Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new photos by Kelly Jordan.
By David Pendered
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has received the first-ever Courage Award issued by the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta. The award recognizes Reed’s support for President Obama’s positions on immigration, which include tenets opposed by President-elect Donald Trump.
On Nov. 28, 20 days after the election, Reed expressed his support for immigrants and offered resources for refugees and foreign-born residents through the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs.
Reed’s announcement came in response to Trump’s vows to dismantle Obama’s two executive orders that provided deportation relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. Trump has said he will immediately end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and a related Obama program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). The Supreme Court blocked DAPA in a ruling issued in June.
“We will immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties, in which he defied federal law and the Constitution to give amnesty to approximately 5 million illegal immigrants,” Trump said in his Aug. 31 Address on Immigration.
In his Nov. 28 statement, Reed observed:
- “The City of Atlanta is the dominant cultural and economic center of the Southeast. My administration is determined to use the full strength of that position to lead with policies that uphold and enhance the civil rights of all our residents….
“We will continue to vigorously protect and support immigrant students who are DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients. We value the economic and cultural vitality these young people bring to our City.
- Atlanta will not tolerate acts of hatred against our residents and visitors. We will prosecute crimes of this nature to the fullest extent of the law….
- “As Mayor, I pledge that your government will not waver in its commitment to inclusivity and diversity, and will remain open and welcoming to all.”
Reed’s message resonated within the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, according to comments included in a statement released by the mayor’s office:
- “We appreciate Mayor Kasim Reed’s courage in declaring Atlanta as a welcoming city for Syrian refugees. Last month, Mayor Reed reaffirmed his commitment and the city’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. We also see that he implements initiatives that reinforce that commitment,” said Soumaya Khalifa, executive director and founder of the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta.
According to the statement released by the mayor’s office, Reed convened the Welcoming Atlanta Working Group in 2014. Membership included stakeholders who could provide recommendations to make the city more welcoming for foreign-born residents. Reed formalized the program when he established the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, according to the statement from the mayor’s office. The statement observes:
- “Welcoming Atlanta aims to foster a connected community where all Atlantans can fully participate in civic life, contribute their talents to grow our city’s economy and work together with those entrusted to protect our public safety to make Atlanta a safe and friendly place to live and do business.”
The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, for its part, provides a number of outreach programs including one titled, Cultural Competency for Law Enforcement: Working with American Muslims. The program was:
- “Developed for law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels in non-emergency situations. Law enforcement gains insight to effectively interacting with the American Muslim communities. In addition, the training provides suggestions on how to build sustainable relationships with the American Muslim community. The interactive workshop can include case studies and role plays.”