Political and Religious Leaders Unite at 'Solidarity Town Hall'
By Susan Christian Goulding
Anaheim, CA: Even before President Donald Trump’s surprise executive order in January issuing a seven-country travel ban, local elected officials and members of the Muslim community had started organizing a conference to express support for all minorities they say have been targeted by the new administration.
Their plans coalesced Sunday with a “Solidarity Town Hall” at the Islamic Institute of Orange County. About 150 people gathered to hear representatives, religious leaders and legal experts share thoughts and advice.
“We cannot think of this as the new reality,” said Rep Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana.
Correa urged people in his district to get involved.
“We kind of saw this (Trump’s election) coming in October, yet in some of our communities, we had such low voter turnout,” he said. “A lot of us are working three and four jobs, but now we are asking our neighbors to stretch a little bit more – to become politically active.”
California Sen. Tony Mendoza told the audience, “We are a nation of bridge builders and take pride in tearing down arbitrary walls.”
Josh Newman, elected to the state senate in November, said he was particularly concerned about reports of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents showing up at hospitals, schools and workplaces – “affecting our communities in ways we never thought we’d see.”
“It’s really scary for all of us,” he said. “There are limits to what state government can do in response.”
A panel of interfaith religious leaders joined the conversation.
“My faith has been misrepresented by many people who claim to be Christians,” said the Rev. Sarah Halverson of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa. “So many are using Christianity to be isolationist and invoke terror in one another. Jesus was a uniter.”
Heidi Cohen, rabbi for Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, added, “When someone wants to destroy us and tear us apart, we stand up and say, ‘No, you are not going to do that.’”
The town hall concluded with a panel of legal experts who explained differences between the original and the recently revised bans. Attorneys offered specific advice about how to react if approached by immigration officials.
Laboni Hoq, litigation director at Advancing Justice – LA, which provides counsel to immigrants, said people are not obligated to open the door should an agent knock.
“You don’t want that individual coming into your house,” Hoq said. “Tell them, ‘Thank you very much. Leave your card and I will have my attorney contact you.’”
Jose Serrano, refugee program manager for World Relief in Garden Grove, said the number of refugees allowed to resettle in the US in 2017 will decline to less than 50,000 compared to 110,000 in 2016 – already a tiny percentage of refugees worldwide.
“I’m exhausted,” he said. “If I’m exhausted and I have legal status, what is it like for an undocumented person to be exhausted?” The Orange County Register
Highlighting the town hall meeting, a CAIR-LA email message inter alia said:
On Sunday afternoon, March 12, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), in partnership with the Islamic Institute of Orange County (IIOC) and the Arab American Civic Council (AACC), hosted a solidarity town hall with civil rights advocates, elected officials and interfaith leaders. The town hall was held in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ), and the Muslim-Latino Collaborative.
CAIR-LA Policy and Advocacy Coordinator Asmaa Ahmed served as the master of ceremonies.
IIOC Education Director Shaykh Mustafa Umar began the program with verses from the Qur’an talking about the principles of justice, and how our response as a community to the injustices we face today in America will set the stage for generations to come.
CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush stressed the values and importance of solidarity. He highlighted that despite the severe negative impacts of the travel ban, the silver lining of the recent anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies has been the coming together of the greater American public in a way that has not been seen in recent history. Slogans like “No Hate, No Fear, Muslims are welcome here!” being chanted by people of all walks of life at LAX was a heartwarming example of how these challenging times have brought together the best of America.
Mirvette Judeh of the Arab American Civic Council talked about the purpose of the town hall and the importance of community members being aware of their rights and the resources available to them during these troubling times. She ended on an energizing note, leading the crowd in a chant of solidarity.
Following the opening speeches, there was a segment with elected officials including US Congressman Lou Correa, State Senator Tony Mendoza and State Senator Josh Newman. Each of the public officials spoke about the policies they have spearheaded or advocated for in support of Muslims and immigrants… .
The town hall concluded with a Question & Answer session. The attendees asked a wide range of questions on policy and law enforcement issues, making for a lively discussion