(LOS ANGELES, CA – 5/14/2019) – Today, a statewide coalition of more than 60 community, student and civil rights groups, including the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-LA), supported by national organizations throughout the country, issued a letter to the Governor of California demanding that his office reject and dismantle the State of California’s Office of Emergency Services’ (Cal OES) Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) program and all similar Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programs throughout the state.
PVE and CVE are dangerous intelligence-gathering, surveillance, and policing programs, with known links to federal law enforcement agencies, premised on the false assumption that certain communities — including Muslim, refugee, and Black and Brown communities — are more prone to “radicalization” and “violent extremism.”
Cal OES’s PVE program is modeled on federal CVE frameworks designed by agencies like the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Cal OES PVE program is disbursing nearly $625,000 in funds sourced from DHS to groups across the state that promise to provide so-called community services, such as counseling to refugees suffering from trauma and trainings for teachers to identify “extremism” amongst students.
“PVE sees mental health and trauma as ‘risk factors’ for ‘violent extremism.’ We’d like to know why mental health and trauma, particularly among refugees and immigrants, is being criminalized. We should be supporting the healing of these communities, not surveilling them for ‘extremism’,” said Sahar Pirzada of Vigilant Love.
The letter was sent as Muslim communities across the state mark the month of Ramadan and is being delivered days before Immigrant Day on the state Capitol to remind the state of its commitment to these and other communities of color. In the recent past, California has held itself out to be a state that has purportedly vowed to protect Muslim, immigrant, and communities of color through state laws like SB 31 and SB 54. With PVE, however, its commitment to these communities is being questioned.
“PVE and CVE both suggest that interventions should be based on monitoring constitutionally-protected activities and using non-criminal risk factors which may make a person the subject of law enforcement scrutiny,” said Marwa Rifahie, Civil Rights Managing Attorney at CAIR-LA. “The state’s PVE grantees will be engaged in information sharing and referral services with law enforcement. It is disappointing to see that, rather than focus on providing resources to repair the education and mental health systems, Cal OES decided to engage in a program that will monitor and police the behaviors of students and those impacted by mental health.”
The state’s PVE program targets youth and students of color, despite no compelling evidence that students or youth are especially prone to any such “extremism” or “radicalization.” One grant will train teachers, in a San Bernardino school district where nearly 90% of the student population is low-income, Black, and Latinx, to identify ‘extremism’ amongst its student body. The program is supported by California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB).
“Why would a university support a program that trains teachers to monitor their students for ‘extremism’? All students, especially students of color, should be supported by their teachers, not surveilled,” said Rama Al-Shreteh, President of the Muslim Student Association at CSUSB, a Muslim Student Association West affiliate.
“The San Bernardino grant carries a grave risk of criminalizing youth of color,” said Hammad Alam, Staff Attorney at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. “These students are already at risk of racialized school discipline actions with far-reaching consequences. It is unacceptable and irresponsible to then implement PVE and further stigmatize and criminalize them as ‘extremists.’”
Through their #NoPVEinCA campaign, the coalition is calling on Governor Newsom to immediately de-fund all organizations receiving Cal OES’s PVE funding, and demanding that his office and the state reject and dismantle PVE and all other CVE programs in California. All Californians, especially our youth of color, refugees, immigrants and Muslim communities seeking sanctuary within the state’s borders, have the right to feel safe in their communities and be free of racially- and religiously-motivated suspicion and surveillance.
CAIR-LA is Southern California’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice and empower American Muslims.
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CONTACT: Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles Communications Director Jessica Jinn, 213-241-8817, firstname.lastname@example.org; CAIR-LA Communications Manager Eugene W. Fields, 714-776-1847 or email@example.com