even as the Administration chooses to ignore this crisis. So leave it to the youth to step up and ensure this problem remains at the forefront of our collective consciousness. Leading the US Youth Climate Strike are impressive activists, including two Arab Americans who are using their organizing experience to make a difference in impacted communities, the halls of Congress, and at the United Nations. Now is the time to commit yourself to mitigate climate change: sign up now to help with the Peoples Climate Movement or the US Youth Climate Strike.
48,000 United Auto Workers at 30 General Motors factories began striking over three weeks ago for better wages, improved health and safety services and safeguards, job security, retirement benefits, among other demands. The economic impact of the strike is already being felt by GM workers and non-GM workers alike, making the outcome of these negotiations of the utmost importance to everyone. With so many of these factories located in communities with high populations of Arab Americans, the impact is likely hitting close to home for many in the community. As the strike continues, businesses, individuals, and unions are coming together to offer support to striking workers who are struggling to make ends meet during this time. To help, consider dropping off food donations at your local UAW hall, or checking in directly with your impacted neighbors—every show of solidarity makes a difference.
The 2020 Presidential Election is only 391 days away! That may seem like a long time, but there’s a lot of work to be done between then and now to make sure the general election in November, and every election before then, is as secure as possible. There are some standard best practices that should be implemented to provide added security, like post-election audits and ballot paper trails, and all these updates to software and hardware require consistent funding to maintain updated systems. While Mitch McConnell recently committed to $250 million for election security, more funding is needed for robust security operations. The House passed H.R.3351 this summer, which includes election security funding and accountability to ensure funds are used where the need is greatest. It’s not too late to ensure elections are secured: call your Senators to urge them to pass S.2524 – Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, the companion bill to H.R.3351, and commit at least $600 million to election security measures.
Language Access at the Polls
In 1975, Congress amended the 1965 Voting Rights Act to introduce Section 203, the Language Minority Provisions. In short, this section requires that jurisdictions “where the number of United States citizens of voting age is a single language group” exceeds 10,000 or is greater than 5% of the total voting-age population, provide all materials related to the electoral process in the language of the applicable group. So far, no US jurisdiction has officially met these requirements (this is determined using census data which, as you now know, does not always represent a complete picture of communities). Section 203 is a great legal tool to use when the time comes, but there is another tool available: organizing local communities. Success stories exist thanks to advocates who approached their local election officials, made a case for the need to have in-language resources, and worked with them to make the resources a reality. With the importance of this upcoming election, you can support voter turnout and ballot access by calling your local election office to request a meeting this week to discuss Arabic resources—and bring a friend or two to spark this momentum.
Running for Delegate
If you watch the Democratic or Republic National Conventions, you’ll see groups of people representing their states go on stage to officially nominate a presidential candidate. You can be one of those people! Known as delegates, these individuals have an enormous influence on who is nominated in their respective party, and what issues appear on the national party platform (so if you care about water quality or BDS or healthcare, you can help influence the positions your party’s presidential nominee adopts). If you’ve never heard of a delegate, you can read this primer to get a sense of the role they play. Then, reach out to your local Democratic or Republican Party to inquire about the delegate selection process, or contact the Arab American Institute at 202-429-9210 to have someone walk you through the process in your state.
Running for Office
What would this list be if running for office was left off? At the end of the day, impeachment proceedings are underway because the president isn’t doing his job representing the best interests of Americans. It’s also true that his rise to power and corruption was aided by elected and appointed officials around him. If you weren’t paying attention to who was representing you before, it’s not too late to fix that. In fact, you can become the person representing you, your family, your neighbors, and the community you care deeply about. There is a plethora of organizations, tools, training, and more that can equip you with the right skills to successfully run for office. If you need help getting started, you can either contact your local Democratic or Republican Party, search the internet for training that aligns with your values, or reach out to me on Twitter (@heebs25)—I want to help Arab Americans run for office.
While staying up to date on the impeachment proceedings is important, so are all these other issues and opportunities to get and stay engaged. Don’t let the whirlwind of this moment distract from the consequences of this Administration’s policies and decisions, and from your duty to actively participate in democracy. You can participate in an infinite number of ways through campaigns, monitoring policies, or having conversations with those around you to ensure they are involved in decision making that will impact this country for generations. Your community depends on your engagement now more than ever.