Census 2020 opens old wounds for Arab Americans

Census 2020 opens old  wounds for Arab Americans
Community divisions are hindering Arab Americans in their fight for census recognition, observers warn. (AFP)
Updated 29 July 2019

Census 2020 opens old wounds for Arab Americans

Census 2020 opens old  wounds for Arab Americans
  • The US census, conducted every 10 years, identifies the interests and national origins of all citizens
  • 'Arabs' remain unlisted as an ethnic group by the Census Bureau, an oversight affecting their share of federal funding

CHICAGO: Every 10 years, the US census not only counts how many people live in America but also identifies their interests and national origins. It determines how more than $600 million in federal funding is dispersed to communities to address their concerns.

Additionally, census data is mandated to ensure equal representation and treatment in government.

Anna Mustafa, who emigrated to the US in 1962 to join her late brother and father who had already settled in Chicago, believes the importance of the 24th US census, known as Census 2020, cannot be overstated.

“Arab Americans need to be and have to be counted in the census,” she told Arab News.

“The census is very important because it determines the allocation of dollars, the political influence, and the representation that we and all Americans are entitled to in the US.

“The more Arab numbers there are, the more federal funding and the more political power we deserve. It’s like that for every other ethnic and racial group.”


FAST FACTS

Lebanese Americans constitute a greater part of the total number of Arab Americans living in most states.

Egyptian Americans are the largest Arab group in Georgia, New Jersey and Tennessee.

• Illinois has the greatest concentration of Palestinians.

• There are almost as many Iraqis living in Michigan as there are living in California.

Source: Arab American Institute Foundation


The census asks about many different ethnic and racial groups, including Whites, African Americans, Hispanics, Mexicans, Latinos, Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders and the category of “Other.” But it has never included a category for Arabs.

Mustafa believes Arabs need to be acknowledged. Since her arrival in the US, the Arab population in Chicago and throughout the country has continued to increase. She and her family were inspired by President John F. Kennedy, who had defined himself as a champion of immigrants in his 1958 book “A Nation of Immigrants.”

Mustafa and others watched as the Palestinian and Jordanian communities steadily grew after the 1967 and 1973 Arab-Israeli wars as people fled political persecution in the 1980s and conflict in the 1990s.

Moved by Kennedy’s vision of an immigrant nation, Mustafa became involved in helping to accurately identify the Arab population. She was recruited by the country’s Census Bureau in the 1980s to encourage members of the Arab American community to complete census forms and become involved.

Mustafa quickly rose to leadership. She was appointed by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley in September 1990 as the first and only Arab American trustee on the Chicago Board of Education, the third-largest school district in the US.




Samer Khalaf, American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee president, calls for census inclusion. (Supplied photo)

The board oversees education for more than 400,000 school students in 600 schools. Almost 10 percent of the students were Arab American, a result of the growth spurt in legal Arab immigration to the country.

The year 1990 was critical both for the US census and ethnic and racial minorities such as Arab Americans. The census that year showed that the Hispanic community’s growth was faster than that of Arab Americans, but the population was divided geographically into two large populations: Puerto Rican and Mexican Americans on Chicago’s North Side and a large concentration of Mexican Americans on the South Side.

Although the two areas were more than two miles apart, the government connected them in 1991 by “an umbilical cord,” creating one of the most unusually shaped Congressional districts ever drawn and Chicago’s first-ever Hispanic-majority district.

The district had been represented by white men since its founding in 1843. But on Jan. 3, 1992, Luis Gutierrez, a former cab driver and Chicago alderman, was sworn in as Chicago’s first Latino American Congress member.

“That showed me how powerful and meaningful the census really was,” Mustafa said. “By getting an accurate count of Hispanics in the census, the government was compelled to create a district for the Hispanic community. I felt if our Arab community was counted accurately, we could achieve the same political strength and success.”

Mustafa was recruited again by the Census Bureau in 2000 to help encourage Arab Americans to complete their census forms.

I wanted us to be identified as Arab, but others wanted us to be identified by individual national groups.

Anna Mustafa

Arabs could write in their ethnicity in the “Other” category, and there was a new drive to have the word “Arab” included among the dozens of other ethnic and racial groups already identified on the census forms.

Samer Khalaf, national president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), said that Arab Americans have been pushing to be included in the census for more thanthree decades.

In recent years, there was a push to create the “MENA” category representing Middle East and North Africa.

“We believe that it is crucial for our community to be counted fairly and accurately,” Khalaf said. “They only way to do that with any certainty is to have a category for our community.  The census’ own studies showed that when the MENA category was included, the numbers were more accurate.”

The push to create the MENA category began following the 2010 census during the administration of President Barack Obama, but it never received the support it needed.

In January 2018, the proposal was formally rejected by newly elected President Donald Trump. Despite the rejection, Khalaf said, the drive to create a category for “MENA” or “Arab” is far from dead. “We have been fighting for the category for about 30 years and we will continue fighting for it until it is added,” said Khalaf, who has been at the forefront of fighting for census inclusion for Arab Americans.

“Of course, my preference would be for an ‘Arab’ category. I believe it more accurately describes our community. MENA is purely a geographical designation with multiple definitions. The decision to agree to a MENA category was a compromise that the Arab American organizations made to facility the inclusion of the category.”




Race questions on 2020 Census

Mustafa also prefers “Arab,” although she said that it might be easier to get MENA passed as a category. The real problem is that many other Arab American organizations have focused on political power and funding, which has fueled divisions within the community, she added.

Today, the Arab American community is more divided, with fractures based on individual national identities and even on religion, she said.

“What’s holding us back is our community divisions, as well as people in the US government who don’t want us to be recognized or to have power.

“In 2000, I felt there was support to have a category for Arab Americans. But what happened was that in less than one year that support for the census disappeared.

“It seemed we started to make our own trouble. Our community started to divide itself and we became weak. I wanted us to be identified as Arab, but others wanted us to be identified by individual national groups such as Palestinians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians, etc,” she said.

In the “White” category, the 2020 census form suggests that users identify their “race” and offers examples such as “German, Irish, English, Italian, Lebanese, Egyptian, etc.”

Today, no one really knows how many Arabs live in the US. The census has some data based on Arab Americans who check the “Other” box but add the word “Arab.” Based on that incomplete practice and extrapolating on a 2013 analysis of data collected during the 2010 census, the Census Bureau believes there are only 1.9 million Arabs in the country.

But groups such as ADC and the Arab American Institute (AAI) argue that the actual number is much bigger — almost 3.7 million roughly. Still others insist the figure is greater than 4.5 million, with high concentrations in Chicago’s suburbs.

According to the Arab American Institute’s data on demographics, there are more than 324,000 Arabs in California, 223,000 in Michigan, 152,000 in New York, 124,000 in Texas, 112,000 in Florida, 111,000 in Illinois and 108,000 in New Jersey, with smaller populations in Ohio, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

Last week, a New York federal judge barred President Trump from placing a question on the 2020 census that would ask Americans if they are citizens, and the public debate over the census has been muted. Ironically the “citizenship” question was always on the census forms until 2010, when it was quietly removed without much fanfare.

While Americans continue to focus on issues of legal and illegal immigration, Arab Americans are left wondering when they will be counted. Or, as Mustafa puts it: “When will Arab Americans get their fair share in funding and representation?”


EU targets key Belarus sectors after plane diversion

EU targets key Belarus sectors after plane diversion
Updated 21 June 2021

EU targets key Belarus sectors after plane diversion

EU targets key Belarus sectors after plane diversion
  • Ministers meeting in Luxembourg backed broad-ranging measures targeting major revenue sources for Belarus
  • Officials said measures include ban on sales of surveillance equipment and tightening of an arms embargo to be formally adopted by 27-nation bloc

LUXEMBOURG: EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed to sanction key sectors of the Belarus economy as the bloc ratchets up pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko after the forced landing of an airliner.
Ministers meeting in Luxembourg backed broad-ranging measures targeting major revenue sources for the Belarusian regime: potash fertilizer exports, the tobacco industry, petroleum and petrochemical products.
Officials said the measures — including a ban on sales of surveillance equipment to Belarus and tightening of an arms embargo — should be formally adopted by the 27-nation bloc in the coming days.
The ministers also officially signed off on adding 86 additional individuals and entities to an assets freeze and visa ban blacklist.
Seven people — including defense minister Viktor Khrenin and transport minister Alexei Avramenko — were sanctioned for the forced landing of a Ryanair passenger jet last month.
The remaining 71 individuals — including Russian tycoon Mikhail Gutseriyev, Lukashenko’s son Dmitry and daughter-in-law Liliya — were targeted for ties to the Belarus government’s sweeping crackdown on opposition or for supporting the regime.
“Today we have confirmed and decided that sectoral sanctions will be taken against Belarus, which will have a severe impact on the Belarusian economy,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said ahead of the meeting.
“We want the release of the political prisoners, an end to the violence against protesters and the opposition, and an inclusive dialogue that will lead to free and fair elections.”
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said earlier that the economic sanctions should be wrapped up after a summit of the bloc’s leaders in Brussels later this week.
“We’re going to hurt the economy of Belarus heavily.”
EU statistics show that trade with Belarus topped 10 billion euros in 2020.
Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who insists she rightfully won last year’s poll, welcomed the inclusion of business tycoons and top officials on the blacklist.
“It’s a rather strong sanction list,” she told a press conference in Brussels.
Belarusian strongman Lukashenko sparked international outrage by dispatching a fighter jet on May 23 to intercept the Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania.
When the plane was forced to land in Minsk, Belarus arrested dissident journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend Sofia Sapega on board.
The EU responded quickly by blocking Belarusian airlines from flying to the bloc and stopped carriers from its 27 nations from using Belarusian airspace.
The bloc had already slapped sanctions last year on 88 individuals — including Lukashenko and his son — over a brutal crackdown on protests since the veteran leader claimed victory at elections in August deemed fraudulent by the West.
The authorities detained thousands during the demonstrations and the EU says that some 500 political prisoners remain behind bars.
“We are clearly showing that Stalinism and state terror no longer have a place in the 21st century,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said.
Lukashenko, ruler of Belarus since 1994, has so far shrugged off the pressure with backing from his key ally Russia.
Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis complained that Belarus was hitting back by sending migrants, mostly Iraqis and Syrians, across its border.
He warned the flow could increase after sanctions were approved and that Lithuania “might need help and assistance from other European countries.”


German tourists investigated in Italy for fatal boat crash

German tourists investigated in Italy for fatal boat crash
Updated 21 June 2021

German tourists investigated in Italy for fatal boat crash

German tourists investigated in Italy for fatal boat crash
  • Investigators were awaiting results of blood analyses to determine if tourists were drinking before crash
  • Woman's body was recovered from the lake Sunday evening by Italian firefighter rescue divers

ROME: Two German tourists from Munich are being investigated in Italy for a boat collision on Lake Garda that killed an Italian man and woman, Italian Carabinieri paramilitary police said.
Italian state RaiNews24 TV said investigators were awaiting results on Monday of blood analyzes to determine if the tourists had been drinking before the crash. The Carabinieri said both Germans are free on their own recognizance while under investigation for alleged manslaughter and failure to provide assistance.
The woman’s body was recovered from the lake Sunday evening by Italian firefighter rescue divers and the man’s body was found in their small boat earlier in the day.
The Carabinieri office conducting the investigation declined to give further details because the probe is still ongoing.
The Corriere della Sera newspaper said the victims’ boat was badly gashed near the bow and that the man, 37, had suffered a grave abdominal wound. One of the 25-year-old woman’s legs was partially torn off, it said. A search had been launched for the woman after women’s clothing was found on the boat near the man’s body.
Police located the tourists after people noticed their docked motorboat was damaged, the Italian daily said.
The Italians reportedly had met with friends on shore Saturday evening, then headed out on the man’s boat and were about mid-lake when the vessel was struck by the motorboat. Corriere della Sera said investigators found pieces of wood from the Italian man’s boat imbedded in the tourists’ boat.
Lake Garda, which has many shoreline resorts in northern Italy, is very popular with European visitors.


UN rights chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by ‘serious violations’ in Ethiopia’s Tigray

UN rights chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by ‘serious violations’ in Ethiopia’s Tigray
Updated 21 June 2021

UN rights chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by ‘serious violations’ in Ethiopia’s Tigray

UN rights chief ‘deeply disturbed’ by ‘serious violations’ in Ethiopia’s Tigray
  • Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults, and forced displacement

GENEVA: The UN rights chief voiced alarm Monday at continued reports of “serious violations” in Ethiopia’s violence-wracked Tigray region, by all parties in the conflict, including continued abuses by Eritrean troops.
“I am deeply disturbed by continued reports of serious violations of international humanitarian law and gross human rights violations and abuses against civilians by all parties to the conflict,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council, pointing to “extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sexual violence against children as well as adults, and forced displacement.”


US envoy hopes North Korea responds positively on offered talks

US envoy hopes North Korea responds positively on offered talks
Updated 21 June 2021

US envoy hopes North Korea responds positively on offered talks

US envoy hopes North Korea responds positively on offered talks
  • United States’ diplomacy with North Korea stalled over its nuclear program and US-led sanctions

SEOUL: President Joe Biden’s special envoy for North Korea said Monday he hopes to see a positive reaction from the North soon on US offers for talks after the North Korean leader ordered officials to prepare for both dialogue and confrontation.
Sung Kim, Biden’s special representative for North Korea, is in Seoul to speak with South Korean and Japanese officials about the United States’ stalled diplomacy with the North over its nuclear program and US-led sanctions.
The trilateral talks followed a North Korean political conference last week where leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger efforts to improve his nation’s economy, further battered last year by pandemic border closures and now facing worsening food shortages.
The US envoy Sung Kim said the allies took note of the North Korean leader’s comments and are hoping the North will respond positively to the proposal of a meeting.
“We continue to hope that the DPRK will respond positively to our outreach and our offer to meet anywhere, anytime without preconditions,” Kim said during his meeting with South Korean and Japanese nuclear envoys, Noh Kyu-duk and Takehiro Funakoshi, respectively. He was referring to the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the officials from the three countries reaffirmed a coordinated approach toward North Korea and shared commitment to work toward a quick resumption of dialogue.
North Korea’s economic setbacks followed the collapse of Kim Jong Un’s ambitious summitry with then-President Donald Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North Koreans’ demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of their nuclear capabilities.
Kim Jong Un in recent political speeches has threatened to bolster his nuclear deterrent and claimed that the fate of diplomacy and bilateral relations depends on whether Washington abandons what he calls hostile policies.
US officials have suggested Biden would take the middle ground between Trump’s direct dealings with Kim and President Barack Obama’s policy of “strategic patience.” But some experts say the North likely must take concrete steps toward denuclearization before the Biden administration would ease any sanctions.
South Korea, which is eager for inter-Korean engagement, has expressed optimism about a quick resumption of diplomacy.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Kim’s comments during a ruling party meeting last week, where he said he expected both dialogue and confrontation with the United States, demonstrated a flexibility toward diplomacy.
But others saw Kim’s comments as merely a reiteration of Pyongyang’s wait-and-see stance of insisting Washington budge and offer concessions first.
While Kim urged officials to boost agricultural production and brace for prolonged COVID-19 restrictions, none of the decisions reported after the party meeting seemed directly related to facilitating talks with the United States.
While displaying an openness to talks, the Biden administration has provided little detail about its policy on North Korea beyond a long-term principle of taking a “calibrated and practical approach” on diplomacy while simultaneously upholding sanctions against the country.
Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat who defected and was elected a South Korean lawmaker, posted on Facebook that Kim’s comments at the party meeting seemed tailored to mirror what the Biden administration has said about the North.
“Advocates of engagement see Kim Jong Un’s recent mention of dialogue as a sign North Korea is opening the door for talks, but Pyongyang has not yet expressed a willingness for working-level negotiations on denuclearization,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.
He said the North may return to negotiations only after demonstrating its strength with post-pandemic economic recovery and provocative military tests, which could possibly come later this summer when the United States and South Korea usually hold their combined military exercises. The allies describe the drills as defensive in nature, but the North claims they are invasion rehearsals.


China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid
Updated 21 June 2021

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid

China urges US not to seek ‘political manipulation’ after Taiwan COVID-19 vaccine aid
  • The United States delivers 2.5 million COVID-19 shots to Chinese-claimed Taiwan

BEIJING: China’s foreign ministry urged the United States on Monday not to seek “political manipulation” in the name of vaccine assistance after the United States delivered 2.5 million COVID-19 shots to Chinese-claimed Taiwan.
Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian made the comment at a daily news briefing in Beijing.