Senator Josh Newman Statement on Senate Resolution 16

Denouncing the President's Executive Action on Immigration

Monday, January 30 2017

“I rise today as one of the joint authors of this resolution. Over the past few days, we've become familiar with a new phrase, "Extreme Vetting". As you might expect from America's first reality  television president, this is a clever bit of marketing, designed to suggest that the existing process for vetting prospective refugees was somehow deficient in the face of certain parties' systematic overhyping of the current threat, as some of my colleagues have already noted. By all objective accounts, this is far from true. A more accurate term for extreme vetting would be extreme cynicism, or extreme selfishness, or even extreme cowardice.

The new administration travel ban and refugee settlement bar is misguided, inhumane and, in fact, un-American. Taking away immigrants’ and refugees’ fundamental human and constitutional rights goes against many of our most fundamental beliefs as Americans.

My district includes a concentration of Arab American businesses in an area in West Anaheim that has become known as “Little Arabia.” Immigrants and refugees from all over Southern California have come to see Little Arabia as a home away from home.  Just as importantly, and not coincidentally, this area has become a robust center of not just culture but economic development.

This past week, I visited with Access California Services, a social service agency in Little Arabia run by a Syrian that serves the most vulnerable. Access California works to provide pathways to health and employment for immigrants and refugees in our area and it also guides them through the citizenship process. Over the past year, the center has served clients from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, and East African countries like Somalia. Their organization serves refugees, including many women and children suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder from the conflict from which they came.  

In considering a ban on religious groups, it’s important to note that not all Muslims are Arabs, and not all Arabs are Muslims.  In fact globally, the majority of Muslims are actually Asian. Further, in the U.S., Latino Muslims are the fastest-growing Muslim population.

Muslim residents of Orange County have recently experienced the highest rate of hate-related incidents of any location in this country. And yet, despite that alarming statistic, based on a recent Gallup poll, Muslims are actually more likely than any other faith group to condemn violence.  All faiths share the commonality of striving for more morality and decency. I am proud to represent a district that has such a rich diversity, both religiously and culturally.

Our Muslim and Arab communities are just as American as anyone. They are teachers, doctors, business owners, public servants, lawyers, scientists and many have served in the military and lost their lives fighting for this country.

As you probably know I am proud to be a Veteran of the United States Army, and I am proud to be the incoming chair of the Veteran’s Committee. I, like many other Veterans, question how this ban is likely to make America safer. On the contrary, it's generally agreed among military experts more likely to achieve the exact opposite consequence, by sending the exact wrong signal during this time of tension and conflict, corroborating the assertions and recruiting efforts of those who argue that the West is indeed hostile to Islam, while stigmatizing and alienating members of our communities who deserve so much better. 

As an alarming footnote, thousands of Iraqis who worked as interpreters and advisors to U.S. troops are now barred from obtaining visas and entering the country. They now risk retaliation against themselves and their families for collaborating with the U.S. government in a time of war.  These interpreters served and protected Americans and have saved American lives from terrorists and we are now turning our backs on them.

This nation and especially California, has always been a country of immigrants. California’s diversity has always been its strength. With 15 million Latino residents and the largest Arab American population residing primarily in Los Angeles and Orange County, immigrants are part of the fabric of America. Immigrants that share the same value system that we all believe in. This resolution is about protecting those beliefs and protecting those values.”