Protecting undocumented children is an American value BY DAWUD W

JUL 9, 2014, 6:00 AM

Protecting undocumented children is an American value

The need for comprehensive national immigration reform has become glaringly more evident with recent events. It’s also apparent that the pesky problem of xenophobia, which cannot be legislated away, is alive and well among many of us.

Recent protests in Murrieta, California which blocked buses carrying undocumented immigrants to a Border Patrol station typifies how our country is divide on this very American issue of the status of immigrants.

Tired memes were exclaimed by protestors as to why these women and children should be immediately sent back to Central America. We’ve all heard the arguments: Immigrants will spread infectious diseases, increase crime and the old standby, they will make communities unstable.

The irony of the complaints of these protestors and the remarks of some Republican Congressmen is that it was actually a late President George W. Bush-era policy, supported by some Evangelical groups, that helped open the doors for the excess of undocumented children at our southern border. It was the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 that gave substantial legal protections to children entering America alone, who are not from Canada or Mexico.

Aside from the young girls who escaped capture by sex traffickers, many of the undocumented teens who come across the border are fleeing areas of extreme poverty and gang violence, in which refusal of gang initiation equals death.

Similarly, there are mothers who have been forced by unbearable circumstances to leave all worldly possessions and family members out of fear of their lives — not to leech off of tax-paying Americans, as many have falsely framed the situation. These are people who came here out of extenuating circumstances, not to break the law. Many Americans, who have won the geographic lottery by being born here would do the same if roles were reversed.

For centuries, America has absorbed women and children seeking asylum from dangerous areas. They’ve been accommodated and eventually contributed to the social fabric and economy of our society. Labeling these undocumented immigrants as criminals and blaming President Barack Obama for the influx of children seeking the shade of America are easy scapegoats, but in reality this cuts against the values America stands for. Perhaps it’s a mixture of where these immigrants are from, given the steady browning of America, and a black president who gets blamed for this Bush-era policy that compounds the xenophobia.

I wish that those who are keen on deporting at-risk children back into danger zones were as concerned for them as they are about the lives of the unborn in not being aborted. Unfortunately, that seems not to be the case.

In the meantime, those of us who care about the moral integrity of America have to continue to push back against this recent xenophobia that has been parlayed into more political ammunition against President Obama. This issue should not be about Democratic or Republican, or people of color or white folks, but about getting the proper aid and protection to these children in the short term and fixing our broken immigration system in the long term, outside of mass deportation.

State of the Union rings hollow without people power

Jan 29, 2014, 12:00 pm

Dawud Walid: State of the Union rings hollow without people power

Last night’s State of the Union address resonated with me on many levels. though much of it was not as ambitious as previous addresses. President Barack Obama’s talk of having a commitment to immigration reform and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility this year, however, rang hollow.

In the beginning of President Obama’s first term, when the House and Senate were under Democratic control, he had the perfect opportunity to push immigration reform through. He didn’t.

Some say that he spent all of his political capital early on passing the stimulus package and health care reform, which is debatable. Given how divided Capitol Hill has become on issues as simple as extending unemployment insurance and keeping the government’s doors open, I don’t see how immigration reform will be passed this year, even though it’s in the best interests of our country and both the Republican and Democratic parties’ political viability.

Regarding Guantanamo, President Obama signed an executive order regarding its closure shortly after being sworn into his first term, yet it’s still open. The lack of political will even within Obama’s own Democratic Party to close it is a major part of this continued national embarrassment, which has violated the human rights of hundreds of detainees.

Continued speeches regarding immigration reform and closing Gitmo reflect more as a lack of leadership by the president and his own party, not simply Republican obstruction. Moreover, these two issues also reflect insufficient mobilization among political progressives who are not Latinos, Arab Americans and American Muslims due to other issues that have been given precedence or viewed as more important.

The State of the Union speech really reminds me that the power for true change is in the hands of the people. As long as there are more people calling up their congressmen and the White House, who want neither comprehensive immigration reform nor for Gitmo to be closed, there will be no movement, even if the majority of Americans want them.

Past the flowery speeches, we have to make those words ring true which President Obama spoke last night. Otherwise, we’ll hear them again and again as we’ve heard them for the past five years without much changing on the ground.

GOP needs inclusive tone beyond immigration reform

GOP needs inclusive tone beyond immigration reform

Comprehensive immigration reform will most likely pass in Congress this year due to the political reality facing the GOP in presidential politics.

America is quickly becoming a browner nation, and GOP national leadership knows that it can never win a presidency again by alienating people of color, save gerrymandering and voter suppression on steroids.

Given that Latinos are the largest immigrant demographic nationwide, Republicans are casting their bets that championing immigration reform will make them appear less xenophobic. Thus, they hope to win substantially more brown votes in 2016. There are few assumptions, however, in this political calculation.
Such a calculation assumes that this one issue will trump other concerns that many Latinos have with the GOP’s platform on education funding, gun (non)control and reproductive rights. Latinos are far from a monolithic in their voting concerns nor are they one issue voters.

The immigration reform overture also assumes that Latinos will ignore racist and xenophobic rhetoric that has come overtly but more often subtly from the GOP, which targets other minorities. I’m not sure how many Latinos will buy that there has been fundamental change in a party whose national leadership was mum while making boogeymen out of Muslims, Arabs and South Asians during the whole anti-sharia bill movement that has swept across America in the past two years.

The GOP needs a complete tone recalibration from its posture since 9/11 if it hopes to slowly convince people of color that they are indeed an inclusive party. Having a Latino face here and a Black face there in the party doesn’t equal inclusion for the masses. This means Republicans should have zero tolerance for birtherism, anti-Muslim fear-mongering and code language which alienates Black Americans if they indeed wish to look more inclusive, a la New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

The tone around comprehensive immigration reform thus far has been civil. Will the GOP continue this for the next three years to win back Latinos and other people of color at the polls is the real question.

Dawud Walid

Dawud Walid is currently the Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MI), which is a branch of America’s largest advocacy and civil rights organization for Muslims in America. Walid is a preacher of the Islamic religion, who delivers weekly sermons at various mosques throughout Michigan.


Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act

Local advocates keep hope alive for Dream Act
By Jessica Barrow
Sunday, 12.26.2010, 09:31pm

Millions of young illegal immigrants had their hopes dashed on Saturday, December 18th, when the Senate failed to give the 60 votes needed to pass legislation for the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act, which stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, was a bi-partisan legislation that would have allowed some illegal and deportable youth the opportunity to obtain permanent residency if they met certain requirements.

That bill’s failure to pass stunned many government officials and community leaders. Not only was the DREAM Act an important part of immigration reform, but it was shown to provide a boost for the economy and increase tax revenues. According to a statement made by President Obama, the act could have helped reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion in 10 years, while helping to increase the number in the armed forces.

“Those who opposed it, I don’t believe they had any justification,” said Imad Hamad, Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Michigan Chapter (ADC-MI). “They aren’t serving the best interest of the nation. They challenge something that helps so many families to become stable and helps kids to obtain a good education and become productive members of society.”

With the DREAM Act having so many benefits, its failure to pass generated many theories.

Dawud Walid, Director of the Council of American Islamic Relations, believe the bill itself was not the issue.

“We believe that it was politics that drove (not passing the act), not the essence of the act itself, with the political climate being so partisan. The anti immigrant sentiments are what we just saw in terms of the vote.”

The DREAM Act, which was proposed nearly 10 year ago, had both Republican and Democratic supporters, due to its targeting of illegal immigrants who came into the country before the age of 16, have a high school diploma, are attending college or joining the military. Such youth would be considered “good citizens” and  earn their permanent residence in this country.

“There were some on the right who said the act was an amnesty act, and that is simply not true,” Walid said. “In essence, the DREAM Act was giving a chance to people who came here not by choice, or their own volition but by their parents, who have shown to be law abiding and productive citizens, the ability become documented and be legal residents. The provisions were very stringent in terms of indicating those who committed felonies or other crimes. There were no provisions of amnesty for criminals.”

“The Dream Act is one of those good efforts that was hopeful to fix some of the broken immigration system which poses a tremendous challenge to our nation,” said Hamad. “For the past three or four administrations, this has been on the table, the need for immigration reform. The DREAM Act was a partial effort and a step in the right direction. It addressed an issue that is of great concern to immigrants: the status of young children who came to this country.”

The act was supported by many of those young children who now attend college, as well as institutions of higher-learning, and legislators.  For those who supported the act, this lack of passage in the Senate is not the end.

“Our movement felt the sting of a temporary legislative setback, but we have not been defeated,” said Ali Noor, Director of the National Immigration Forum and Chair of the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, in a press release.”We may not have won this battle, but when it comes to winning the war between mass deportation and earned citizenship, it’s not a matter of if we win, but when.”

Local community leaders also believe that this was just a small setback.

“People who advocated will not give up,” said Hamad. “It’s valid and legitimate. It is a matter that will be faced today, tomorrow and the day after. It’s not going to end here. Tomorrow (the DREAM Act) will be called another name, but will be the same concept. It’s a  call for reform.”