Six years after the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, it is important to assess the condition of the Arab American community. Although the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has repeatedly condemned the attacks on record, we note that the entire community is still feeling the implications of our government’s policies and general negative sentiment towards the community as part of the September 11 backlash.
|Mary Rose Oakar|
Over the past six years ADC has taken the lead in protecting the rights of the Arab American community. ADC continues to address a number of issues, such as the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), Naturalization delays, No-Fly Lists, and bank account closures, directly with the appropriate government agencies. A DC has also noted that anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment is unfortunately still alive and thriving in public discourse. Such defamation is not new; however, this type of defamation, including in our most respected media, has increased significantly in the last six years. ADC remains very concerned that anything Arab is stigmatized and held to a different standard. It shows that we must all redouble our efforts at keeping our beloved country, the USA, safe, while protecting our civil rights. ADC pledges to continue its needed work and asks if you will join in this effort.
As you may be aware, ADC has been working diligently for nearly five years to have the NSEERS program fully terminated. In an effort to track, detain and deport foreign nationals in the United Sates, the Department of Justice began implementing NSEERS in September 2002. This program calls for the registration of foreign male nationals here on temporary visas. Under the program, males ages 16 and older, from mostly Arab or Muslim countries, are required to go to a designated immigration enforcement office to be interviewed, fingerprinted and photographed by a certain deadline. With the exception of North Korea, all the designated countries for the domestic phase of this registration program were from Arab or Muslim nations. ADC has been the lead voice in advocating for the end of the NSEERS program and spearheaded the national advertising campaign to “End the Shame of NSEERS.”
ADC has also been working to address extensive naturalization application delays faced by the community. Over 400,000 applicants are in a state of limbo as their applications are “pending a background check.” ADC has been discussing this matter with senior level members of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI. In an ADC-coordinated effort across the country, many attorneys filed complaints in federal court, pushing for a change in the methods used for the security background check. So far ADC has filed nearly 100 administrative complaints in Washington, DC. We are happy to report that some progress has been made on this issue, although more remains to be done.
Levels of discrimination against the community continue to remain high. ADC has seen an increase in employment discrimination cases being reported directly to the organization’s five offices across the country. Next week, ADC will brief the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) and its field staff on the kinds of workplace issues related to race, national origin, and religion the community is facing.
In addition ADC has developed a number of programs geared toward defending and upholding the civil rights of the Arab American community. Initiatives such as the Law Enforcement Outreach Program (LEOP) and BRIDGES help bring awareness of issues our community is facing to the appropriate governmental agencies. Organizationally, ADC has noted that its grassroots chapters across the country have become more active in the past six years fighting discrimination. We ask that you join this effort also.
In an effort to raise understanding about the issues our community confronts daily, we are currently working on the 2003-2006 edition of the ADC Report on Hate Crimes and Discrimination Against Arab Americans. This Report has been produced by ADC since 1991 and the latest edition follows the definitive 2001-2002 edition which was used by many institutions to track the discrimination people of Arab descent faced immediately after 9/11. It remains the most comprehensive documentation yet published of the backlash of the entire community which followed the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Lastly, another part of ADC’s work is to promote the rich cultural heritage of our people. To that end, ADC has made significant progress. Since moving into its new permanent National Headquarters in Washington, DC, ADC has held numerous outreach events. These include film screenings, art exhibits, receptions, dinners, press conferences, and much more. Should you find yourself in a city with an ADC chapter, we encourage you to join. Should you find yourself in our Nation’s capital, we hope you will visit the National Headquarters and meet our staff to learn first-hand the work we do on a daily basis for the benefit of our community and our nation as a whole.
The writer is a former congresswoman from Ohio and the current president of ADC.