Tell Congress You Oppose Religious Discrimination in Foster Care

Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee inserted a poison-pill amendment into the Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill.

If passed, this amendment would require states to allow taxpayer-funded foster care and adoption providers to discriminate on the basis of their religion and cut child welfare funding for states that refuse to comply.

It is difficult to even convey how terrible this is—and sadly, there is a substantial chance this bill could pass.

We need you to take action now! Tell Representative Schrader that the welfare of children must come before religious dogma.

This amendment would require states to allow adoption and foster care placement agencies to discriminate against atheists and nonbelievers, religious minorities, single parents, LGBTQ people, or any other group of people they disfavor.

This kind of discrimination reduces the number of potential adoptive parents, making children in these systems less likely to find loving, permanent homes. Even worse, states that refuse to go along and allow religious discrimination will see their child welfare funding cut, which would only harm the vulnerable young people in the foster system.

This hateful provision could be used to allow foster parents to deny medical services or counseling to young people if it conflicts with their religious beliefs, agencies could refuse to reunite families if the parents are the “wrong” religion, or providers could kick LGBTQ children out of shelters. And they could do all this while receiving your tax dollars!

If this amendment is allowed to stand, this will be the first in a long line of federal attacks on religious equality at the state level.

This horrific agenda is being pushed by Christian nationalists, the Catholic Church, and organizations like the Heritage Foundation who want government funding for their so-called “charities” while they refuse to provide services for people they dislike. Only 10 states have passed laws adopting the twisted vision of “religious liberty” this bill espouses. But now they’re trying to use a must-pass appropriations bill to force it on the rest of us.

The majority of Americans oppose using religion as an excuse to discriminate. Together, we can stop this attack on religious equality.

Representative Schrader needs to hear from you today. Please take action now!

 

Sincerely,

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Alison Gill

Legal & Policy Director

American Atheists

With #MuslimBan2.0, Donald Trump doubles down on cruelty and prejudice

Statement by NOW President Terry O’Neill

03.07.2017
Donald Trump made changes at the margins of his infamous Muslim ban, but with #MuslimBan2.0 he is doubling down on its cruelty and prejudice.

The new order is still a Muslim ban, it still does nothing to keep Americans safe, and it still puts tens of thousands of refugee families at risk. The United Nations says that the revised travel ban will increase danger to the world’s refugees, with families fleeing deadly violence who once had hope of being allowed to emigrate left in perilous refugee camps.

This is the image that Donald Trump is projecting to the world—the heavy hand of U.S. government officials extinguishing the promise of welcome that has always been the bedrock of our country’s values. NOW stands in solidarity with our Muslim sisters and brothers, and we will work with our allies in opposing this unconstitutional and morally repugnant executive order.

Contact

M.E. Ficarra , press@now.org , 951-547-1241

http://now.org/media-center/press-release/with-muslimban2-0-donald-trump-doubles-down-on-cruelty-and-prejudice/

How we are going to fight #MuslimBan 2.0

Source: How we are going to fight #MuslimBan 2.0

Just hours ago, the President signed a new Muslim ban that shuts our doors to refugees and targets immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. The administration has made tweaks to the original order. But make no mistake: This is #MuslimBan 2.0. The White House’s own policy advisor promised the new ban would “have the same basic policy outcome.”

I’m heartbroken. But resolved to fight. It will take time to challenge this new ban in the courts. That means we need to turn to Congress. If our representatives receive enough phone calls from us, we can move them to take a strong moral stand. Please call Congress here: 202-224-3121. (Scroll down for sample script)

This news comes at a moment when hate crimes are at an all-time high. Anytime the government targets and profiles a people for who they are, it emboldens people to act on impulses to racism, bigotry, and violence.

On Friday night, a Sikh man was shot in his own driveway by a man who said “go back to your own country.” A little more than a week ago, Srinivas Kuchibotla, an Indian American engineer was killed by a man who yelled “get out of my country.” And we just received reports of the killing of Harnish Patel, an Indian American in South Carolina. The motive is unknown but in the context of skyrocketing hate against Muslims, Jews, Hindus, and Sikhs, our communities are shaken. 

Hate breaks bone and sears flesh. But it also poisons the air we breathe. Right now, thousands of families here in the U.S. are having a hard time breathing. They tell me they are canceling camping trips, keeping their kids from school, and afraid to travel.

Today’s ban just fuels the fire. It makes our country less safe, not more so. Not a single refugee since 9/11 has been convicted of domestic terrorism, nor has any immigrant from the countries targeted by the ban. Instead, the ban endangers refugees fleeing war and persecution, establishes a de-facto religious test for immigrants, and threatens our people and Constitution.

What can we do? #RevolutionaryLove calls us to see people who are not like us as sisters and brothers – and stand up for them when in harm’s way.

Here are 3 simple powerful things you can do immediately:

1. CALL CONGRESS: 202-224-3121. Sample script: “Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent. I don’t require a response. I’m calling to express my strong opposition to the new Muslim ban. Just like the last time, this ban punishes Muslims, immigrants, and refugees for who they are, not anything they have done. It also emboldens hate crimes against Muslims, Sikhs, and so many others. Hate crimes are now at an all-time high. I am calling you to show my love and care for these communities. Please take a strong public stand to protect our people and our Constitution. Thank you.”

2. REACH OUT. Call or text your neighbors and friends who are Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Arab, or South Asian to tell them that you are troubled by the ban and hate crimes and are here to support them. Ask them what they need. Similarly, you can reach out to people you know in immigrant communities who are reeling from raids and offer your solidarity and support. This is #RevolutionaryLove in practice.

3. PLAN  TO SHOW UP. Nothing is more powerful than showing up in your community. Check out events held around the country this week here. On Wednesday, we are championing a Day Without a Woman with our partners at the #WomensMarch. You can participate in three ways: do not work, do not buy anything, and/or wear red. Post why you are striking and standing in solidarity using #WomensMarch #NoBanNoWallNoRaids and #RevolutionaryLove.

Remember to breathe. In labor, we don’t breathe just once and push the rest of the way. We breathe, and push. And breathe. And push. And we do this holding the hand of someone we love. So find your sister or brother or partner or friend today — and be one another’s midwives. We can only do this together. #BreatheAndPush

In Chardi Kala — ever-rising high spirits,

Valarie Kaur
Director, The Revolutionary Love Project
Founder, Groundswell Movement

PS. Registration is open for the Revolutionary Love Conference at the end of April. We are co-hosting the conference at Middle Church in NYC with the Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis. The line up includes fellow signatories — Rev. William Barber, Brian McLaren, Rev Jacqui Lewis and myself. It will be an opportunity to think together about the theory and practice of love in our movement. Register here: http://revolutionaryloveconference.com

The Revolutionary Love Project is based at the University of Southern California ORL.

Why the Only Way to Fix the Muslim Ban Is Not to Have a Muslim Ban | American Civil Liberties Union

Today President Trump signed a new Muslim ban. The new executive order is a major retreat by the administration, reflecting that, as courts around the country have recognized, the original order was deeply flawed and totally unjustified. But the fundamental truth of this new order, like the old one, remains unchanged: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and the ban is his attempt to make good on that unconstitutional and indefensible goal.President Trump’s intentions regarding the Muslim ban have been clear. In a statement “ON PREVENTING MUSLIM IMMIGRATION” posted to his campaign website — and still available on it as I write — then-candidate Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Again and again, he refused to disown this proposal, expressing his opinion that “Islam hates us” and that there are “problems with Muslims coming into the country.”Instead of abandoning this odious idea in response to widespread criticism and outrage, Mr. Trump candidly explained that he would change the wording of his proposal but not its substance. “I’m looking now at territories,” he said. “People were so upset when I used the word Muslim. Oh, you can’t use the word ‘Muslim.’ Remember this. And I’m okay with that, because I’m talking ‘territory’ instead of ‘Muslim.’” Asked about the Muslim ban, he said, “[C]all it whatever you want. We’ll call it territories, okay?” Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and advisor to the president, explained that Trump asked him to figure out “the right way” to establish the Muslim ban “legally” and that he and others settled on using the word “countries” to achieve Trump’s goal.Tell Your Senators to Oppose Muslim ban 2.0Sure enough, when the original Muslim ban was signed, it did not use the word “Muslim,” instead purporting to single people out for exclusion from the United States based on their nationality.But it was no coincidence that the seven countries singled out were all overwhelmingly Muslim, and account for over 80 percent of Muslim refugees entering the United States from 2014 to2016. It was no coincidence that the order carved out special treatment for certain religious minorities, which the president promptly explained was intended to help Christians. It was, in other words, no coincidence that the president who promised to ban Muslims from entering the United States signed an order that would ban a large number of Muslims from entering the United States.Courts refused to buy this transparent attempt to avoid the bedrock American commitment to freedom and equality among religions. As the ACLU’s legal director, David Cole, explained before the original order was signed, a government action motivated by intent to discriminate on the basis of religion is unconstitutional even if the text of the order does not name a particular religion to be harmed. Courts across the country agreed. And, starting with a temporary stay won by the ACLU and its partners at the National Immigration Law Center, the International Refugee Assistance Project, and the Worker & Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic the night after the Muslim ban was signed, courts have halted the ban — including a unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.In response to these court losses, the president has now signed a new order. The order backtracks dramatically — exempting not only green card holders but all current visa holders, delaying the implementation of the order, and eliminating some of its glaringly illegal elements. These changes further undercut the administration’s weak national security case for the ban, already rebutted by the government’s own assessments and the administration’s repeated delays in issuing it — including putting off the new order to seek favorable media coverage.Despite the substantial ground the president has now conceded in the face of his legal defeats, however, the heart of the order remains. The order still singles out individuals from six of the same overwhelmingly Muslim countries, as promised in the same repeated pledges to institute a Muslim ban, and does so purportedly based on the same debunked national security arguments. Indeed, any suggestion that this new order represents a clean break from the prior one or from the president’s comments is undercut by various statements coming out of the White House, describing the new order as “a revised policy” that would advance “the same basic policy outcome for the country.”Ultimately, in other words, the most fundamental flaw of the Muslim ban remains the same: It is still a ban, signed by a president who promised to bar Muslims from entering the United States, motivated by an intent to discriminate against Muslims, and that overwhelmingly affects Muslims rather than those of other faiths. Neither the president’s original offer to “call it whatever you want,” nor this most recent attempt to “revise” the order while pursuing “the same basic policy,” alters

Source: Why the Only Way to Fix the Muslim Ban Is Not to Have a Muslim Ban | American Civil Liberties Union

Refugees Detained at U.S. Airports, Prompting Legal Challenges to Trump’s Immigration Order

JAN. 28, 2017

wife-of-refugee

The wife of an Iraqi citizen who was detained at Kennedy Airport. She was at her sister’s home in Houston on Saturday. Credit Michael Stravato for The New York Times

President Trump’s executive order closing the nation’s borders to refugees was put into immediate effect Friday night. Refugees who were in the air on the way to the United States when the order was signed were stopped and detained at airports.

The detentions prompted legal challenges as lawyers representing two Iraqis held at Kennedy Airport filed a writ of habeas corpus early Saturday in the Eastern District of New York seeking to have their clients released. At the same time, they filed a motion for class certification, in an effort to represent all refugees and immigrants who they said were being unlawfully detained at ports of entry.

Mr. Trump’s order, which suspends entry of all refugees to the United States for 120 days, created a legal limbo for individuals on the way to the United States and panic for families who were awaiting their arrival.

Mr. Trump’s order also stops the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, and it bars entry into the United States for 90 days from seven predominantly Muslim countries linked to concerns about terrorism. Those countries are Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen.

It was unclear how many refugees and immigrants were being held nationwide in the aftermath of the executive order. The complaints were filed by a prominent group including the American Civil Liberties Union, the International Refugee Assistance Project at the Urban Justice Center, the National Immigration Law Center, Yale Law School’s Jerome N. Frank Legal Services Organization and the firm Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton.

The attorneys said they were not allowed to meet with their clients, and there were tense moments as they tried to reach them.

“Who is the person we need to talk to?” asked one of the lawyers, Mark Doss, supervising attorney at the International Refugee Assistance Project.

“Mr. President,” said a Customs and Border Protection agent, who declined to identify himself. “Call Mr. Trump.”

The executive order, which Mr. Trump said was part of an extreme vetting plan to keep out “radical Islamic terrorists,” also established a religious test for refugees from Muslim nations: He ordered that Christians and others from minority religions be granted priority over Muslims.

In the arrivals hall at Terminal 4 of Kennedy Airport, Mr. Doss and two other lawyers fought fatigue as they tried to learn the status of their clients on the other side of the security perimeter.

“We’ve never had an issue once one of our clients was at a port of entry in the United States,” Mr. Doss said. “To see people being detained indefinitely in the country that’s supposed to welcome them is a total shock.”

“These are people with valid visas and legitimate refugee claims who have already been determined by the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to be admissible and to be allowed to enter the U.S. and now are being unlawfully detained,” Mr. Doss said.

According to the filing, Hameed Khalid Darweesh was granted a special immigrant visa on Jan. 20, the same day Mr. Trump was sworn in. He worked with the United States in Iraq in a variety of jobs — as an interpreter, engineer and contractor — over the course of roughly a decade.

Mr. Darweesh worked as an interpreter for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division in Baghdad and Mosul starting shortly after the invasion of Iraq on April 1, 2003. The filing said he had been directly targeted twice for working with the American military.

A husband and father of three, he arrived at Kennedy Airport Friday evening with his family. Mr. Darweesh’s wife and children made it through passport control and customs, but agents of Customs and Border Protection stopped and detained him.

Brandon Friedman, who worked with Mr. Darweesh as an infantry lieutenant with the 101st Airborne praised Mr. Darweesh’s work. “This is a guy that this country owes a debt of gratitude to,” Mr. Friedman said. “There are not many Americans who have done as much for this country as he has. He’s put himself on the line. He’s put his family on the line to help U.S. soldiers in combat and it is astonishing to me that this country would suddenly not allow people like that in.”

Mr. Friedman, who is chief executive of the McPherson Square Group, a communications firm in Washington, continued, “We have a moral obligation to protect and repay these people who risked their lives for U.S. troops.”

He said he feared for America’s military: “This not only endangers troops in the future, it endangers troops who are in combat now in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria wherever. If those interpreters and those fixers hear that the United States is not going to protect them then they don’t have any incentive to work with U.S. troops and there’s no way that we can operate without their support and assistance.”

“He is a brave individual and he cares about Iraq and he cares about the U.S.”

Mr. Alshawi was supposed to be reunited with his wife, who has been living in Texas. The wife, who asked to be identified by her first initial of D. out of concern for her family’s safety, wiped away tears as she sat on a couch in her sister’s house early Saturday morning, in a Houston suburb.

The woman, a 32-year-old who was born in Iraq, met her husband while both were students at a Baghdad college. The couple has one child — a 7-year-old son who is in first grade. The boy was asleep in the house at 3 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, oblivious to the fact that his father was in the United States, but under detention and the possible threat of return to Iraq.

Relatives crowded the living room in their pajamas and slippers, making and receiving phone calls to and from other relatives and the refugee’s lawyers. At times, D. was so emotional she had trouble speaking about her husband’s predicament.

She pulled out her cellphone and flipped through her pictures while seated on the couch. She wanted to show a reporter a picture she took of her son’s letter to Santa Claus. In November, at a Macy’s Santa-letter display at a nearby mall, the boy wrote out his wish: “Dear Santa: Can you bring my Dad from Sweden pls.” He has not seen his father in three years.

“I’m really breaking down, because I don’t know what to do,” she said. “It’s not fair.”

She and her relatives had not told her son that his father was finally coming to Houston and that his wish to Santa was about to come true. “It was a surprise for him,” she said.

Earlier in the day on Friday, she had watched news coverage about Mr. Trump’s executive order. “My husband was already on the airplane,” she said. “He got to the airplane at 11 o’clock in Houston time.” At that point, she grew worried about what impact the order would have on her husband, but she assumed it would not take effect immediately.

D., as well as her brother and her sister, asked that their full names not be used because they were concerned that publicity about the case would lead to harassment.

At about 2:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday, Mr. Alshawi called his wife on her cellphone. They spoke for about five minutes. D. put the call on speaker so the rest of the family gathered at the house could hear. It was the first time D. and her husband spoke since he arrived at the airport in New York at about 8:30 p.m. Eastern timeFriday, she said. He flew from Stockholm to JFK Airport, and he was supposed to then fly from New York to Houston.

“He gave his package and his passport to an airport officer, and they didn’t talk to him, they just put him in a room,” she said. “He told me that they forced him to get back to Iraq. He asked for his lawyer and to apply for an asylum case. And they told him you can’t do that, you need to go back to your country.”

She said that the authorities at the airport told him that the president’s signing of the executive order was the reason he could not proceed to Houston.

D.’s brother added of the phone call with his brother-in-law, “He’s very calm but he’s, like, desperate. He said, ‘They are sending me there, they are sending me there,’ ” referring to Iraq.