Sep 16, 2019
In 1980, James Abourezk, US Senator from South Dakota and the first Arab-American elected to Congress, founded the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. It is now the nation’s largest grassroots nonprofit advocating for the civil and human rights of Arab Americans. As National President Samer Khalaf reminds us, ADC supports the rights of all people and opposes discrimination of any kind. With a small staff of lawyers, and community-based supporters in 50 states, ADC represents Arab Americans in cases involving hate crimes, discrimination and deportation and advocates for policy change through regulatory and legislative advocacy. And it educates the public and policy makers about who Arab Americans are, from their rich cultural backgrounds to their experience in America. Arab-Americans face specific challenges as immigrants, including the reality of being stateless and having no country to claim as their own. Those who are able to remain in the US exist in a sort of legal limbo. They are on parole, unable to work and ineligible for public resources. The answer to these challenges, according to Samer Khalaf, lies in changing stereotypes about who Arab Americans are, coalition-building with immigrant networks and voting. ADC is active in all of these fronts. And while Samer is optimistic about the determination of Arab Americans to turn out for the 2020 elections, he is concerned about interference with voting rights throughout communities of color. As he says, voter suppression starts by instilling fear so that voters simply do not show up. Samer and other leaders in the field are standing up to make sure that all voices are heard where it matters, in the census, the voting booth and on Capital Hill.