NIAC Hiring Northern California Field Organizer

San Francisco Bay Area
Full Time/Exempt

NIAC is looking for an experienced organizer passionate about mobilizing the Iranian-American community to protect our community’s civil rights, to protect the Iran deal, and to prevent a backslide towards war with Iran. It’s more important now than ever that the Iranian-American community stands together to do just this.  

We are hiring a talented individual to organize the Iranian-American community of northern California to increase our community’s political power and in turn build up local Members of Congress as champions for the Iranian-American community who actively fight to protect our community and priorities. The Northern California Field Organizer will be responsible for assisting in the planning and implementation of campaign actions, all the while cultivating Iranian-American activists that will continue to fight for our community for years to come.

Responsibilities

The Northern California Field Organizer will join NIAC’s Organizing Department, along with other regional field organizers, and will be overseen by the national Organizing Manager. Field organizers are responsible for the following:

Grassroots & Grasstops Mobilization & Capacity Building

  • Helps maximize the political representation of the Iranian-American community by identifying and cultivating grassroots and grasstops leaders. Provide support and motivation through field visits and remote management to grow, educate and mobilize NIAC supporters. Develop local volunteers into NIAC Congressional Captains. Guide and train NIAC members in advance of grassroots actions, town hall meetings, and Congressional in-district meetings. Implement grassroots legislative advocacy strategies, in collaboration with NIAC’s policy team.
  • Promote NIAC campaigns to supporters and the broader community, work with district captains and other local volunteers to develop and implement actions and events, work in collaboration with policy and development staff; develop expertise on NIAC’s focus areas and relevant actions, and serve as a regional public representative of NIAC.

Growing Regional Membership

  • Leads regional efforts to recruit and engage new members and supporters through special events, campaigns and other incentives.
  • Works with the Organizing Manager to develop and implement strategies to grow and diversify membership throughout the assigned region in tangible, innovative and goal-oriented ways.
  • Supports Development Manager’s efforts to identify and cultivate new and existing donors.  Must be able to work with and manage relations with major donors in the region.

Engaging Community Through Local Events

  • Organizes (directly and/or indirectly through volunteers) local events to grow and mobilize the membership, including private meet-n-greets at private homes and venues; supports day of community service events; events of interest to the community such as local film screenings and book signings; and more to create well-attended and impactful local events and regional meetings that match organizational goals.

Developing Relationships in the Region

  • Initiate and steward relationships with local organizations to connect and integrate the work of NIAC campaigns and members to local needs and opportunities. Assist National Outreach Manager in staffing and overseeing local Regional Council.

Supporting and Developing Member Groups and Volunteers

  • Ensure materials are provided to NIAC members, activists and local partners; track and report on local group activities and needs; serve as link between member activists and NIAC’s Washington staff.
  • Provide trainings for volunteers to increase their own grassroots organizing skills. Cultivate top volunteers to take on leadership roles and independently run campaign actions.
  • Maintain accurate records of volunteer engagement, prepare reports and evaluate outcomes of community engagements.
  • Other duties as assigned

 

Requirements

Education & Experience Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field or equivalent education plus experience is required.
  • Requires 3+ years of relevant experience. Experience and training with grassroots organizing, including campaign work, is highly preferred.

Skills or Related Knowledge

  • Teambuilding, organizing and excellent presentation and facilitation skills are required.
  • Familiarity with the Iranian American community in Northern California required.
  • Must be organized, entrepreneurial, and self-driven with excellent time management skills for work that requires both significant independence and close collaboration with DC staff
  • Must be familiar with the policy issues NIAC works on and the political landscape
  • Must be committed to advancing NIAC’s goals and mission
  • Ability to speak Farsi (Persian) is strongly preferred.
  • S/he must be able to travel in and work on weekends and evenings as needed. Periodic travel to Washington, DC headquarters may be required.

Salary & Benefits

Salary: $38,000 – $50,000, depending on experience.

Fortune 100-style benefits include:

  • Generous health, dental, vision, long-term disability, and life insurance plans
  • 15 days of annual paid leave and 12 paid holidays
  • 401k with 2% company match
  • Tax-advantaged commuter benefits program
  • Additional benefits through TotalSource benefits partner include: training opportunities, corporate discounts, and Employee Assistance Program

How to Apply

  • Send resume and cover letter to Donna Farvard (dfarvard[at]niacouncil.org) with the subject line “Northern California Field Organizer”

About NIAC and NIAC Action

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people. NIAC Action is the grassroots, civic action organization committed to advancing peace and championing the priorities of the Iranian-American community. Selected candidate will be a shared employee for both NIAC and NIAC Action.

Iranian-American Community Advisory: Know Your Rights at the Airport and the Border

Given the recent “Muslim Travel Ban” executive orders, many Iranians are concerned about their right to enter the United States (U.S.) and interacting with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which polices the border. This advisory provides some general guidance.[1]
 
Entering the U.S.

Your right to enter the U.S. depends on whether you are a (1) U.S. citizen; (2) a “green card” holder (also known as a “lawful permanent resident” or “LPR”); or (3) a visa holder.

U.S. citizens have an absolute right to enter the U.S. The government must allow entry with proof of identity and citizenship. Showing an unexpired U.S. passport is normally sufficient.

Green card holders (LPRs) have a strong right to enter the U.S. CBP normally cannot refuse entry as long as the trip abroad was brief (usually 6 months or less) and innocent (which usually means no criminal issues). Otherwise, you may be subject to deportation.

IMPORTANT NOTE: CBP officers do not have the right to take away your immigration status; only an immigration judge has that authority. A green card holder (LPR) has the right to go before an immigration judge, who will decide whether or not to revoke the green card. Do not sign any document that you do not understand. You often will not immediately see a judge because of backlogs in the court. Depending on your case, you may or may not be detained in a detention center during this process. As such, consult with an immigration attorney before you travel.

Visa holders with valid travel documents to enter the U.S. are still inspected at the border. CBP officers can question you at the airport or border. If they find that you are not seeking to enter the U.S. for the purpose of your visa, or if there is a visa violation, they can refuse your entry into the U.S.

If CBP detains and prohibits you from entering the U.S., and you fear returning to your home country, you may want to tell the CBP agent of your fear of returning home. Doing so triggers the “Credible Fear Interview,” which requires CBP to determine if you have a legitimate fear. Claiming fear will start the asylum process and prohibits CBP from immediately making you return to your home country. However, you may be held in a detention center for several months until you can see an immigration judge. Alternatively, CBP may release you from the airport with paperwork on the next steps of your asylum case.

NOTE ON THE MUSLIM BAN: U.S. citizens, dual nationals, and green card holders (LPRs) are NOT included in the Muslim Travel Ban executive orders. Since February 1, 2017, the government has explicitly stated that green card holders (LPRs) are exempt. As of June 26 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court has also said that the Muslim Travel Ban cannot be enforced against foreign nationals who have a bona fide relationship (i.e. a particular kind of qualifying relationship) with a person or entity in the U.S. Please check for updates as the law is constantly evolving. This advisory does not fully cover the Muslim Travel Ban. Please see our organization websites for more information.

Going Through Customs

CBP has broad authority at the border and airport. This includes the ability to ask questions to decide whether non-U.S. citizens can enter the U.S. CBP officers can ask about your immigration status when you are entering and leaving the U.S., as well as routine customs questions about the nature and purpose of your travel.

U.S. citizens do not have to answer questions outside the scope of immigration status/presenting a valid passport and basic customs questions, but refusing to answer them may lead to delay.

  • YES: The agent can ask questions to confirm you are who you say you are.
  • YES: The agent can ask what countries you visited while you were abroad.
  • YES: The agent can ask why you went to specific countries.
  • YES: The agent can ask how much money you are taking/returning with.
  • NO: The agent cannot ask you about your religion, your politics, or other irrelevant and inappropriate questions of this nature. If this happens, politely ask for a supervisor and try to remember the agent’s name and the questions you were asked.

If you are traveling to Iran to manage finances, land, property, or an inheritance, you may want to consult with an Iran sanctions attorney before you leave the U.S. (contact our organizations for a list of attorneys).

Green card holders (LPRs) have a lot of protections, but not as much as U.S. citizens. CBP can ask questions about your immigration status and routine questions about whether or not your trip was brief and innocent (see above). However, green card holders (LPRs) are not required to answer broader and intrusive questions (see above). 

Visa holders have the least amount of protection, particularly non-immigrant visa holders. CBP can ask a range of questions to confirm: your identity; that you are coming to the U.S. for a legitimate reason; that you are not breaking the law by entering; and other related questions. Unfortunately, visa holders can be denied entry for not answering questions. Before you step off your flight, make sure to review the visa paperwork so that the answers to the CBP agent match the information on your application.

For all travelers, regardless of your immigration status, if a CBP officer asks questions beyond the scope of routine travels (such as questions about political beliefs, religious practices, or questions about family and community), you can ask to speak with a supervisor. You can also ask for the name and badge number of the CBP officer to file a complaint with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Civil Rights & Civil Liberties. Contact our organizations for assistance.

If You Are Searched

There are two stages of inspection at the airport: primary and secondary. Everyone goes through primary inspection, where you go up to the CBP agent and show your passport and any immigration paperwork. If CBP pulls you aside and questions you further (usually in a different room and by a different agent), then you are in secondary inspection.

CBP does not allow attorneys into secondary inspection, but you should still have the name and number of your attorney with you and ask to contact her/him if you believe that your rights are being violated or you are being forced to answer questions that may incriminate you. Asking for an attorney cannot be used against you.

Electronic Devices

CBP has the authority to stop, detain, and search any person and any item at the border (which includes airports) and within 100 miles of the border.[2] However, the U.S. Constitution prohibits searches or questioning solely because of national origin, ethnicity, race, religion, political beliefs, or gender. If you are stopped and searched for any of these reasons, you can politely object and state that you do not consent to a search. It is very important that you never physically resist a search. Instead, you can ask to speak with a supervisor and keep a record of the CBP agent’s name and badge number.

Recently, CBP agents have started searching electronic devices such as laptops, phones, etc. much more frequently. The law is currently unclear on the right to search laptops and cell phones at the border. Nevertheless, CBP will often ask travelers to unlock their devices to search them, even when they have no reason to think you did anything wrong.[3]

U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry to the U.S. for refusing to provide access to their device, produce passwords, or submit their electronic devices for a search. Green card holders (LPRs) cannot be denied entry for the same activity unless the trip was not brief or innocent. While visa holders, particularly non-immigrant visa holders, can also refuse to provide access to their electronic devices, doing so may complicate their entry and result in denial of entry to the U.S.

A CBP agent can confiscate your electronic devices regardless of your immigration status. In such instances, write down the name and badge number of the CBP officer and ask for a receipt for your confiscated property. Contact one of our organizations for help.

Legal Assistance

If your passport, visa, or global entry is revoked, please seek legal assistance to confirm that it was properly revoked or to take action to get it reinstated. In certain cases, passports, visas, or global entry is revoked for discriminatory or accidental reasons and there are remedies available to you.

Travel Tips

  • Be honest. It is important to remain silent or tell the truth. Lying to a federal officer can be a federal crime. Even an accidental lie can lead to a federal criminal charge. For example, if you are asked about travels dates and accidentally give a wrong date, that may constitute lying to a federal officer.
  • Do not sign any documents you do not understand. If you are asked to sign any documents by CBP, it is very important that you understand what you are signing to ensure you are not waiving your rights or immigration status.
  • Ask for an interpreter if you are not fully comfortable communicating in English. If one is not available, tell the agent that you cannot answer questions in English because you don’t understand it well enough.
  • Back up the data on your electronic devices before traveling. Please see the Electronic Frontier Foundation pamphlet Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data on Your Devices and in the Cloud.
  • Consider using temporary devices when traveling. If you have to bring your main phone or laptop with you: i) log out of social media and email accounts; ii) check to make sure there is no information on your phone that you would not want an agent to see (e.g. photos, frequently visited websites, contacts); and iii) make sure you completely power down your device before you go in front of the agent (do not just close it or put it in sleep mode).
  • Make sure to use strong passwords on your electronic devices (instead of fingerprint passcodes). Consider encrypting your entire device as well.
  • If you have other questions about your rights, particularly relating to the FBI, please read the following Know Your Rights pamphlet that covers such topics.

CONTACT INFORMATION  

Please contact us with any questions by clicking on the links below. We have Farsi speakers available at all organizations.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus
Iranian American Bar Association
National Iranian American Council
Pars Equality Center

[1] This advisory is intended as a general reference only; it does not constitute legal advice, nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. For specific questions, please contact our organizations to speak with an attorney.

[2] Immigration and Nationality Act 287(a)(3) states that CBP agents, without a warrant, may “within a reasonable distance from any external boundary of the United States… board and search for aliens in any vessel within the territorial waters of the United States and any railcar, aircraft, conveyance, or vehicle.” The term “reasonable distance” is defined by 8 Code of Federal Regulations 287(a)(1) as 100 air miles from the U.S. border.

[3] Note: In Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington (state), CBP has to have “reasonable suspicion” to conduct a forensic search of a digital device (a detailed search using special equipment).

Republicans Vote Down Amendment to Protect Families from Muslim Ban

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress took its first vote on the Muslim ban yesterday, as an amendment to protect family members from the Muslim ban was voted down by Republican legislators 23-29. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), was offered during a markup of the Homeland Security Appropriations bill and would have would barred the Trump administration from banning close familial relations under the Muslim ban. In addition, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) introduced, but later withdrew after an objection from a Republican lawmaker, an amendment that would go even further by defunding implementation of the entire Muslim ban.

The Pocan amendment would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement the Executive Order against an individual who is a parent, spouse, fiancé, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or cousin of a United States citizen or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence in the United States. Nearly all Republicans on the committee voted against the amendment, except for Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). Rep. Dent was an early supporter of nuclear negotiations with Iran.

The Trump administration is currently implementing a version of the ban that was narrowed by a temporary Supreme Court ruling that the ban could move forward but could not be applied to persons with “bona fide” relations with an American person or entity. The Trump administration interpreted that ruling to exclude grandparents, grandchildren, aunts, uncles and other close familial relations from being exempt from the ban. Today, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that grandparents and other family members of U.S. persons could indeed not be subject to the ban.

Pocan noted the importance of the amendment because the ban’s “arbitrary determination leaves countless people facing the humiliation of navigating a series of arbitrary rules that devalue family relationships.”

“We have the opportunity to broaden that [familial] relationship to match what the courts in Hawaii have decide,” Pocan added in support of his amendment.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) noted that “One of the greatest treasures that we have in life and one that unites all of humanity is our desire to be with our close family,” going on to state, “I strongly support Mr. Pocan’s amendment to ensure that grandparents, in-laws and other close relatives can visit their U.S. relatives.”

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee, also voiced support for the Pocan amendment, stating that the amendment was necessary because “the admin took a narrow view of who counted as close relatives.”

Homeland Security subcommittee chairman John Carter (R-TX) was the only Republican who spoke on either amendment, rising in opposition to both the Lee amendment and Pocan amendment. According to Carter, the Muslim ban restrictions “are a valid exercise of the President’s authority.”

The Barbara Lee Amendment would have gone even further than the Pocan Amendment and would have restricted funding in the DHS Appropriations bill from being used to implement any element of the Muslim ban Executive Order.

According to Lee, her amendment “would prevent funds from being used to implement this very heartless Executive Order because [the ban] is just dangerous and un-american.”

The votes come in spite of the fact that not a single person has been killed in the US by a terrorist attack committed by people from the countries subjected to Trump’s ban.

The amendment vote is a major milestone as it was the first vote on the ban since it was enacted in January. Republican legislators have blocked a vote to rescind the ban on the House and Senate floor, and no hearing has been held on the ban despite its extensive impact on the Iranian-American community and other communities.

House Passes Measure Aimed at Preventing Confrontation with Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a victory for efforts to establish new diplomatic channels between the U.S. and Iran and prevent an accidental confrontation in the Persian Gulf, the House passed an amendment on Thursday to require the Pentagon to consider options for negotiating an Incidents at Sea Agreement with Iran and other countries operating in the Persian Gulf.

The measure was introduced by Representatives John Conyers (D-MI) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and was voted unanimously to be included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that authorizes Department of Defense programs and spending. The measure was strongly supported by the National Iranian American Council, which advocated for its passage. It will now go to the Senate and must be passed by both chambers before being signed into law.

The success of the measure in overcoming partisan obstacles is particularly meaningful given the current political landscape in Washington. Tensions between the U.S. and Iran have increased in past months and much of Washington has appeared more oriented towards confrontation than dialogue between the two countries. As a candidate, Donald Trump even advocated for sinking Iranian ships if an incident occurred in the Persian Gulf. An Incidents at Sea agreement would help ensure that no such action would be taken and an all out war would be avoided.

In January 2016, U.S. Navy command boats inadvertently entered Iranian waters in the Persian Gulf and were seized by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp Navy. Through personal diplomacy between Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif , the sides were able to quickly de-escalate the situation. The sailors were released within hours and a crisis was avoided. The episode, however, illustrated the need for a systematic framework to be able to resolve any possible confrontations that could arise between the two countries.

However, the departure of Secretary Kerry, and the lack of diplomatic channels  between President Trump’s administration and Iranian officials, means that an accidental confrontation in the Persian Gulf is a major risk. Numerous incidents have occurred in recent months between American and Iranian vessels traversing the Persian Gulf, which has added urgency to concerns that a confrontation could quickly spiral out of control and even lead to a serious military confrontation between the countries.

The vote to include the Incidents at Sea agreement signifies one area where U.S. policy can shift back towards diplomatic engagement, and where the U.S. and Iran – not to mention the other parties that operate in the Persian Gulf – can pursue dialogue. The measure requires the Defense Department to produce a report on the feasibility and the advisability of negotiating an Incidents at Sea Agreement with Iran.

A similar bill, also supported by NIAC, did pass the full Congress in 2011. The resulting Pentagon report, however, was fully classified and little follow up action was possible. Under the text of the new legislation, an unclassified version of the report would also be required – which could set the stage for further efforts by Congress and outside organizations like NIAC to press for an agreement.

An incidents at sea agreement between the U.S. and Iran would not be the first time two countries with tense relations have been able to effectively maintain civil interactions for the sake of peace. In 1972 the U.S. and USSR signed such an agreement to avoid unnecessary collisions and miscalculations, which resulted in success for both sides and a reduction in the frequency of naval encounters between the two nations.

SAG-AFTRA to Recognize Middle Eastern North African (MENA) Actors

Los Angeles – July 7, 2017 – In 2015, Mena Arts Advocacy Coalition (MAAC) began challenging SAG-AFTRA on the subject of MENA (Middle Eastern North African) actors and the struggles they faced surrounding inclusion. This year, SAG-AFTRA leadership took the challenge all the way to the negotiating table during contract discussions with AMPTP and successfully negotiated re-drafting the SAG-AFTRA Casting Dating Report (CDR) in the producer contracts for the first time in 37 years to include Middle Eastern North Africa in its new tentative deal.

Click to view PDF

The recognition and inclusion in the new contracts alongside the previous categories listed (Caucasian, Latin American, African American, Asian American, and Native American/Pacific Islander) is a huge win for MENA communities. Providing support for MENA artists from SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP will help pave the way for potential increases in representation, and help lessen the often-seen stereotypical portrayal of MENA actors. MAAC and its advisory council vigorously applaud SAG-AFTRA leadership and the AMPTP for this inclusion.

 

Fact Sheet: The Supreme Court Lifts Freeze on Trump’s Muslim Ban

Moments ago, the Supreme Court lifted the freeze on some key provisions of the Muslim ban executive order. This could affect you or your loved ones. Please see the following Fact Sheet for key information about the Supreme Court’s ruling.

  • The freeze on Section 2(c) of the second executive order (EO-2), often referred to as the travel ban on six Muslim-majority countries, has been lifted by the Supreme Court in cases where the foreign national has “no connection to the United States at all.”

  • Today’s decision does not affect Green Card holders or dual citizens.
  • The Supreme Court has ordered that the travel ban cannot be enforced against foreign nationals who have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”
  • A foreign national must show a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.” The Court, however, did not provide guidance on what criteria will guide credibility, and who will be responsible for making these credibility determinations.
  • The relationship, however, must be “formal, documented, and formed in the ordinary course, rather than for the purpose of evading EO-2.”

    • The Court provided an example of “students from the designated countries who have been admitted to the University of Hawaii,” as well as “a worker who accepted an offer of employment from an American company or a lecturer invited to address an American audience.”
  • The Court said that a “nonprofit group devoted to immigration issues may not contact foreign nationals from the designated countries, add them to a client list, and then secure their entry by claiming injury from their exclusion.” In other words, groups cannot disingenuously claim a foreign national as a member just to avoid EO-2.
  • Similarly with respect to refugees, an American individual or entity that has a “bona fide relationship” with a refugee seeking to enter the U.S. will be able to claim a concrete hardship and allow entry for the refugee seeking asylum.
  • Officials like Customs and Border Patrol officers will be tasked with deciding which individuals from the Muslim majority countries have sufficient “bona fide” connections with the United States or whether the relationship was formed just to avoid EO-2.
  • Justice Clarence Thomas, with Justices Alito and Gorsuch joining in agreement, stated that it is the Court’s “implicit conclusion that the [Trump administration] has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed” and that the Muslim ban will inevitably be allowed to fully move forward after the eventual decision of the Supreme Court.

Visit niacaction.org/stoptrumpsban now to contact Congress!

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson Headlines Iranian American Event In Seattle

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has once-again made its presence felt in Seattle. NIAC, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people, hosted a sold-out downtown fundraiser on Thursday, June 15th; it was NIAC’s first Seattle event in six years.

Ninety plus people gathered at Insignia Towers, home of NIAC Treasurer Saïd Amin, to raise money for the grassroots organization; attendees were also there to show appreciation for Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Solicitor General Noah Purcell for their efforts in defeating President Trump’s Muslim ban. Earlier this year, the state Attorney General made national headlines by bringing down the initial travel ban. (Disclaimer, The Iranian is owned by Amin)

Within minutes of the first executive order travel ban being signed, Ferguson’s team prepared to legally challenge it. On February 3, Federal Judge James Robart sided with Washington State (and with Minnesota) and halted Trump’s executive order nationwide.

Thursday’s event, which raised nearly $50,000 was attended by a diverse crowd, including David Sellers from nearby Ballard, WA. When asked what compelled him to attend the event, Sellers, who is not of Iranian descent, said: “Given the the influx of hate crimes and the continued executive efforts to implement a nationwide travel ban, it’s absolutely crucial to step outside myself and understand the issues Iranian Americans and other immigrant communities are facing. I believe that the NIAC fundraiser is a perfect opportunity to do just that.”

After a period of mingling and delicious Persian food served by Zeitoon Grill, the crowd settled in their chairs to hear Trita Parsi, NIAC President, introduce the keynote speaker, Bob Ferguson. In his welcoming remarks, Parsi quipped that he would like to see a Game of Thrones type chess match where Ferguson, who is an internationally rated chess master, would play President Trump to settle the travel ban, once for all.

Ferguson, who was greeted with a standing ovation, spoke about his office’s efforts to defeat the first travel ban. While many assume that it must of been a tough legal decision to file a lawsuit challenging the President, Ferguson said that, “in many respects, it was not a particularly hard decision.”

Shortly after the announcement of the ban, he and Solicitor General Purcell met to discuss the ban and possibly file a lawsuit to challenge the President.

“The questions that Noah (Purcell) and I talked about in that conversation were: Are Washingtonians being harmed? Yea, they had to be harmed (by this travel ban). They can’t travel freely, right? It’s contrary to us as a country, what we stand for as a country, to have a policy like that. Have we learned our lesson from past experiences along these lines, of excluding people rather than welcoming them? That was number one. Number two, do we have good legal arguments? We’re lawyers, right?” He continued, “…we felt that we had good legal arguments. And third was whether I, as attorney general, could bring the lawsuit on behalf of the people, and we felt we could.”

Ferguson went on to say that, at the time, most legal experts felt their case was weak; including prominent legal figures like CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Alan Dershowitz. Yet, they proved many wrong, won the case and dealt the President a legal and political blow.

Ferguson emphasized that we are a nation of laws, a democracy with institutions in place that can survive any administration–including this one. He went on to chide President Trump by saying that, “you can not tweet your way out of a federal courtroom” and that, “those comments that he’s made about the travel ban, for example, hurt him in this case. We quoted his tweets, we quoted his advisors […] and they have hurt him in the courts. So when I say you can’t tweet your way out of it, that’s stuff I’m talking about. It can actually hurt you in the courtroom. So every time you see him say something crazy about the travel ban, yes, be mad about that, but know that it hurts him legally in the courtroom.”

Ferguson concluded with a quick story about his 9 year old twins asking why he was away from home so much, spending countless evenings at work. Ferguson’s reply?  “The President did a bad thing and daddy is trying to stop it.”

The next speaker was Noah Purcell, the fast-rising 37-year-old State Solicitor who Ferguson regards as “the most brilliant lawyer I have worked with.” Purcell, whose Iranian-American wife Jasmin Weaver was in attendance, talked about media coverage of Iran, as well his personal connection and understanding of the Iranian American community.

“So much of the media coverage that we get in this country of Iran is so negative. It’s all about the government, and none of it is about the people or the culture, so to be exposed to the actual culture of Iran, and so many wonderful people from Iran who are our age, we (Jasmin) met in High School so we go way back, was an incredible thing. I learned a lot of little things and I also learned lots of important things, like Jasmin’s ‘cousins’ are not actually her ‘cousins’. ‘Cousin’ does not mean ‘cousin’ apparently.”

Purcell continued, “I also learned some very big things, in particular, that knowing something about a government of a country doesn’t tell you anything about the people, and ironically, I hope that the rest of the world understands this about us.” His last point resonated, prompting the audience to burst into laughter and applauds.

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, and Parsi were the next speakers. Each took turns talking up the importance of grassroots participation and fundraising.

Parsi poignantly articulated the cost of sitting on the sidelines. “94.1% of all of the deaths caused by terrorism on US soil have been committed by citizens of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt. Zero by Iranians. Zero by any of the other countries on that were on that list. So why is this happening to us?” He continued,  “I have been working in Capitol Hill and Washington for 15 years now and I can tell you that the politics is not very complex, it’s essentially the law of the jungle, but with some codification. If you don’t stand up for your rights, they will be trampled on. If you don’t guard the dignity of your children, they will be blamed for the errors of others. And if you’re not at the table where decisions are being made, you will be on the menu.”

Thanks to a significant boost in donations, the Washington D.C. headquartered NIAC has recently hired a full time staffer in San Francisco and is scheduled to hire a staffer in Southern California later this fall. Given Thursday’s impressive event, NIAC appears poised to potentially build off this success and expand its presence in the Seattle area. The Iranianasked Abdi about the organization’s growth, to which he replied, “This is about Iranian Americans seizing the moment to reach our political potential. We’re in a moment of great challenges but also immense opportunities to rise to that challenge. We have a chance to organize within one of the most dynamic and resourceful communities in the country to protect not just Iranian Americans, but also other immigrant communities and the rights and values that brought our families to this country in the first place.” 

This piece originally appeared in The Iranian. 

Secretary Tillerson Eschews Iran Diplomacy in Favor of Regime Change

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated he has no plans for negotiations with Iran and expressed favor for moving to support elements within Iran intent on regime change during testimony on the State Department budget in the House Foreign Affairs Committee yesterday. Tillerson’s remarks are certain to ratchet up tensions with Iran, where elements remain deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions and have levied charges on ordinary citizens for alleged collaboration with hostile powers.

Tillerson’s remarks were in response to questioning from Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX), a vocal supporter of the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), whose members were in attendance at the briefing. Rep. Poe (R-TX) asked Tillerson whether the U.S. supports “a peaceful regime change” and whether it is U.S. policy “to lead things as they are or set up a peaceful long-term regime change.” Tillerson implied that, it was U.S. policy to move toward supporting regime change, stating the U.S. would “work toward support of those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of those governments.” 

The Obama administration was careful to avoid associating itself definitively and publicly with efforts to topple the regime, recognizing that it could undermine the cause of the Iranian people seeking to move their government in a more moderate direction as well as opportunities for negotiations. Further, given Tillerson’s dismissal of Iran’s elections when the moderate Hassan Rouhani trounced the hardline Ebrahim Raisi, it is unlikely Tillerson is endorsing the method that Iranian voters have chosen – gradual change through participation. Such an endorsement is more likely to be a boon to groups seeking to violently overthrow the Iranian government, such as the MEK. As a result, the Trump administration could be headed toward repeating the mistakes of the U.S.-sponsored overthrow of Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953. 

On top of Tillerson’s effective endorsement of regime change, the top diplomat gave no indication that he had considered engaging Iran diplomatically. In response to a question from Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) on whether he would press his Iranian counterparts on the whereabouts of his constituent, Bob Levinson, who disappeared in Iran in 2007, Tillerson stated “I have no current schedule to meet with the Iranians.”

Similarly, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday, Tillerson dismissed suggestions from Sen. Murphy to engage in direct negotiations with Iran over Yemen. According to Tillerson, “The Iranians are part of the problem…They are not directly at the table because we do not believe they have earned a seat at that table. We would like for the Iranians to end their flow of weapons to the Houthis, in particular their flow of sophisticated missiles to the Houthis. We need for them to stop supplying that, and we are working with others as to how to get their agreement to do that.”

In a further departure from the Obama administration, Tillerson ascribed hegemonic aspirations to Iran, despite the fact that it is being outspent militarily 5 to 1 by Saudi Arabia. Tillerson stated that the U.S., “must counter Iran’s aspirations of hegemony in the region.” President Obama described Iran as a regional power and urged Saudi Arabia to learn how to coexist.

However, Tillerson did decline to endorse the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization when questioned by Rep. Poe, stating, “we continually review the merits both from the standpoint of diplomatic but also from international consequences of designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its entirety as a terrorist organization.” An Iran sanctions bill that just passed the Senate (S. 722) would push the Trump administration to issue such a designation, and Poe has been pushing a similar measure in the House.

While the Iran policy review is currently still underway, Sec. Tillerson’s effective endorsement of regime change, disinterest in Iran negotiations and continued harsh rhetoric bodes ill for the administration’s yet-to-emerge strategy.

 

Rohrabacher on Tehran Terror Attacks: “Isn’t That a Good Thing?”

Republican congressman Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), who represents more Iranian Americans than nearly any other lawmaker in the House of Representatives, suggested on Thursday that the recent ISIS terror attacks in Tehran were a positive development during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Hezbollah. Rohrabacher’s apparent praise for the attacks, which left 17 Iranians dead, came after President Donald Trump issued a statement condemning the attacks but also suggesting that Iran had deserved to be struck.

“We have recently seen an attack on Iran, and the Iranian government – the mullahs, I believe that Sunni forces have attacked them,” noted Rohrabacher before suggesting that the attack could be a “ratcheting up” of U.S. commitments against Iran. He then asked the panel, “Isn’t it a good thing for us to have the United States finally backing up Sunnis who will attack Hezbollah and the Shiite threat to us, isn’t that a good thing? And if so, maybe…this is a Trump strategy of actually supporting one group against another.”

Panelist, Dr. Matthew Levitt, firmly responded to his outrageous question, “Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic state. It is never in our interest to support a terrorist group like the Islamic state. We should condemn the attacks on Iran as we would condemn any act of terrorism.” This answer did not seem to satisfy Rohrabacher, as he interrupted Levitt to assert that even though Joseph Stalin was a “horrible guy,” maybe we should team up with him if it means defeating Hitler.
 

Rohrabacher concluded, saying, “Maybe we should consider having radical Muslim terrorists fighting each other, I’ll leave it at that.”

Rohrabacher has a long history of bizarre and offensive statements on Iran, but his callousness toward the Iranian victims of ISIS terror might be his most callous and extreme thus far. Furthermore, he appears to suggest, without any evidence – that the Tehran attacks could have been part of a Trump master plan to target Iran. There is no indication supporting the theory of U.S. or any other nation’s involvement in the attack, yet hardliners in Iran have hinted at such motivations in the wake of heightened anti-Iran rhetoric in Saudi Arabia following Trump’s visit to Riyadh.

The congressman is a close ally of President Trump’s and was previously under consideration for a Secretary of State. He also represents a swing district that voted for Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 2016. According to the most recent census data, more than 8,000 Iranian-Americans reside in Rohrabacher’s district, making it one of the most populous districts for Iranian Americans in the country.

NIAC Joins Over 100 Groups In Urging Mayors to Disavow Anti-Muslim Rallies

A coalition of 129 national and local organizations sent letters to 29 mayors in advance of anti-Muslim marches scheduled in their cities on Saturday, June 10.

The letters call on the mayors to embrace “values of pluralism, diversity, and liberty for all while firmly rejecting the forces of hate and bigotry that seek to divide us.”

A series of anti-Muslim marches are being held in 29 cities to coincide with the Ramadan holiday and are being hosted by a hate group called ACT for America. As documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Facebook pages for the marches include violent and racist rhetoric.

ACT for America’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, regularly vilifies Muslims, claiming that practicing Muslims cannot be loyal to the United States. Both she and ACT have had a long history of promoting policies at the federal and state levels intended to manufacture fear of Muslims.

The letters cite vast increases in hate crime against Muslims and urge the mayors of these cities to reject the bigotry of these marches, assure the safety of their constituents, and to issue statements condemning the marches happening in the cities.

The full text of the letter and of its signers and linked PDFs of each of the letters are below:

This article originally appeared on MuslimAdvocates.org.

NIAC Takes First Step in Legal Challenge to Extreme Vetting

In a proactive measure to fight back against the administrative Muslim ban being implemented by the Trump administration, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the State Department today. As a part of this information request, NIAC is requesting that the State Department produce a variety of relevant documents which may confirm suspicions and data that the Trump administration is using “extreme vetting” to deny visa requests on unconstitutional grounds rather than bona fide national security concerns.
 
Data seems to show that President Donald Trump has found a backdoor to fulfilling his campaign promise of banning Muslims from entering the United States. He recently tweeted about his desire to abandon the “watered down” revised Muslim ban and return back to the original, more discriminatory and unconstitutional, Muslim ban. Trump then noted that despite the court orders, the administration is pursuing “extreme vetting.” NIAC fully intends on getting to the truth of how “extreme vetting” is being interpreted, implemented, and enforced. If the records obtained confirm that the Trump administration is imposing a de facto Muslim ban, NIAC will pursue all available legal remedies to protect the Iranian-American community and fight back against this, and any other, discriminatory and constitutionally offensive policy.

View a PDF of the FOIA request here.

 

Republican Senator Collins: Muslim Ban is “Not the Right Way to Go.”

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s outrageous tweetstorms following the recent terrorist attacks on London, a fissure may finally be developing between the Trump administration and certain Republican lawmakers over Trump’s Muslim ban.

Following both of Trump’s attempts to ban visas for Iranians and other targeted countries, nearly every single Democrat in Congress has sponsored legislation to repeal and defund the ban. But not one Republican has joined that effort and instead the President’s party has largely given its silent imprimatur for the ban. However, this is beginning to change.

Early this week, President Trump took to Twitter to express his frustrations, writing, “We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!” He continued to send a barrage of tweets, stating that “the Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban” rather than the “watered down, politically correct version they submitted [to the Supreme Court].”

This past weekend, it was evident that Trump’s Republican colleagues are starting to break with him. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Susan Collins (R-ME) both spoke to the press this weekend, arguing that a travel ban is not the best course of action for United States security. During an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Senator Blunt noted, “It’s been four months since I said they needed four months to put that [extreme vetting] in place…I think you can do that without a travel ban and hopefully we are.” Similarly, while discussing the ban on “Face the Nation”, Senator Collins stated that while she supports a more rigorous vetting process, she does “believe that the very broad ban that [Trump] has proposed is not the right way to go.”

Collins has voiced her opposition to Trump and his policies since before the election. In January, she asserted that “there should never, never be a religious test for refugee status and people practicing a particular religion should not be subject to a higher burden of proof than those who adhere to another religion,” and referred to the policy as “likely unconstitutional.” But many in the Republican caucus expressed opposition during the presidential campaign to Trump’s calls for a Muslim ban. Everyone from Paul Ryan to Mike Pence criticized Trump’s pledge to ban Muslims as a candidate, but most have changed their tune since he was elected.

These new statements illustrate that perhaps we are approaching a breaking point and, at least for some Republicans, they have had enough.  Still, while these comments against the ban are a step in the right direction, no Republican has supported legislative action to actually halt the ban. And they have not yet said anything about the administration’s effort to create a framework to systematically discriminate against Muslims – effectively a “backdoor” Muslim ban that is being put in place.

The existing vetting process for obtaining a US immigration visa is already highly extensive and can take months to complete. Trump’s new “extreme vetting” proposal now in place aims to correct this allegedly inadequate system by ensuring that all new immigrants “share our values.” This includes measures such as providing five years worth of social media history. Since the president has made it clear that he believes “there is no real assimilation” with Muslim immigrants, this extreme vetting program seems to serve as a means to drive down the number of people from a Muslim background in the United States, rather than keeping out terrorists.  It is imperative that congressional Republicans and Democrats alike ensure that extreme vetting is not used as a cover for reaching the same ends as the travel ban.