CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator Gerald Hankerson and Deputy Director, Sufyan Sohel participated in CAIR’s 8th annual “Advocacy Days on Captiol Hill” in D.C. in an effort to make the community’s issues be heard by the Congress. They met with seven congressional offices and connected with three more during their trip to the nation’s capital. These offices represent different regions throughout Illinois, which reflects the advocacy on behalf of Muslim constituents in communities in greater Chicagoland and smaller towns downstate. Meetings were held on both March 18th and 19th in the congressional offices on Capitol Hill.
Representatives of CAIR-Chicago met with elected officials and urged them to address issues brought forth by community members. For instance, the Freedom USA Act (H.R. 3361/S. 1599), calls for Congress to put a stop to surveillance practices of the National Security Agency (NSA)—secret collection of phone records and internet activities that are unlawful violations of constitutional rights. Specifically, the practice violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution which bans unreasonable searches and seizures. Congress is being asked to restore the privacy rights of all people by supporting this legislation.
“There are unique issues that draw on the perception that Muslims should be viewed with more scrutiny when it comes to national security. Yet legislative measures, both new and dated, are now impacting more Americans beyond the intended law or policy,” explained Hankerson, who leads CAIR-Chicago’s civic engagement and policy efforts.
The support for Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 (H.R. 3878), asks Congress to acknowledge the startling growth of hateful propaganda existing on the internet that affect specific racial, ethnic and religious communities, which eventually may lead to violent acts. This measure has connected multicultural coalition of some of the country’s leading civil rights groups that includes CAIR, the Southern Law Poverty Center, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and the Anti-Defamation League.
Alarming growth of hateful propaganda, the placing of American Muslims on federal watch lists, and the NSA’s secret bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and internet activities are the current issues that CAIR-Chicago, along with other CAIR activists, are working on resolving.
“In terms of knowing where the Congressional members’ positions are on civil rights and liberties issues and having them know that CAIR-Chicago is truly interested in connecting with their local district and DC offices, I believe [Sohel] and I were satisfied,” Hankerson stated. He went on to comment, “The meetings revealed that many offices must do more to connect with the Muslim American constituents, particularly if national security will continue to focus primarily on terrorism and radicalization with individuals who practice Islam or have connections with countries that have prominent Muslim populations.”
This was CAIR’s opportunity to demand that their concerns are heard while inquiring what will be done to resolve or meet their needs. More meetings will be planned with local district offices located in Chicago and nearby suburbs. It was all possible from the generosity CAIR-Chicago has been receiving from the local community, which is coordinated every year with CAIR’s “Advocacy Days on Captiol Hill” lobbying initiative.