Eye Witness Account of the Texas Muslims Trip to the Capitol

June 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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Houston, Texas (Blog of Sister Wardah Khalid): I am so not a morning person. So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to rub the sleep from my eyes at 4:15 AM last week so I could board a charter bus to Austin. It was for a worthy cause, though, so I dragged myself out of bed and got ready to join other Houston area Muslims (and a few non-Muslims) on a trip to our capitol for “Texas Muslim Capitol Day.”

The event was organized by the Texas chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to encourage civic participation among Muslims and show our representatives in Austin that we DO care about local and national issues. Like their fellow citizens, many Muslims don’t keep abreast of local politics, let alone vote, so this was a prime opportunity to change that. Representatives from the Houston Peace and Justice Center (HPJC) and League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) joined us on our journey.

Once on our way, CAIR provided participants with summaries of bills of interest, including HB 274, which was signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry today. The bill originally included an amendment introduced by Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) banning “foreign law” (including Jewish and Islamic law – a.k.a. Shariah) in Texas. Thankfully, it was eventually shot down by the Senate. The ever relentless Berman, however, has since attached his amendment to HB 1717 in hopes that it will finally pass into law. Will someone please tell the Mr. Berman to quit wasting his time and our money on this, as there is no way foreign law can be applied in the U.S. due to our separation between church and state? But that is a story for another day.

Other bills discussed included SB 9 (now SB 12) and SB 11. These are immigration reform bills similar to the ones passed in Arizona asking law enforcement to adopt the Secure Communities program and essentially serve as immigration officers. This of course would require them to reallocate resources from their current duties, such as responding to 9-1-1 calls, keeping our roads safe, and fighting crime.

Upon our arrival in Austin, we met up with other Muslims who had arrived from other cities, including San Antonio and Dallas. We also heard from representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as some Senators and Representatives. All emphasized the importance of civic participation.

One of the most interesting parts of our morning was listening in on the proceedings in the Texas House of Representatives. Since it was near the end of the session, there weren’t any hot and heavy debates (just a lot of self congratulation) but it was still worth a look. After lunch and prayers, we had a chance to visit the offices of several Senators and Representatives to discuss our concerns.

All in all, it was an enlightening visit that proved my government teachers right – we CAN accomplish great things if we come together!  Yes, these are our representatives, but it is our civic duty to keep up with current affairs and speak up if we don’t agree with what is going on in Austin. I’m looking forward to our next trip in 2013.

(Other salient participants included members of Islamic Circle of North America, Muslim American Society, Helping Hand USA, ICNA Relief, Young Muslims, and Muslim Observer, Pakistan Chronicle, & Pakistan Journal Newspapers).

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The Time for Immigration Reform is Now

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Editor’s Note: This editorial was produced in association with New America Media (www.newamericamedia.org), a national association of ethnic media, and was published by ethnic media across the country this week to bring attention to the urgency of immigration reform.

The White House and members of Congress must move quickly on enacting a just and humane immigration reform package that will reunite families, reinvigorate the economy, and remove the term “illegal or undocumented immigrants” from the dialogue in this country. Ethnic media, which reaches over 60 million adults in the United States, calls on Congress to move decisively on immigration reform because there are few issues as important to the nation’s well-being as an overhaul of the inefficient, inhumane and economically debilitating immigration system. More importantly, we are also urging our readers and viewers to contact their Senators and Congressmen and let them know that immigration reform must be a national priority.

The immigration system is broken not just for 12 million undocumented immigrants, but also for specialized workers blocked from joining the American economy because of narrow quotas, and mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens who must wait for years before being reunited with their families.

Our nation needs comprehensive immigration policies that will replace a broken system of raids and roundups with one that protects all workers from exploitation, improves America’s security and builds strong communities. It’s time to end the division between workers, which has allowed big business to exploit both sides. Clearly, working-class citizens and immigrant workers have much in common – dreams of better homes, education for their families and quality healthcare.  There is more that brings us together, than separates us.  United we can be a strong force for change, changes that that bring more workforce safety and humane conditions.  

Immigration is often portrayed as an explosive, divisive issue. In reality it’s not. Since the repeal of the national origins quota system in 1965, which discriminated against certain immigrants, a consensus has been building towards an immigration system that respects the country’s core values. These include economic opportunity, equality under the law regardless of ethnic background, and an embrace of the world’s most innovative, energetic and ambitious workers. Now, with the country facing serious competition from workers abroad, it’s more important than ever to create a world-class immigration system. It’s for the good for families, good for communities and good for America.  

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