Statement from LeeAnn Hall: “Closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not safety”

Nov. 20, 2015
Contact: Kathy Mulady
Communications Director
(206) 992-8787

Statement from LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society:

Of all the nations worldwide, the United States, built on welcoming those fleeing persecution at home, should be first to offer a safe harbor to refugees in a time of need.

Instead, Thursday, House Republicans, joined by 47 Democrats, hastily passed a bill that effectively ends the current U.S. refugee program for people fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria – a war our government is actively involved in.

Let’s be clear, closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear – not about safety.

In the days following the tragic terror attacks in Paris, politicians in our country flooded the airwaves and the Internet with racist and alarmist rhetoric. At a time when the United States should be embracing all victims of violence, they are stirring distrust.

Meanwhile, France is reaffirming its commitment to take 30,000 Syrian refugees. In the wake of their own suffering, the French haven’t turned against the most vulnerable in their moment of greatest need.

There’s no evidence refugees had anything to do with the Paris attacks, or that curbing refugees would make anyone safer. It won’t.  More than half of U.S. governors have said they’ll reject refugees. This is false and xenophobic posturing; blocking refugees is not within their authority.

The Alliance for a Just Society represents families in grassroots communities and organizations throughout the country. We stand together in rejecting racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance – they have no place in our country. This is a time to pull together, not a time to create deeper divides.

The Alliance for A Just Society and its affiliates are calling on governors and legislators to welcome refugees and to reject a growing climate of intolerance and hate.

Our affiliate Virginia Organizing is taking this message to Rep. Bob Goodlatte because of his outspoken opposition to welcoming Syrian refugees and One America is supporting Gov. Jay Inslee for his support of refugees.

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Stop racist rhetoric and legislation on refugees

The U.S. Congress should be ashamed. Today, House Republicans, joined by 47 Democrats, hastily passed a bill that would effectively end the current U.S. refugee program for refugees fleeing the brutal civil war in Syria — a war our government is actively involved in.

This week, following the tragic terror attacks in Paris, politicians in our country have flooded the airwaves and the internet with racist and alarmist rhetoric. At a time when we should be embracing all victims of violence, they are asking us be hateful.

Senator Ted Cruz and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have called for excluding all but Christian refugees, an idea both inhumane and repugnant to our basic values. More than half of governors have said they’ll reject refugees. This is xenophobic posturing — blocking refugees is not within their authority — but it’s damaging all the same.

President Obama has vowed to veto the bill, reminding Congress that the refugee screening process is extremely rigorous and lengthy, taking 18 to 24 months. That’s far too long.

Only 2,200 Syrian refugees have come to the U.S. since the civil war began in 2011, according to the Washington Post. The White House proposes adding an additional 10,000 over the next year. Meanwhile, the civil war has driven more than 11 million people from their homes. They are looking for places to rebuild their lives. We can and should do a lot more.

Closing the door to refugees is about hate and fear — not about safety. There’s no evidence refugees had anything to do with the Paris attacks, or that curbing refugees would make anyone safer. It won’t.

France has chosen the wiser path, reaffirming its commitment to take 30,000 Syrian refugees. In the wake of their own suffering, the French haven’t turned against the most vulnerable in their moment of greatest need.

We reject racism, xenophobia, and religious intolerance. We join with all voices of conscience that mourn victims of violence around the world and call for a nationwide welcome of refugees.

Please sign this petition calling on Governors to stop the collective punishment of refugees in need


Racism on Campus is Nothing New. A Sustained Anti-Racist Campus Movement Would Be.

As a first-year student at Brown University I was detained for trespassing by campus security.

In my own dorm.  In sock feet.

You see, I left my dorm room to go to the bathroom and didn’t bring my college ID along. I guess I should have known better. As a black student it was always an unstated expectation that I justify my presence on campus. Black students were a small minority on campus. And we were often seen as interlopers even after admission.

I was reminded of this incident this week as protests escalated at the University of Missouri (Mizzou) over a string a racist incidents there culminating in the ouster of the state university System President Tim Wolfe. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, many being veterans of the Ferguson struggle nearby, using a wide range of tried-and-true and cutting edge tactics, Mizzou students won one of their main demands, something many observers had said was impossible.

This powerful example of the power of protest and student organizing was met with rightwing media ridicule, attack by the Missouri Lt. Governor and even death threats against students. Just a day after the jubilation at the resignation of the University President, the campus was a ghost town as Mizzou students stayed away from class amid the tense climate.

Missouri students were not alone. Students at Yale University were in motion as well. Outrage over racism there was sparked by an administrator’s email communication stating that cautioning against racist Halloween costumes was a violation of free speech. Then grew over reports of a “white girls only” fraternity party the same weekend. Students at Yale were fired up by the time Mizzou made national news.

The fight was joined Thursday when the already planned Million Student March — demanding the elimination of all student debt, free college education for all, and $15 minimum wage for campus workers — stood in solidarity with Mizzou students.

What is new today is not racism on campuses both elite and public. It’s not student protest around the issues affecting their lives. What is new is the national scope of the protest and the breadth of the support, from professors to trade unions, to community supporters, to civil rights organizations. It brings together traditional and innovative student organizations, student governments and individuals.

Some 115 campuses took part in the protests, which were organized by United States Student Association, the Student Labor Action Project, and others. More than 1,000 students gathered at the University of California at Berkeley Thursday. It’s the kind of student action not seen in a generation.

To cap off the week, in Southern California, Claremont McKenna College Dean of Students Mary Spellman resigned Thursday amid protests there over racism on campus.

Ultimately the protests at Mizzou and elsewhere are not so much about this administrator or that as they are about demanding that institutions of higher learning create a space for students of color. It’s the same issue we were struggling with years ago.

Some commentators seem to think students protest because they are young and naive and motivated by intellectual concerns (or even under the influence of radical professors). But students today — as always — are largely motivated to action by the pressing issues impacting their lives and educations. It’s not academic.

Certainly the students in the struggles today have made mistakes — and they will certainly make more — but if sustained and nurtured, this week could signal a new multi-racial campus movement, with racial justice at its core, that could spark national change in the country in a wide range of issues. And maybe inspire others to get in motion as well.

When I was detained as a student it was not an isolated incident. Police and security harassment of black male students in particular was commonplace and some of us took to wearing our IDs around our necks as a visible sign of our alienness and defiance on a majority white campus.

It was no accident then that the student of color dropout rate at Brown was higher than for whites. We often lacked needed support and student services. Many of us were on financial aid and under constant economic pressures of working full-time while trying to get an education. A recent report says students of color at Brown today are still facing similar challenges.

So we had meetings, wrote up demands, protested and marched. We even achieved some small victories. We were also aware that our very presence at Brown was due to the successful protests of those that preceded us. It was the protests of a small group of black students in the 1960s that forced Brown to adopt goals for diversity in admissions that opened the door to our very presence.

That’s the nature of the struggle for progressive social change. Each struggle builds on those of the past. If we are successful, learning the lessons along the way to raise the struggle to a higher level.

Racial Slurs Have No Place in Football

The leaves are changing. The scent of pumpkin spice lattes is in the air. In short, it’s football season. And like millions of my fellow Americans, I love football.

But I’m also American Indian.

So for me, football season also means hearing a racial slur all the time. It’s used by sports teams around the country — and by Washington, D.C.’s National Football League team in particular.

You may know that franchise as the Redskins. I refer to it as the R-word.

Natives have been calling on sports teams to do away with the slur for 50 years, along with other mocking mascots and racist caricatures of Natives employed by teams of all kinds. Professional outfits should know better, but so should schools and communities.

So I celebrated recently, along with much of Indian Country, when California Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Racial Mascots Act into law. It banned the state’s public schools from using the R-word to name sports teams. Schools in four California counties will soon have to rebrand their buildings, logos, uniforms, and mascots.

“We cannot change history or erase the past,” said Dahkota Kicking Bear Brown, president of Native Education Raising Dedicated Students. “But today, as Native students, we shall celebrate this step in the right direction of improving our educational experiences.”

I agree. Now if we can just convince our nation’s leaders to do the same.

My hope faded, though, when I heard Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush use the R-word not once, not twice, but three times during an interview in October. Then there’s GOP candidate Donald Trump, who proclaimed that Indians are “extremely proud” of the term.


For Native children, the R-word and its associated mascots are demeaning and disparaging, eroding their self-confidence and self-image. Unsurprisingly, peer-reviewed studies have suggested that racist mascots can hurt the performance of Native students.

It’s an additional mockery for an already suffering group of young people whose second-leading cause of death is suicide. And it’s an added insult to people whose treaty rights are still being violated, even today.

Native Americans are regularly confronted with attempts to turn our sacred religious lands over to corporations for profit. In Oak Flat, Arizona, some 2,400 acres of national forest land — protected since 1955 as Apache sacred land — is being handed over to Resolution Copper, a British-Australian mining conglomerate.

Meanwhile Natives continue to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, which would funnel oil mined from tar sands nearly 1,800 miles from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico through multiple sovereign Indian territories. The U.S. government never negotiated with the tribes when charting the pipeline, despite the impact it will have on their lands.

And in spite of long-standing poverty, gross health disparities between Natives and non-Natives, and ongoing discrimination, federal funding for Indian health care, housing, and education programs remains paltry.

Most people have the good sense not to use the R-word to our faces. So why would you plaster it across a stadium?

Dropping the R-word alone won’t solve these deep crises in Indian Country. But it’s a crucial step toward restoring the equity, dignity, and democracy taken from the first people of this land.

At the very least, it’ll let us all get back to enjoying football — without the nasty reminder that the rights of American Indians still aren’t fully recognized.

Judith Le Blanc is the Director of the Native Organizers Alliance and an enrolled member of the Caddo Tribe of Oklahoma.
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