32BJ advocates for Muslims in dire straits
Stephon Johnson | 2/2/2017, 4:50 p.m.
Didn’t matter if you had a green card, a work visa or were escaping conflict. If you were from a nation on a President Donald Trump’s list, you weren’t coming into America.
Last weekend, the president issued an executive order that banned travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Sudan and Yemen) from entering the United States for 90 days and also banned Syrian refugee admission indefinitely and other refugee admissions for 120 days.
While called a “Muslim ban” by critics, Trump argues that it isn’t a Muslim ban and it’s only temporary. However, former New York City Mayor and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani told Fox News that Trump called him asking him to figure out how to do a Muslim ban using already existing law.
“‘Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally,’” Giuliani said Trump told him.
After the latest developments, activists and labor leaders such as 32BJ President Hector Figueroa called Trump’s Muslim ban another example of the administration’s war “with the facts.”
“The reality is that immigrants and refugees are actually less likely to be criminals than people born in the U.S.,” said Figueroa in a statement. “This truly cruel act of political posturing does nothing to keep our country safe and is already turning into a nightmare for numerous Muslim refugees and green card holders who have already been detained at JFK airport and other gateways to our country. Families are being divided, workers won’t be able to return to work, businesses are losing loyal employees and valuable costumers. Students won’t be going back to school.
“This is not our country,” Figueroa continued. “Our nation is at its best when we fight injustice.”
Continuing the theme of fighting injustice, 32BJ came out against a wheelchair assistance service at John F. Kennedy Airport that has been accused of violating Human Rights Law. Pax Assist, Inc. is accused of discrimination for denying requests from Muslim employees for break time to pray and break fast during Ramadan. The company allegedly harassed Muslim employees over a radio system when they requested break time.
Pax Assist, Inc. serves 32 airlines and employs more than 250 workers at Terminal 4 at JFK.
“Airline subcontractors like Pax should respect their employees, not only for the hard work they do and important services they provide to passengers every day, but also as human beings and people with families, convictions and human dignity,” said Figueroa in a statement. “New York is a place where we respect the rights of all people and stand up for each other. We will not tolerate this type of treatment in our city.”
And 32BJ wasn’t done with defending Muslim-Americans, Muslim and Arab immigrants and refugees from majority-Muslim countries.
Last week, at JFK Airport, a passenger attacked a Muslim airline employee and invoked President Donald Trump’s name, shouting, “[Expletive] Islam.” Robin Rhodes, before kicking Rabeeya Khan in the leg, kneeled in mock prayer and said Trump will “get rid of all of you” and “you will see what happens.”
Authorities arrested Rhodes and charged him with assault, unlawful imprisonment and menacing and harassment as hate crimes.
32BJ responded in kind.
“Like Rabeeya Khan, who has real reason to be afraid, too many American working families are living in fear as the Trump administration unrolls its nationalist agenda of persecution and division targeting immigrants, refugees and those of Muslim faith,” read the union’s statement. “It is up to all of us to stand up and protect those who are attacked and disrespected, and to actively oppose hateful and discriminatory policies. Our airports are international hubs, as diverse as New York itself, and airport workers are on the front lines keeping millions of passengers safe and secure.”