NSC Partners with Local Legal Advocates to Protect Immigrants
Jan 27, 2017
On Friday, January 27, NSC joined a coalition of agencies at a joint press conference in response to President Trump’s recent and anticipated executive orders that will directly impact Philadelphia’s immigrant and refugee communities. Together, representatives from NSC, CAIR-Philadelphia, HIAS-PA, ACLU-PA, and the Public Interest Law Center all spoke out about the anti-immigrant sentiment underlying these orders, and called for broad opposition and the creation of a legal support team to stand by those affected. The event was held at the NSC offices on Arch Street.
Collectively, the group is united in standing against anti-immigrant policies that undermine the spirit of American democracy:
• The building of a wall at the Mexican border
• Temporary suspension of the refugee resettlement program, and a significant reduction on the numbers resettled upon its being reinstated
• Redundant emphasis on the “extreme vetting” of refugees in the face of what is already a multi-year process
• A ban on refugees from Muslim-majority or “terror-prone” countries, which will put many lives in direct jeopardy
Additionally, there is concern over President Trump’s recent threats to cut federal funding from Sanctuary Cities like Philadelphia that refuse to use local resources to advance the objectives of federal immigration enforcement agencies.
“NSC works with immigrants and refugees from around the world,” said NSC Executive Director Margaret O’Sullivan in her opening remarks, citing the large numbers of Syrian refugees among the 537 individuals resettled in 2016. “When the words immigration and refugees come up in the news, you can imagine that we’re significantly concerned and impacted, specifically around these executive orders.”
NSC’s Chair of the Board Mohamed Nabil Bakry, Esq. followed on those comments, saying: “As a Muslim and as an immigrant myself, it makes me feel hopeful when I see all of these organizations present today, standing in solidarity to promote he great work that many of us do to resettle refugees, standing together regarding a great line of work that helps individuals who are the most vulnerable in our society.”
Ryan Houldin, Staff Attorney with CAIR-Philadelphia highlighted the work CAIR does to advocate for those who have been discriminated against on the basis of their Muslim identity. “I am honored to be joined by all of these great organizations that will be working tirelessly to litigate and undo the damage that this administration will and has already done,” he said. “The executive orders recently signed undermine the most important values of American culture: inclusivity, diversity, tolerance, and religious freedom.”
He spoke to the risks of playing into a narrative that ultimately supports extremism and undermines our safety by dividing people and cultures. “These kinds of policies will alienate us, and will take us further away from being a safe place of refuge for people in peril, particularly vulnerable women and children who make up a large portion of refugees.”
Together, the morning’s speakers united in rejecting rhetoric designed to foster division.
Steven Larín, NSC’s Senior Director of Legal Services & Immigration Policy, pointed out that the press conference was being held in a room where English classes and preparation for naturalization exams takes place. “We work with over 5,000 immigrants each year, and refugees,” he said. “The reason we do it is because we value the contribution immigrants and refugees make to our community.” Larín expressed gratitude that Philadelphia is a city where that contribution is recognized at the highest levels of government, while citing concern over the effects Trump’s policies may have on families and communities. He promised strong legal and moral opposition.
Jennifer Clarke, Executive Director of the Public Interest Law Center, humanized those being cast as threats. “The majority of these Philadelphians want the same things we want: freedom from want, freedom from fear, and the opportunity to live and work and raise families in safety.” Catherine Miller-Wilson, Executive Director of HIAS-PA added: “It’s really important as we move forward with this administration and we try to be there for refugees and immigrants to the extent that we can, that we push forward the facts.”
“There is no problem with refugee terrorism,” she added. “There is no problem with immigrants and refugees and the economy.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania’s Staff Attorney, Molly Tack-Hooper, closed the press conference with a reminder that Trump’s executive orders are consistent with his campaign rhetoric – citing it as an advantage. “That means the ACLU is ready to fight them,” she said. “We will use public pressure and advocacy – and, undoubtedly, litigation – to challenge them.”
As an organization that celebrates diversity, NSC is concerned about the use of false information to shape public opinion and advance anti-immigrant policies. We stand against the building of walls and the creation of more detention centers at the border. We vehemently oppose the shutdown of resettlement from countries like Syria, because we have seen firsthand the power of giving those affected by war and disruption the chance to begin again. With more than 11.4 million Syrians having fled to other countries or internally displaced, now is not the time to turn our backs.
NSC maintains a vision of America where greatness is only achieved through the collective contributions of our diverse immigrant community. As such, we will continue to stand by Philadelphia refugees, whether from Syria or anywhere else in the world where threats force individuals to flee their homes. As such, we will stand with each of the organizations gathered today in rejecting discriminatory policies.