In our own backyard (001)

waterfront

There’s a lot going on in the country. But today’s post is about Massachusetts, particularly the SouthCoast. A lot’s happening right in our own backyard.

The Massachusetts Communities Action Network is trying to get co-sponsors for the Safe Communities Act, consisting of MA SD.1596 and HD.3052 (same text), which would keep our tax dollars from being used against immigrant friends and neighbors. Last week I fumbled my way through a call with my state representatives, but MCAN has a great script and AFSC can track our support.

Even closer to home, State Rep. Antonio Cabral (New Bedford) has sponsored two bills: Massachusetts HD.3413, “An Act relative to enforcing Federal law,” which prohibits the use of state funds for enforcing (federal) ICE programs, and which opens up compliance efforts to public scrutiny; and Massachusetts HD.3417, “An Act limiting the use of prison labor,” which keeps Massachusetts prisoners from being exploited out of state — for example by Sheriff Tom Hodgson, who has promised to put slave labor to work on Donald Trump’s Mexican wall. When calling about the Safe Communities Act, please mention Rep. Cabral’s bills. You will find your state representatives and senators at https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.

Party meetings for New Bedford and Dartmouth Democrats, as well as for SouthCoast Green-Rainbow members, are on my local political calendar. It’s nothing you can’t find on about 50 different Facebook events pages, but there you’ll find it in one place. And these meetings are coming up soon!

Arnold R. Isaacs, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, shares some observations concerning the crisis caused by Trump’s “Muslim” travel ban, which affected two professors at UMASS Dartmouth. Neighbor G.J. Price, a friend of Isaacs, published these notes couple of days ago on his own blog and they are worth your time. But bottom line: Trump is a everything that ISIS hoped he would be.

Important observations on the Trump regime’s travel ban

Dear friends —

A three-part message…

(1) I am not very comfortable tooting my own horn, but given current headlines it seems appropriate to call your attention to a long report I wrote a couple of years ago that touches on both Muslim American and refugee issues. From Troubled Lands: Listening to Pakistani Americans and Afghan Americans in post-9/11 America is available online at www.fromtroubledlands.net. Two chapters have particular relevance to the present uproar over President Trump’s immigration order: chapter II, “The 9/11 Aftermath” and chapter V, “A Clash of Civilizations?” Another looks at aspects of the refugee experience — chapter IV, “Afghan Americans: the Heritage of Trauma.”

(2) Editorial comment: With this policy Trump has given a huge gift to the Islamic State and other extremist fanatics. He validates their message that the United States and its people are at war with the Muslim world and Muslims need to defend themselves with violence. We will never be able to quantify exactly how many more fighters they will enlist as a direct result of Trump’s action, but there is no possible doubt that it will help their recruiting. Nor will we be able to count how many fewer Muslims will join the anti-extremist side, but the number will certainly be lower than it would have been without this disaster. The number of Muslims in America who will trust and cooperate with law enforcement and other public agencies to help find and head off possible violent radicals will be lower, too. Trump’s order will not make us safer; it makes us significantly less safe.

I can’t prove this either but I would make a substantial bet that the immense majority of our own counter-terror professionals and those we work with overseas understand that Trump has just made their job a lot tougher, completely unnecessarily. Americans need to oppose his order as strongly and publicly as possible not just for the sake of very important values but for our safety as well. And the Americans who have the most responsibility for that are the Republicans who control Congress, who if they have any moral integrity and any grip on reality will take immediate, decisive steps to reverse this policy and begin repairing the damage it has done.

(3) Lastly, a few random facts:

  • The overwhelming number of violent terrorist acts inside the United States after 9/11 were committed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. A disproportionate number of Muslim terrorists have been native Americans who converted to Islam, not immigrants. The risk from refugees is practically zero; a dozen or fewer cases involving people with refugee status, out of more than three-quarters of a million refugees admitted since 2001. And from everything I know, not all those cases necessarily represent the scenario that anti-refugee rhetoric promotes: a violent act committed by someone who slipped through the refugee screening process. As I understand, they include some who did not do anything violent but contributed funds to supposed terror organizations overseas, and some who came as children with refugee families. The number of cases that actually fit the anti-refugee script is probably no more than three or four.
  • A look back at the wave of sweeping, repressive counter-terror programs that were put into practice after 9/11 shows that they were completely ineffective at finding terrorists. NSEERS, the post-9/11 registration program, did not lead to a single terrorism prosecution. Neither did the years of extensive surveillance by the New York Police Department in mosques and Muslim neighborhoods. (More about these in my Troubled Lands paper.) The approach that Trump and his pal Stephen Bannon and others around him apparently have in mind — and have put into practice with this astonishing order — isn’t just questionable as a matter of logic. It’s been tried and proven ineffective.
  • I won’t make the case here but will add that the Islamophobia network was producing fake news years before that term came into use. Its “evidence” on things like the Muslim Brotherhood “stealth jihad” plan, the unindicted co-conspirator story about the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the plot to impose sharia law is all provably false — not just disputed, but conclusively disproven. Stephen Bannon, by the way, has been a big cheerleader for that crowd (Frank Gaffney, Pamela Geller, et al) and I would bet is a channel for their views to reach the White House — which is REALLY bad news. No idea if they had anything to do with this immigration order, but it seems entirely possible.

OK, I’ll stop. But I hope you’ll pass this along anywhere it might contribute to the discussion and that you’ll find some way to support opposition to Trump’s disastrous order.

Thanks for your patience and best regards

Skip Isaacs

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