CAIR-Chicago Advocates for Civil Rights on Capitol Hill
On March 5th and 6th, CAIR-Chicago participated in CAIR’s 6th Annual Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill. Leaders from more than 20 CAIR offices from across the nation met with Congressional offices representing their home states to draw support against racial profiling and guaranteed protection of due process for all individuals. Outreach Coordinator Gerald Hankerson, accompanied by Government Affairs Intern Charles Hollins, represented Illinois to discuss sections of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA) [H.R. 1540] and the End Racial Profiling Act of 2012 (ERPA) [H.R. 3618 / S. 1670]. Hankerson and Hollins met with seven Illinois congressional offices: Sen. Richard Durbin, Rep. Michael Quigley, (D-5th), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-12th), Rep. Jerry Costello (D-13th), Rep. Judy Biggert (R-13th), Rep. Randall Hultgren (R-14th), and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-18th). In addition, Hankerson met with Rep. Pete Starks (D-CA,13th) and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN, 5th). CAIR leaders garnered a record total of 113 meetings on Capitol Hill, comprising 66 Democratic, one Independent and 46 Republican offices.
During the meetings, CAIR representatives asked that Congress re-examine NDAA and sought support for legislation that repeals the law's indefinite detention provisions and reaffirms the due process rights of all people.
The CAIR representatives asked members of Congress to support and co-sponsor the ERPA. That act would prohibit and promote measures to eliminate profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement.
Members of Congress were also urged to support a letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) requesting a revision of its 2003 policy guidance on racial profiling. Critics say the current DOJ guidance remains ineffective because it includes open-ended loopholes that allow federal law enforcement agencies to profile at U.S. borders and for reasons of national security.
"Having an opportunity to experience first hand the advocacy process in our nation's capital emboldens me to participate beyond just casting votes, reflects Hollins, a public health policy graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Empowering the community with knowledge of how to address issues that affect our community is a must. The common citizen, especially Muslims, need to be aware of who represents them, how access their elected officials, and what it takes to make their concerns be known by them."
"It's without question that our elected officials should consider the impact of policies they'll choose to dismiss or endorse, especially those related to civil rights and civil liberties for every person," says Hankerson. "There's no doubt that every community's concerns should not only be heard, but seriously evaluated by those who are sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution. The 113 Congressional office meetings that my CAIR colleagues and I participated in serve as prime examples of citizens and community leaders being proactive citizens. By connecting with members of Congress and their staff, we ensure that our community's voices should be taken seriously and valued as a integral part of political discourse, and ongoing civic engagement."
CAIR-Chicago represents the entire Muslim community in Illinois and greater Chicagoland, including northwest Indiana and the Kenosha metropolitan region in southeast Wisconsin.