CAIR-SFBA’s legal team would like to wish you a Happy New Year and hope that you and your family are keeping safe and amidst the pandemic. As the new year begins, we would like to take the time to highlight key achievements, struggles, and findings based on our work with the community this past year.
Your support enabled our team to advise, counsel, and represent more than 700 individuals complaining of civil rights violations or needing immigration assistance in 2020. Some of the highlights from the tumultuous and challenging year of 2020 are:
Our immigration attorneys challenged United States Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) extensive delay in determining the eligibility for an immigration benefit by filing a lawsuit, petitioning the court to order the Director of USCIS, to properly fulfill their duties. The client, an individual of Uighur origin, had been awaiting a response to her naturalization application, having applied in 2017 and only receiving a set of interviews in 2019 with USCIS adjudicators. In this case and others, our attorneys represented various individuals of Uighur Muslim origin in a number of capacities, including in addition to this writ filing, asylum applications. Members of the Uighur community in China have been targeted by the government through measures such as banning of certain Muslim names for babies, torture, and placed in ominously named “reeducation camps” aimed at erasing religious identity under the guise of counterradicalism, making them prime candidates for asylum;
CAIR-SFBA attorneys worked closely with the family of a 14-year-old Muslim high school student who dealt with physical and verbal threats by a group of his classmates. In one instance, the student was called “Bin Laden” and pointedly asked if he “would show up to school to blow it up!”, on social media, by one student finding humor in using these stereotypes as insults. Furthering the student’s harassment, he was challenged to fight the student alleged to be committing bullying by several of his peers on school premises who had heard of this disturbing exchange. At this point, CAIR-SFBA attorneys stepped in to counsel the student and their parent, representing them in discussions with the school administration to ensure they understood the gravity of the allegations and that they were responsible for taking immediate ameliorative action including an urgent investigation into the allegations. The outcome was appropriate but not punitive disciplining of students involved and an anti-bullying workshop that was conducted by our attorneys;
CAIR-SFBA’s legal team advocated on behalf of Yemeni Americans who are were stranded in Yemen, a country engulfed by a five-year-long civil war that has resulted in a humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 global pandemic. CAIR chapters nationwide demanded that congressional representatives and the U.S. Department of State immediately take all necessary steps to ensure the safe and secure return of Yemeni Americans. The #BringThemHome campaign assisted in the return of a 20-year-old Yemeni American woman, who left for Yemen a little over a year ago to visit her husband and was six months pregnant, at the time of border closures and travel restrictions brought on by COVID-19. In another incident, CAIR-SFBA staff assisted an older Yemeni American man who required urgent life-saving surgery to amputate his other leg given that he suffers from diabetes. With Yemeni hospitals and cities running out of access to life-saving medication, this individual needed to return home immediately to access the medical care he needed to survive.
CAIR-SFBA attorneys worked closely with an incarcerated American Muslim in a Solano County Correctional Facility who reached out to our office complaining of repeated denials of his requests for halal meals in accordance with his religious beliefs as a practicing Muslim. Through our investigation, we were made aware of the additional troubling lack of religious accommodation including lack of access to prayer mats, religious instruction, and weekly mandatory (Friday) prayers. Despite numerous requests by Muslim inmates to prison officials for religious accommodations that are required by law, Muslim inmates were prohibited from celebrating Eid and were not provided with a special religious meal. Our office advocated on behalf of the client by reaching out to the Chaplain and facility commanders regarding these troubling allegations and them proactively.
CAIR-SFBA attorneys filed a complaint with the City of Fremont’s Human Relations Commission (HRC) alleging discrimination and differential treatment of a Muslim woman against payment processor Venmo, for its policy of flagging and blocking payments associated with Islam or Middle Eastern nationality or ethnicity. CAIR-SFBA’s representation builds on advocacy nationwide with an increase in noteworthy incidents involving financial institutions leading to the promulgation of the #BankingWhileMuslim and #VenmoingWhileMuslim campaigns, which aim to shine light on the barriers American Muslims face in the financial sector.
CAIR California released its first-ever Campus Climate Report, which found that nearly 40% of Muslims attending college in California reported facing harassment or discrimination on college campuses at the hands of their peers, classmates, instructors, and college administrators. Additionally, almost 74% of the Muslim students surveyed reported that their schools failed to make statements, accommodations, or otherwise address the effects of significant policy issues impacting their community.
As we go into 2021 and as a reminder, if you find yourself or a loved one a target of discrimination and harassment on campus, in public spaces, or at a workplace, please reach out to us through our incident report form. If you require immigration-related advice and representation, please contact our Immigrants’ Rights Department through the immigration assistance form.
Ammad Rafiqi, Esq.
Civil Rights & Legal Services Coordinator
P.S. To learn more, please browse through our Know Your Rights materials found on our website.