By Tiela Chalmers*
On a freezing morning in early January, more than one thousand attorneys gathered in Bill Graham Auditorium for the How to be a Good Ally: A Strategic Engagement Conference to learn more about the legal challenges we could be facing in the next four years under the Trump Administration, and how those interested could get involved. This event inspired the following series of blog posts on immigration, hate crimes, and LGBT rights.
We heard from Muslim Advocates, ACLU of Northern California, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation about government targeting of the Muslim community. While the speakers agreed that a “Muslim Registry” would plainly be unconstitutional, the question posed was how tolerant the public will be of such a violation. They pointed out that in fact we HAD a Muslim Registry in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 (NSEERS), and there was very little public outcry. (This is the registry that President Obama recently eliminated.) Under NSEERS, almost 14,000 people were deported.
While the speakers did not expect that those with citizenship or green cards would be deported, those with a less strong immigration status face a real threat. Challenging a deportation plan that targets people from Muslim-majority countries would be more difficult. There are also sophisticated surveillance techniques that, under the Obama administration, have been kept in check, but that now pose significant challenges.
President Drumpf’s recent executive order bars citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days – effectively banning the immigration of Muslims to the United States.
The Committee on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 20 plaintiffs against the President, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, the Department of State, and the Director of National Intelligence for what they call the “Muslim Exclusion Order.”
Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright said she is prepared to “register as Muslim” in solidarity amid reports that President Trump plans to take executive action affecting immigrants to the U.S. “There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty,” she said in a tweet.
Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham released a joint statement expressing concerns that the executive order will become a “self-inflicted wound in the fight against terrorism.” They said “Our most important allies in the fight against ISIL are the vast majority of Muslims who reject its apocalyptic ideology of hatred. This executive order sends a signal, intended or not, that America does not want Muslims coming into our country.”
How you can get involved
I’ve signed up for updates on the statewide immigration pro bono response coordination and upcoming trainings organized by One Justice at www.onejustice.org/immigration. I encourage you to as well.
Tiela Chalmers is the CEO and General Counsel of the Alameda County Bar Association the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation. Tiela has been a consultant in the fields of legal services and pro bono, handling projects including coordinating the Shriver Housing Project in Los Angeles, the largest of the “civil Gideon” pilot projects in California, and working with the ABA and a national working group on updating the Pro Bono Standards. Previously the Executive Director of Volunteer Legal Services Program in San Francisco, Tiela worked at VLSP for many years with Tanya Neiman until her death. Prior to VLSP, Tiela was an attorney at Farella, Braun + Martel in San Francisco.
*Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not represent the views of the Alameda County Bar Association, or the Volunteer Legal Services Corporation.