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Sandy Hook Attorney's Refugees Resolution Adopted By American Bar Association

Published: February 28, 2017 at 12:00 am


As attorneys across the United States face legal challenges or go to work counseling refugees who may be impacted by President Donald Trump's policies, they will be doing so under an American Bar Association resolution that was scripted by Sandy Hook resident and Connecticut Bar Association President Monte Frank.

Mr Frank, who also serves as a town attorney for the community, and who has led his Team 26 cycling group on annual treks from Newtown to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness for common sense gun policies in the wake of the 12/14 tragedy, saw the ABA's House of Delegates unanimously adopt the Connecticut Bar Association's proposed resolution concerning refugees, asylum seekers, torture victims, and others deserving of humanitarian refuge at its midyear meeting in Miami, Fla., earlier in February.

The resolution, labeled 10B, also garnered broad support with the New York State Bar Association, the Section on International Law, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, and the Center for Human Rights joining as co-sponsors according to a release. Other ABA entities and bar associations also supported the measure.

Resolution 10B reads:

RESOLVED That the American Bar Association reaffirms its support for the establishment of laws, policies, and practices that ensure access to legal protection for refugees, asylum seekers, torture victims, and others deserving of humanitarian refuge ("Protection Seekers").

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to adopt additional legislation and to appropriate adequate funding for refugee applications and processing.

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the American Bar Association urges Congress to adopt legislation to mandate that refugees receive an appropriate individualized assessment in a timely fashion to determine their eligibility as such, and that neither national origin non religion be the basis for barring an otherwise eligible individual in making such determination.

In moving the resolution, Mr Frank evoked the names of his parents and grandparents, who were Holocaust survivors, or who lost their lives in Nazi death camps during World War II. He told how his mother was raised in an orphanage because her mother could not care for her. After the war, the surviving family members miraculously were reunited, and relocated to Palestine.

Some time later, Mr Frank's grandmother learned that her two brothers had survived the war and were living in Buffalo, N.Y. So they packed their things and became refugees heading to the United States.

"They could have suffered the same fate as many Jewish refugees who were turned away from so many countries," he said in his presentation. "We must speak up now for today's refugees, and for the refugees of tomorrow who seek safe harbor."

He said the resolution affirms and strengthens a decade-old ABA position, and goes further by encouraging legislation that mandates individuals not be barred from coming to America based on their country of origin or their religion.


Human Rights, Social Justice

"The journey of this resolution has been short," he told his colleagues, having come as a result of recent developments and an executive order under the new president.

"The Connecticut Bar Association, like the ABA, strives to promote diversity and inclusion by opening doors and building bridges, not by erecting walls and closing our gates," Mr Frank said. "So now it's up to you - are we going to sit quietly, or are we going to speak up? Are we going to learn from history, or are we going to let history repeat itself? Are we going to turn our back on today's refugees... or tomorrow's? Or are we going to honor the ABA's core values?"

In closing, Mr Frank urged his colleagues to stand up, and to promote and defend "justice for all," and the "rule of law."

The resolution passed without any opposition, Mr Frank told The Newtown Bee, following the meeting.

"Our resolution focuses on congressional action and sets a broad policy that the United States should not use national origin or religion as a basis for making refugees ineligible for entry into the country, and calls for individual assessments versus outright bans," he said.

A collateral report supporting the resolution, details that "on January 27, 2017, the current Administration issued an Executive Order entitled 'Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.' That Executive Order takes several different steps impacting immigration and the resettlement of refugees, some of which are beyond the scope of the resolution.

"For example, this resolution and report does not address the issue of whether a ban on immigration from seven countries may violate the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which banned discrimination against immigrants on the basis of national origin. However, existing ABA policy regarding immigration is varied and covers many issues in depth," he said.

Prior to the ABA adopting Mr Frank's resolution, ABA President Linda Klein stated that "the January 27 executive order - which indefinitely bars Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspends all refugee admissions for 120 days and blocks refugees and other citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days - raises several constitutional questions. Some of these have already been challenged in federal court."

She went on to say, "This order comes at a time when we are witnessing the highest levels of refugee displacement since World War II. It seriously disrupts our nation's immigration system and calls into question the United States as a leader in protecting the world's refugees.

"Unfortunately, the haste of the order's implementation has also created confusion among the very agencies assigned to implement and enforce it," Ms Klein concluded. "The lack of clarity has added to the chaos and caused panic among affected families and communities."

Now that the resolution has been adopted nationally, and received letters of endorsement from both US Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, Mr Frank believes the resolution will support any attorney who takes a position standing up against those who "would use the rule of law backwards."

"Both the Connecticut and American Bar Association push hard for human rights and social justice," Mr Frank said. "So we believe this resolution will go far toward addressing and helping solve a humanitarian crisis."

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