By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Elected and community leaders gathered to voice their opposition for H.R. 4038, a bill that calls for certification and background investigations of refugees seeking admission to the United States.
The bill — known as the American SAFE Act of 2015 — would effectively close the doors to Syrian and Iraqi refugees, opponents to the bill say.
The press conference was held at ACCESS Headquarters, 2651 Saulino Court Dec. 2 where those in attendance addressed the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Nov. 19.
The bill still has to be passed through the Senate before it can go to the president, who said he will veto it. Elected and community leaders in attendance urged senators not to pass the bill.
“We need to encourage elected officials to decline this policy and any other policies similar to his bill,” ACCESS Executive Director Hassan Jaber said. “We commend the courage and leadership of our local leaders who have stood strong against hate rhetoric and have advocated for unity at this time of crisis.”
The National Network for Arab American Communities, a program of ACCESS and its Take on Hate campaign is urging the public to contact their senators through an online form and encourage them to stop the legislation. The form can be can be found at nnaac.org/bill4038.
“HR 4038 will refuse entry to refugees when they are most in need, and while most are fleeing extreme violence and insecurity,” ACCESS stated in a press release. “It profiles a distinct group based on fear-based rhetoric that disregards the traumatic experiences of individuals who are fleeing the same terror that this country is trying to protect itself against.”
Campaign to Take on Hate Campaign Manager Rashida Tlaib thanked those in attendance and supporting the campaign and to stand united in opposing the bill.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner told the story about his grandmother who escaped a similar situation in the Soviet Union when she was a teenager.
“I feel a connection with Syrian refugees and others who see refugee for the American Dream,” he said. “America is a land of immigrants and we need to embrace that.”
State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) launched a Respect Michigan pledge for elected officials to support a stance of a more unified state that won’t support hate rhetoric.
The pledge calls on all elected officials serving in Michigan to live up to a standard of respect for Michigan’s diverse communities and encourages them to recommit their support for refugees.
“I invite elected officials to visit refugee centers and talk with families to understand their stories,” Chang said.
For more information on the pledge go to welcomingmichigan.org.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])