On Activism

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I’m sitting at a Macy’s right now, helping my father and brothers find a suit to wear to a wedding we’re attending this weekend. I don’t know much about suits, or sizing, or how they’re supposed to fit, but by virtue of the extra X in my cells and being off on break, I’m the on-call fashionista. Them slipping into the dressing room is time I’m using to catch up on everything I’ve missed since isolating myself on the island that is medicine-and it’s been a lot.

This time last year the world was shocked to learn that Donald J. Trump became president-elect of the Divided States of America. The country was on edge, protests announcing “not my president” sprang from sea to shining see. Americans who had so much more than economics and policies to lose over the election had a difficult time processing what this actually meant: our neighbors validated a campaign that built its success on sentiments that were misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, racist-the list went on and on.

I remembered how I felt. Bewildered at this reality. Absolutely frightened, as a visible hijab-wearing Muslim woman. Hopeless because I never thought that the America I was born in, one that prided itself in life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, on freedom of expression, religion, speech, and press, could and would culminate to this.

I remember coming out of the 2016 election revitalized to join the resistance, to be among coalitions formed beyond race, religion, sex, orientation, to build the groundwork for the future. I witnessed that despite what the election meant, a movement of unity was brewing. I wanted to be a part of it.

Now that it’s the end of 2017 I’ve come to reflect that I haven’t been as vocal with politics as I have previously because it’s a lot of hurt for something I don’t have the capacity to change. It was the Muslim Ban, the Woman’s March, the continuous harassment allegations that seemed to change nothing, the tweets, the almost world wars, the continued loss of lives to senseless gun terrorism. Instead I’ve focused on what I’m capable of: impacting the lives around me, protesting through my existence, my love, my hope, ideas part of a future generation building acceptance and solidarity by waking up to the injustices of this world and revolting.  Reading, watching, being informed (with correct information), discussing. But I’m here.

So here I am, sitting in a Macy’s, waiting as the men of my family suit up, thinking that perhaps I should use this time to make good to the spirit of me from a year ago ready to be a civil rights warrior. These are causes that could use a little more help:

DACA and the Dreamers

DACA stands for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It was an immigration program signed in 2012 by then President Obama in response to the failure of the DREAM act (path to citizenship for those who have only known America as their home) to pass both houses. DACA allowed undocumented immigrants who arrived to America before their sixteenth birthday to temporarily live, study, and work in the United States with options to renew every two years. A couple months ago Trump called an end to this program, which left thousands of Dreamers with an impending date in which their permit with permission to be in the US would expire and they would become “illegal” and vulnerable to deportation. The number of those affected by this decision: almost 800,000.

If deported these Dreamers will be returning to a country they only know of from stories and pictures. Their whole life has been built in the United States-they are our neighbors, our leaders, and contributing members of society who are oftentimes working twice as hard for half of what this country can give.

As a person who missed the dreamer deadline by luck of timing, I stand with DACA, I stand with Dreamers.

Congress has six months to pass a bill protecting Dreamers. Currently the only way to keep DACA going by the end of the year is to pass Dream Act legislation by leveraging votes for a must-pass spending bill going through Congress right now, but the idea of shutting down the government has dwindled support for this. It looks more like early next year before the topic can be successfully bridged again.

Dreamers are out in DC right now, risking deportation, pushing members of Congress to support them and everyone like them who have only ever known this country.

Here are some resources I’ve found:
Holiday Dreamer Action Plan
United We Dream
#OurDream
National Immigration Law Center
ACLU

CHIP

CHIP stands for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It’s a program that was signed in 1997 that allowed the federal government to match funds to states in order to help provide health insurance to children of families with incomes that neither qualified for Medicaid nor private insurance. The program also supports women who are expecting. All states have taken advantage of this program that now covers 9 million children, granting them access to health care they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford: routine checkups, immunizations, medications, sick visits, hospital care etc.

Congress was so consumed with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the tax reform bill that they allowed funding for CHIP to expire-for the first time since it was signed-without renewal in early October. This means that the federal government can no longer match funds to the states. Without reauthorizations, states will and have already started running out of funds and consequently 9 million children in the United States will lose access to a basic human right beginning in 2018.

CHIP has always been bipartisan. The lack of coverage and concern for children of this nation who fall between the health insurance gap is alarming.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality, a term coined by Tim Wu, is the concept that the internet should remain a neutral ground in which every person with access to the internet should have equal access to all the content available at their fingertips, regardless of the provider that gives them their internet services, whether it be AT&T or Comcast, or by any other means of discrimination based on age, sex, application, website, platform, etc. The concept of net neutrality isn’t new and there has been a verbiage war for decades. For the purpose of this post, 2015 was the year that the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) reclassified broadband as a telecommunication service. That is, the internet would be under the same federal regulation as our telephone services. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) were no longer allowed to block content, slow down services, or request fees for specialized access.

On Dec 14th the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) voted to repeal Net Neutrality. That is, they are removing all regulations that once ensured the internet would remain a free space to all those who accessed it.

Opponents say that removing Net Neutrality does nothing and that the world should calm down because the internet worked fine before Net Neutrality was enacted in 2015-but if you actually looked into this you’d see that the FCC had to throttle attempts by ISPs to block certain services, like that one time AT&T told Apple to block users from using Skype to make phone calls over wifi when AT&T had exclusive iPhone rights and when Google Wallet was shunned by AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. Even Netflix had an outcry of hypocrisy when it came out they were slowing down streaming speed for those using AT&T and Verizon. Tim Wu phrases this much more eloquently than I-

Basic economic theory suggests that operators have a long-term interest coincident with the public: both should want a neutral platform that supports the emergence of the very best applications. However the evidence suggests the operators may have paid less attention to their long-term interests than might be ideal. A 2002 survey of operator practices conducted for this paper suggests a tendency to favor short-term results. In that year, evidence of a discrimination problem became clear from several sources, including consumer complaints about operators who ban classes of applications or equipment, like servers, Virtual Private Networks, or WiFi devices,  and in filings at the Federal Communications Commission by application developers.  The survey in this paper shows that operators indeed had implemented significant contractual and architectural limits on certain classes of applications. Operators showed an unfortunate tendency to want to ban new or emerging applications or network attachments, like WiFi devices or Virtual Private Networks, perhaps out of suspicion or an (often futile) interest in price discrimination.

Now it’s up to Congress to use something called the CRA: Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress up to 60 days to reverse regulatory actions to save net neutrality. Organizations like the ACLU are on the forefront of making sure this happens.

So what can we do?

Call, call, call. Let your congressman/woman know that you are not a bystander and that they cannot sit in a governmental office without representing you:

Click here for contact information for your House representative.
Click here for contact information for your Senate representative.
Click here for contact information to your representative’s local district offices.

General Advocacy tips:

  • When making a phone call, consider telling the staffer you don’t need a response. It’ll get you off the phone faster (so more people can call) and contribute to the tally staff aids usually keep for a cause. You don’t need a long message, or a rant. Short, sweet, and to the point is more than enough:
    • “Hello, my name is _________. I’m a constituent from (state), (zip code) ____. I strongly support the passage of a Dream Act and encourage Senator/Rep (your representative) to support legislation that will protect our undocumented youth and ensure a path to legal citizenship for those who have only known America as their home. Thank you!”
    • “Hello, my name is _________. I’m a constituent from (state), (zip code). I strongly support renewing funding for CHIP and encourage Senator/Rep (your representative) to continue to support access to healthcare for the children of our state. Thank you!”
    • “Hello, my name is _________. I’m a constituent from (state), (zip code). I strongly support net neutrality and encourage Senator/Rep (your representative) to repeal any legislation that does not defend non-discriminatory internet access. Thank you!”
  • Paying visits to offices make a huge impact, and if you have the means to do so/live nearby, it is definitely worth the effort to make an appointment. Do not go empty handed though. Staffers love when you bring in a quick summary sheet of the cause you’re advocating for complete with research and the numbers of applicable bills that are on the floor. If you have a new cause you want to get policy drafted on they’ll oftentimes use your research to draft the bill.
  • Consistency is key. Do not drop a cause you’re passionate about. Change takes patience and time. Continue to call offices. If you have the means, join advocacy groups. It’s a numbers game-the more people they see/hear from, the more likely they are to lean to a certain view and cause. Join groups, advocate together.

2018 is a midterm election year. Keep reading, keep up with the effort. Be informed, be engaged. Hold each other accountable. Change can be made, we have Alabama to thank for giving us hope that what comes next is ours for the voting.

All of this, at the end of the day, is for our future. It’s time we start building it.

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