Less than a week after celebrating Santa Clara County’s pledge to fight any attempts to create a religious registry, Muslim community advocates were reeling from Monday’s news that parts of President Trump’s travel ban were reinstated by the nation’s highest court.
And that, they said, underscores the importance of government leadership at the local level, far from Washington, D.C.
“It’s been absolutely clear since November that local resistance efforts by officials and governing bodies will be critical to protect communities that the administration has targeted,” said Zahra Billoo of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “The Japanese-American internment did not happen overnight.”
Santa Clara County’s ordinance, which was passed unanimously last week at the final full board of supervisor’s meeting before summer recess begins next week, states that the county will not participate in or contribute to “any any type of government registry or internment based on religion, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity” or other protected classification.
“We are sending a message that the county will not tolerate Islamophobia or any other form of bigotry or hatred,” said Board President Dave Cortese after its passage. “And that the county is a safe and accepting place for residents regardless of immigration status, religion, gender identity or ethnicity.”
Cortese called for the ordinance in April based on statements from federal officials that favored a registry, as well as Trump’s executive order barring travel into the United States by people from six predominantly Muslim countries.
The temporary ban, which Trump and supporters say is necessary for the safety and security of the country until “extreme vetting” methods are developed, will be allowed to go into effect for people with no “bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.”
Supporters say it only affects 13 percent of the Muslims worldwide, and that the named countries are the same ones that were listed as areas of concern by the Obama administration.
But opponents fear it’s just the administration’s first step in an inevitable escalation.
“Things can start on a very small scale then lead to worse things, to a registry,” said Raza Ahmad, of the Silicon Valley chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. “And if it’s sponsored by the government people get encouraged on the individual and collective levels. This plays into the hand of extremist groups that will divide people on any basis.”
Billoo pointed to recent news segments in the wake of the London terror attacks in which commentators have called for the creation of internment camps.
“It starts with rhetoric, then comes data collection, then the FBI visits and then we get internment,” Billoo said. “We need to stay two steps ahead of this administration, to see the policies for what they are and prevent that from coming to fruition.”
It’s not a scare tactic, she said. And the county’s lead attorney agreed.
“This is not a mere speculative matter,” said County Counsel James Williams. “Unfortunately in U.S. history I can point to examples of registries, and internment, and the displacement of individuals based on religion or their national origin.”
He said the county’s stance sends a “loud message” that people can avail themselves of county services without worrying that they will end up in a registry, or worse.
It’s similar to a law passed in San Francisco in March, which was the first of its kind in the nation. And Billoo said the hope is that such ordinances spring up in more places, although they haven’t seen widespread adoption.
Santa Clara County differs from San Francisco’s ordinance in that it allows for recourse via civil penalties through the board, while San Francisco’s would use the courts. Williams said it is also broader in its provisions, and includes sexual orientation as a protected class.
In its last full meeting before the summer break, supervisors also gave the final go-ahead to spending $3.5 million in legal help and a “Know Your Rights” campaign for immigrants who could be facing deportation as a result of changing federal policies.
Source: Mercury News