Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arab-American Activism

Article excerpt


Bush Reprieves Kuwaiti Evacuees From Deportation Deadline

On November 15, President George Bush directed the Department of Justice to grant families evacuated from Kuwait the right to stay legally and work in the United States until Jan. 1, 1996. Nearly 3,000 of the expatriates airlifted from Kuwait to the US early in the Iraqi occupation were to have been subject to deportation after Dec. 31, 1991. Families which included at least one US citizen, most of whom were minor children, were brought to the US along with the US Embassy staff and other Americans trapped in Kuwait, with the expectation that any who wished would be able to return once the conflict was resolved. The majority of the expatriates are Palestinians, however, and the government of Kuwait has indicated that they are not welcome to return.

The evacuees have organized themselves into the Committee for the Repatriated Families of Kuwait (CRFK). CRFK Chairman Dr. Iyad Al-Shurafa has been working with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and the National Association of Arab Americans (NAAA) in seeking relief for the families in the form of permanent resident status or extended stay with work authorization, as was granted. "The evacuated families express their profound gratitude to President Bush," said Dr. Al-Shurafa upon hearing of the reprieve. "His action today has relieved the anxiety the families have faced about their immigration status in the United States."

The relief decision is similar to that granted to Chinese nationals in April 1990, in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Legislation is still being sought in Congress that would grant the Kuwaiti evacuees permanent resident status outright. "We are particularly grateful to Senators Terry Sanford (D-NC) and Alan Cranston (D-CA), and all of the supporters in the Senate and the House of Representatives who have worked so hard to advocate our cause," said CRFK Chairman Al-Shurafa.

Arab American Council on the Middle East Meets with Bush

President George Bush met at the White House with 23 members of the newly-formed Arab American Council on the Middle East (AAC) to discuss the peace process and the status of Lebanon. Chief of Staff John Sununu and National Security Adviser General Brent Scowcroft also attended the November 15 meeting.

Members of the Washington, DC-based AAC serve on many of the boards of major Arab-American organizations. Although 17 of the guests invited to the meeting are also officers of the American Task Force for Lebanon, there also are AAC members of Palestinian, Syrian and Egyptian origin. The Council includes business leaders, two members of Congress -- Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Rep. Mary Rose Oakar (DOH) -- and former diplomats, elected officials and political appointees. AAC Chairman David Saad has stated that the non-profit group consists of "mainstream, prominent individuals in the Arab-American community whose stature lends credibility to its perspectives and sponsorships, and who want to make an impact on public policy regarding the Middle East."

In his opening remarks, the president expressed "heartbreak" for Lebanon's past, but a sense of "real progress in restoring stability." Bush reaffirmed his commitment that the US act as a "catalyst" for peace negotiations and that the US would not disengage itself from foreign policy.

In response to assertions that the importance of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories cannot be overstated, Bush expressed his frustration with the continued building of such settlements. The Jewish settlements, he said, are "out of sync with our policy."

Following the meeting, Rep. Mary Rose Oakar stated, "I thought it was very important, since Congressman Rahall and I are of a different political party than the president, to say that when it comes to peace in the Middle East and the good work that Secretary Baker and the president have done, we want to encourage him to go on. …

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