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Metro area legal group vows to guard civil rights

Candice Williams

Members of the local legal community recently gathered to discuss the effects of a Donald Trump presidency after campaign comments about a national Muslim registry, “extreme vetting of immigrants” and a temporary ban from those from countries with terror ties.

Nearly 20 attorneys gathered earlier this month at a dinner hosted by the Arab American Civil Rights League to discuss how they can collectively monitor and defend against civil rights violations. It was the first of many gatherings expected, said Nasser Beydoun, chairman for ACRL. Another gathering for local attorneys will be scheduled for mid-January.

“The community needs to see the leadership in action,” Beydoun said. “Not afraid, willing to take a position, willing to stand up to Trump.”

Among the ideas proposed were forming a coalition with other local agencies and organizations and acting as a clearing house to gather and share information on civil rights issues.

“We can make some noise,” said Nabih Ayad, attorney and founder of the ACRL. “That’s what needs to be done.”

Among the concerns are a proposal Trump’s policy advisers are considering that would establish a registry for immigrants from Muslim countries. That’s in addition to what civil rights groups say would be an extreme vetting of those entering the United States, something Trump touted on the campaign trail.

The issue is of particular concern for attorneys and civil rights groups in Metro Detroit, which has one of the largest concentrations of Arab-Americans in the country.

Tim Lineberger, who served as Michigan communications director for Trump’s campaign, declined to comment, referring questions to representatives from the transition team, who did not respond.

Noel Saleh, an attorney and state board member of American Civil Liberties Union, pointed to the treatment of the Arab-American community after 9/11.

“We’re very concerned, and I think legitimately, so that the pronouncements from the Trump candidacy, if they were to come true, are going to be more serious than the civil assault that we faced following 9/11,” he said.

Saleh said everyone’s civil liberties are at stake.

“Once you start wiping away civil liberties then they get wiped away from everybody,” he said. “We have an obligation to ourselves as Arab-Americans, we have a obligation as Americans to make certain that our society stays true to its ideals.”

Among the local groups ACRL plans to reached out include the NAACP, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Lebanese American Heritage Club and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of CAIR, said he is aware of similar conversations taking place. He said his organization will be prepared to bring litigation against the Trump administration.

“It’s an uneasy time. No doubt,” Walid said. “For Muslims in Michigan, I would say it’s time to be concerned, but there should not be despair.”