Rejecting Registries – A Reflection on 100 Days of Justice

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July 5, 2017

During World War II, FDR ordered the registry used to carry out the forced removal and internment of thousands of Japanese Americans. It wasn’t until the 1980s that the U.S. government finally acknowledged “race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership” as the motivating factors behind the heinous actions.

In 2002, President George W. Bush enacted NSEERS, a program registering non-citizen visa holders from 25 countries. In the nine years it existed, the list disproportionately targeted Muslims and Arabs. The program led to over 13,000 individuals placed in deportation proceedings while resulting in zero terrorism convictions.  

Despite the catastrophic moral and ethical failures of these past programs, calls for a registry echoed once again in the country at the beginning of this year. Throughout his campaign and following his inauguration, the current President and his advisors ignored the lessons of history, flirting once against with the idea of a new Muslim registry. Such misguided actions would do little to improve our national security and serve only to instill fear in our communities.

In response, we made resisting any effort to enact such a program a central focus of our 100 Days of Justice Campaign. With the support of a broad coalition of organizations –  the San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-SFBA), Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC), Alliance of South Asians Taking Action (ASATA), the National Lawyers Guild – San Francisco Bay Area (NLG SF), and the ACLU of Northern California – and strong support from community members, we mobilized the community and advocated for legislative officials to take action.

From gatherings at City Hall to public testimonies at board hearings by our community members, our efforts culminated in the signing of the San Francisco Anti-Registry Ordinance on March 21st by Mayor Ed Lee. The ordinance prohibits the city from using any resources to develop a registry based on religion, national origin, or ethnicity, reaffirming San Francisco’s sanctuary status. The first of its kind in the country, the ordinance reflects our commitment as a community to protect our neighbours against discrimination and embrace the diversity that makes us so unique.

When we began our 100 Days of Justice Campaign at the start of this current presidency, we set ambitious goals to advocate for policy and legislative agenda, continue to fight injustice in the courts, and mobilize our community partners. While this ordinance is a realization of that action, it’s only the beginning. The California Religious Freedom Act (SB 31), a similar bill to the ordinance, passed the State Senate on April 3rd and is now awaiting action in the Assembly. Laws such as these send a strong message that we will not tolerate for hate. Though the first 100 days of the Trump Presidency has ended, we must and we will keep the momentum going. We must ensure that any act of discrimination, any act of bigotry, and any act of hate will be met with equal resistance. And finally, we must fight to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

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