Doing Our Part to Stop a Muslim Registry
February 8, 2017
Posted by: Joe Goldman, Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Manager, San Francisco
Just days into his presidency, Donald Trump signed an executive order banning refugees and citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. He also signed an executive order calling for the construction of a border wall with Mexico. Both of these actions were based on xenophobic campaign promises: banning Muslims and undocumented (read: Latino) immigrants from entering the country.
Despite conflicting reports from members of his administration and President Trump himself, many Americans remain fearful that the executive branch will fulfill one of Trump’s campaign promises and create a de facto Muslim registry.
Instead of waiting to react, Mayor Edwin M. Lee and Supervisor Malia Cohen introduced legislation last month to prevent San Francisco’s government — and anyone it contracts with — to provide any information that could be used for a religion (or any other identity-based) database created by the federal government that would operate like a Muslim registry or watch list.
I was humbled to speak before the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors this morning on behalf of my employer, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), in support of this legislation. Joined by Rabbi Jessica Kirschner of the Union of Reform Judaism and Rabbi Jason Rodich of Congregation Emanu-El, we spoke in under no uncertain terms that if anyone tries to harm Muslim Americans, they have to go through us first.
JCRC recently submitted this letter of support for the legislation. We were guided by our organization’s consensus policy statement on immigration adopted in 2009, especially the portion stating that “a liberal American immigration policy, particularly with respect to family reunification and acceptance of refugees fleeing persecution, is fundamental to our nation’s commitment to pluralism and its immigrant roots.”
JCRC recently submitted this letter of support for the legislation. The words from my speech are included below as well:
My name is Joe Goldman and I’m here on behalf of the Jewish Community Relations Council, which represents over 60 Bay Area Jewish organizations and agencies. We unconditionally support this proposed ordinance.
We will not stand idly by as some in our country attempt to repeat history. As members of a community that has suffered persecution and even genocide, we know all too well the consequences of insidious identity-based registries. We also witnessed — and opposed — the registry and internment of our Japanese American neighbors here in California. This stain on our nation’s legacy as a democracy occurred at the same time as six million of our fellow Jews were exterminated in Europe after they, too, were required to register with government authorities.
Any law that singles out people on the basis of religious beliefs, associations, practices, backgrounds, and identities would be a direct attack on the pluralistic, democratic, and inclusive values that serve as the very foundation of our country. But we are not naïve: recent executive orders outright banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries from a concerted effort to institutionalize Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry at the highest levels of government.
JCRC endorses SB 31 by State Senator Ricardo Lara, which would prohibit state and local authorities throughout California from providing information that would sustain any such registry.
The American Jewish community has flourished here because of the country’s longstanding commitment to religious freedom. We wish the same for all other communities, especially Muslims, Arabs, South Asians, and all immigrants who are under such blatant assault by top political decision makers and we support San Francisco’s leadership of resilience during these challenging times.
I hope that the legislation in both San Francisco and Sacramento inspire many further actions to build stronger, more intersectional coalitions that go beyond what at times can feel like narrow community interests. Now is the time that we can be proactive in our resilience and actions to protect ourselves, our neighbors, and our democracy.
(Read more of Joe's work on Medium.)
PHOTO: Rabbi Jessica Kirschner of the Union for Reform Judaism addresses the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee of San Francisco Board of Supervisors on February 8, 2017.