I have worked with Alaska’s immigrant, refugee and Muslim communities for more than 20 years as the first Alaska state refugee coordinator in 2003 and as the executive director and co-founder of the Alaska Institute for Justice, the only nonprofit in Alaska that provides free and low-cost immigration legal services. Advocating for justice and human rights in our community, I have been the recipient of hateful rhetoric, which has been painful and scary. Several years ago, I received a death threat just prior to speaking about comprehensive immigration reform at an event sponsored by the World Affairs Council, requiring the FBI and Anchorage Police Department to also be present to ensure everyone’s safety. Now this hateful rhetoric has intensified inside and outside of Alaska.
The policies being crafted by President Trump are being built on top of a long legacy of federal government actions that have harmed immigrants, refugees and Muslims. In 2002, the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) was implemented during President Bush’s presidency to use immigration enforcement to target the Muslim community. NSEERS singled out immigrant men and boys over the age of 16 from 24 Muslim-majority countries plus North Korea. They were required to register with Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) offices, the predecessor agency to the Department of Homeland Security. Immigration officials fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed 85,000 Muslim and Arab non-citizens from November 2002 to May 2003 under the program. In Southern California, between 500 and 700 men and boys from Middle Eastern countries were detained and disappeared for weeks by federal immigration officials when they complied with orders to appear at INS offices for the program.
Robin Bronen is the founder and executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice, which provides free and low-cost legal services for immigrants. She has worked and advocated on behalf of refugees, immigrants and the Muslim community in Alaska for more than 20 years.