Barack Obama, President of the United States
Hillary Clinton, Candidate for President of the United States
Donald Trump, Candidate for President of the United States
Paul Ryan, Speaker of the US House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the US House of Representatives
Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader of the US Senate
Harry Reid, Minority Leader of the US Senate
Jeh Johnson, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
As organizations representing diverse LGBT communities and Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities, we write to express our deep concern regarding the divisive rhetoric and reactionary public policy objectives that have emerged since the mass shooting in Orlando. Our communities are still in mourning after forty-nine, mostly LGBTQ Latinx lives were lost and dozens more were injured. At the same time, many of our organizations have come together through words and actions to express our unity and solidarity.
At this moment, as we collectively attempt to respond to the massacre in Orlando, it is vital that our political leaders set the right tone and example for the rest of the nation. Unfortunately, in the 48 hours since the tragedy, many political leaders have resorted to divisive and inflammatory rhetoric by characterizing the Orlando massacre as an act of terror, and by calling for policies and actions that would disproportionately target those who are Muslim or come from South Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
We ask that the President, presidential candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties, Congressional leaders, and Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security set the right tone: send strong and frequent public messages about the importance of coming together rather than giving into backlash; refrain from dangerous anti-Muslim sentiment; and resist enacting policies that will harm our communities in the name of national security.
We ask that you affirmatively recognize the homophobia and transphobia that motivated this violence, and refrain from defining the shooting as an act of international terrorism—a term reserved in public discourse for acts committed by Muslims. Instead, we ask that you call it what it is: a hate crime against the LGBT community and an act of gun violence.
Although we recognize the tragic nature of the shooting, and the immense fear the shooter caused, the word “terrorist” becomes the norm only when the shooter is Muslim, or perceived as such. As a result, in the wake of 9/11, we have seen devastating hatred towards Muslim, South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. Those of us who are queer and trans* have been especially vulnerable to violence and backlash. This characterization has resulted in broken noses and bruised bodies. It has blamed and held entire communities responsible for every action associated with those words.
We call on you, our leaders, to remind the public that we must not scapegoat Muslim, South Asian, and Arab communities for the act of one person. Whatever warped justification the shooter may have claimed, his actions are a hate crime. Every religious tradition explicitly condemns the killing of innocent people, but murder knows no faith. We do not want to see our communities live through another surge of harmful policies as a result of the massacre in Orlando. Our LGBT communities will not be used as a justification for Islamophobia, which impacts so many of us.
Alongside dangerous rhetoric, reactionary public policies that trade individual liberties for a façade of security based on fear have led to devastating consequences for Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities in the 15 years since the 9/11 attacks. These communities, and especially our queer and trans* community members, have borne the brunt of laws and policies such as the Patriot Act, special registration or NSEERS, arbitrary interrogations, unlawful watch lists, unprecedented rates of detentions and deportations, inappropriate profiling, and surveillance by federal and local law enforcement authorities of mosques, Muslim student associations, restaurants, and cricket and soccer games.
15 years later, we do not want to live through the “spirit of 9/12” yet again. We call on you to curtail policies such as:
- The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) program, including intelligence gathering from the Internet and social media, which targets Muslims and has been shown to be ineffective. We are particularly concerned about H.R. 5471, the Countering Terrorist Radicalization Act
- Expansion of FBI access to a range of revealing and personal details about individuals’ online communications, or Electronic Communications Transactional Records (ECTR)
- Immigration enforcement that disproportionately profile our communities, such as the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Priority Enforcement Program (PEP)
We ask you to:
- Roll back existing Countering Violent Extremism programs, especially the “Don’t Be a Puppet” program that asks young people to criminalize each other
- Issue a guidance from the Department of Homeland Security banning legalized profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and gender identity without exemption, including in national security and immigration enforcement. Community organizations have been in conversation with DHS about this guidance for months, but we have not seen a result
- Promote common sense legislation to keep guns out of dangerous hands, without further criminalizing Muslims, immigrants, people of color, and people with mental health struggles
We request a meeting with you to further discuss these matters. This is a time when we need our leaders to stand with us to denounce prejudice, violence, and policies that inflict harm on any community. Our strength is our unity. We look forward to hearing from you.
National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance
Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO (APALA)
Asian Pacific Islander Queer Sacramento Coalition
Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership (APPEAL)
Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations
Brown Boi Project
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement
GALA, Inc. (Guam)
Gay Asian Pacific Alliance
i2i: Asian Pacific Islander Pride of Chicago
KmB: Pro-People Youth
Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum
National Asian American Pacific Islander Mental Health Association
National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
National Center for Lesbian Rights
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium
National LGBTQ Task Force
Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southerners On New Ground (SONG)
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Milwaukee Chapt. 102
Viet Rainbow of Orange County (VROC)
We Belong Together
Witness to Mass Incarceration