IAPAC Joins Know Your Rights Press Briefing in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA - The Iranian American Know Your Rights Campaign held its second press briefing on August 3rd at the National Legal Sanctuary for Community Advancement (NLSCA), headquartered in San Francisco. The Iranian American Political Action Committee (IAPAC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) joined several prominent civil rights organizations in bringing the campaign to Northern California – continuing the coalition’s efforts to inform Iranian Americans about the threat of discrimination and the available resources to prevent such inequities.
The purpose of the Know Your Rights Campaign is to educate Iranian Americans on their civil rights and liberties as well as to educate mainstream America about the Iranian American community. “It exists because each organization noticed an influx of calls from the Iranian American community concerning discrimination. These organizations decided to get together and create a safety net for this newly targeted community. The goal is to be proactive in assisting the community rather than reactive,” said Ms. Banafsheh Akhlaghi, President of NLSCA.
An important component of the Know Your Rights Campaign is the inclusion of federal agencies, such as the EEOC. The purpose of the EEOC is to file charges where employment discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin or age has occurred. “The EEOC, while a government agency, is here to protect. Our biggest difficulty is that immigrant communities either do not know about us or are too afraid to approach a government agency for help,” said Ms. Joan Ehrlich, EEOC San Francisco District Director.
Representing the national American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). office, Ms. Dalia Hashad spoke about the necessity to extend the ACLU’s outreach to the Iranian American community. “The reason the ACLU is involved in this is because there has been a noticed increase in the number of Iranian Americans being discriminated against across the board. We realized that our broader outreach does not reach the Iranian American community.” Ms. Hashad pointed out that the ACLU provides valuable Know Your Rights information addressing questions and concerns in English and in seven different languages, including Farsi.
“To alleviate fear and allow Iranian Americans to step forward and share their stories, coalition members felt it was important to have a Congressional resolution complementing the work of the Know Your Rights Campaign,” said Ms. Taeiss Mojazza, IAPAC Board Member. “Working with the NLSCA, we submitted information concerning the Iranian American community and examples of discrimination against Iranian nationals to members of Congress.” On July 19, 2005, Congressman Martin Meehan (D-5th/MA) and Congressman Christopher Shays (R-4th/CT) introduced House Resolution 367 condemning bigotry, violence and discrimination against Iranian Americans. Cosponsors include, Congressman Tom Feeney (R-24th/FL), Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-14th/NY), Congressman John Mica (R-7th/FL), Congressman Robert Simmons (R-2nd/CT) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-30th/CA). The resolution outlines serious concerns over increasing reports of discrimination against Iranian Americans, including findings in the Inspector General’s Report of discriminatory enforcement of immigration laws, arrests followed by detentions for extended periods of time without charges, denials of access to counsel and abuse by prison guards of nationals of Iranian origin.
Joining coalition partners, Mr. Ross Mirkarimi, the first American of Iranian descent elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, announced his intentions of complementing the Know Your Rights Campaign by introducing San Francisco City Resolution in support of H.Res.367.
The speakers at the briefing emphasized the importance of community awareness and gave concrete examples of discrimination cases against Iranian Americans, such as security clearance denials, immigration and FBI profiling.
Participants also discussed future endeavors of hosting town-hall meetings to bring members of the community together with representatives from the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security. The Campaign stresses the importance of creating working relationships with government agencies as a means of combating discrimination against the Iranian American community.
As the briefing came to a close, Ms. Akhlaghi reiterated the purpose of the Know Your Rights Campaign: “The Iranian American community is very warm and generous and the organizations here today want the community to know that civil rights apply to them. These organizations are here to stand for them in ensuring that these rights are honored.”