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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 12/17/2015

Contact: Kerry Crisley

617-778-1902

In Letter to Massachusetts Delegation, BBA President urges Non-discrimination in Federal Refugee Legislation and Policy

December 17, 2015 (BOSTON, Massachusetts) – Following the passage of the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act of 2015 (H.R. 4038) in the U.S. House of Representatives, BBA President Lisa Arrowood penned a letter urging the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation to “safeguard the fundamental legal and constitutional principles of fairness, equality, and non-discrimination” as they consider numerous current proposals to reform refugee law.

“This perspective is especially important in your consideration of bills such as H.R. 4038, which specifically targets inhabitants of Iraq and Syria for disparate treatment as part of the federal refugee-admission process.”

The BBA has a long history of defending principles of non-discrimination and equal protection, including in school desegregation and marriage equality.Our organization traces its origins to a group of Boston lawyers that included John Adams, the author of the Massachusetts Constitution that later served as the primary model for the United States Constitution.Adams’s Constitution formed the basis for the historic rulings in the Mum Bett and Quock Walker cases of the 1780’s. Those decisions rejected slavery in the Commonwealth based on the principle that we all “are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights.” These are foundational principles of non-discrimination shared throughout our Commonwealth and our nation.

When the BBA addresses a public policy issue, our goal is to put forth a measured position – one grounded in legal principles – to foster calm debate in the face of deeply felt emotions.

Although we do not often comment on federal policy matters, we believe it is important to voice our opposition to proposals which would use national origin, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other integral individual traits as the basis for discrimination in any form. Federal refugee policy should be no exception, especially given the extensive background and security checks already in place for these vulnerable populations who have suffered enormous hardships.

The BBA opposes any attempt to create a separate and more onerous admission standard for refugees based solely on their country of origin.

The Boston Bar Association traces its origins to meetings convened by John Adams, who provided pro bono representation to the British soldiers prosecuted for the Boston Massacre and went on to become the nation’s second president. Its mission is to advance the highest standards of excellence for the legal profession, facilitate access to justice, serve the community at large and promote diversity and inclusion.