A group of four Democratic congresswomen on Friday introduced a resolution condemning racism in the U.S. government and outlining relief for victims of racism 20 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Democratic Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Ilhan Omar or Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Judy Chu of California announced the resolution on Friday evening to acknowledge the “hate, discrimination, racism, and xenophobia that Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Sikh communities across America continue to experience two decades after” 9/11, according to a press release.
“We must fully condemn all manifestations and expressions of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, scapegoating, and ethnic or religious bigotry while also finally acknowledging the climate of hate that Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Sikh communities have experienced in the two decades since September 11, 2001,” the four congresswomen said in a statement.
They continued: “As we acknowledge that our own government implemented harmful policies that unfairly profiled and targeted Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Sikh communities, we must also celebrate that these very communities have met these challenges with unwavering courage, strength, compassion, and resilience while uniting in the aftermath to advocate for civil and human rights — work which continues to this day to benefit all Americans.”
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Jayapal told Vox in an audio interview that after watching the 9/11 attacks on TV that she immediately thought, “What does this mean for people like me?”
“I had just become a U.S. citizen, but I think I was still very clear that I was an immigrant, that I was brown, that I was a woman,” she said. “I had flashed through my head all the times in U.S. history where immigrants were targeted in very difficult times — going back to the internment and other such times — and I felt like everything was going to change for somebody that looked like me. … That was the overwhelming thought in my head.”
Less than two full months after 9/11, Congress passed the PATRIOT Act in what was praised as an effort to improve national security by giving federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to citizen’s private records that the government hoped could help them find prospective terrorists. The law was later criticized for giving officials too much surveillance power over everyday Americans.
The Democrats do not name the PATRIOT Act in their press release but note that the FBI “and immigration authorities arrested and detained as many as 1,200 Muslims immediately after the September 11 attack, and none of these ‘special interest’ detained people were ultimately indicted for terrorist activity.”
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Between 2003 and 2006, the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued nearly 193,000 National Security Letters (NSLs), or documents requesting someone’s personal information, but the agency only made one terror-related conviction based on those NSLs, according to the ACLU. The act, or Section 215, expired in 2020.
The new resolution calls for creating an “interagency task force” to review government surveillance policies targetting specific communities; holding hearings to discuss the findings of the task force; provide resources to organizations supporting victims of hate; and calls on the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the National Institute of Health, and the National Science Foundation to work together to determine the impact of government targeting and profiling.
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The measure has support from dozens of local and national civil rights and activist organizations.
“This resolution is a critical step in acknowledging the government targeting of our communities which predates 9/11 but exponentially grew afterwards. As we witness the devastating impacts of the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, Congress must support community-based organizations who are leading movements to fundamentally shift the foreign and domestic policies at the root of this violence,” Fatema Ahmad, executive director of Muslim Justice League, said in a Friday statement.