Palos Township official apologizes to Arabs, Muslims
Sharon Brannigan, a trustee in the Chicago suburb of Palos Township, offended Arabs and Muslims with broad stroke comments about immigration that pointed a finger at their race and religion. But Brannigan apologized this week, reiterating apologies she issued twice before saying that she is not anti-Arab, anti-Muslim or anti-immigrant. I understand her concerns about immigration and accept her apology because forgiveness is not only a trait of moderates but also fundamental to being American
By Ray Hanania
A few months ago, activists circulated comments Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan posted on her Facebook page involving immigration.
Brannigan expressed fear at the growing Middle Eastern community population of Arabs and Muslims, suggesting there is something wrong with them.
I read her comments and believe Brannigan was trying to address the nation’s broken immigration system but expressed some unfounded fears.
Many immigrants enter this country illegally without proper vetting. Those who say that are often attacked as “racist.” Brannigan made it worse by only pointing her concerns at Arabs and Muslims, which is wrong.
During the past two board meetings, Arabs I know and respect protested, legitimately, about Brannigan’s comments. After all, Brannigan is a public official and has a responsibility to be clear about her views, and not fuel racism or fears. They have a right to protest.
The issue of immigration is contentious, often distorted by the political fighting between Democrats and Republicans. The battle between Democrats and Republicans is extremely tense in Palos Township.
Brannigan is Republican. Many of her critics are Democrats, which explains why Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle quickly forced Brannigan off the county’s Woman’s Commission. Preckwinkle, a Democrat, is not the progressive she once claimed to be. She’s exploiting this for her own political benefit, not because she cares about Arabs or Muslims.
Preckwinkle is in a fight with suburban Republicans, especially from Palos Township, who are trying to repeal her oppressive sales tax hike on soda pop.
I asked Brannigan to explain her views this week. I only met her once before in 2014 during the Orland Days Parade when she was running for Congress. She was polite and didn’t treat me with disrespect — and I am pretty “Arab looking.” Most people think I am Muslim, though.
This week, Brannigan released a statement in which she again apologized for her posts. She didn’t apologize for her views on immigration, which I share as an American of Arab heritage – we need to enforce our laws and carefully monitor every immigrant who wants to enter this country, especially those who are sneaking in in violation of Federal laws.
Immigration is about security and safety, folks. It doesn’t mean every immigrant sneaking into the country is bad. But it does mean that every immigrant who sneaks into the country illegally hasn’t been properly vetted. So we don’t know.
Thousands of immigrants enter illegally, but it only takes a few to engage in violence, crime and terrorism against this country. (No other country is asked to give amnesty to illegal immigrants, except this country.)
Brannigan’s grandparents are immigrants from Ireland and Italy. My parents were immigrants, too. They came her legally with the determination to make American their home. They didn’t abandon their heritage but they made this country their priority. They embraced it.
I’ve been attacked by racists in both the American and Arab community. I am Palestinian Christian and my wife is Jewish. There are extremists in all communities who find power by exploiting emotions and inflaming tensions. The majority of Arabs and Muslims are good people, though, with a great culture.
Brannigan admitted she did a poor job of expressing her real intentions, and insisted she is not against immigrants or racist against Arabs or Muslims. She said she tried to clarify her comments earlier. But I think her critics were so angry it didn’t matter. “Anger” doesn’t look for “understanding”.
“I apologize to anyone who felt offense from my words. I failed to properly express myself. I am not anti-Arab or anti-Muslim. I am the granddaughter of immigrants who came to this country through Ellis Island and who embraced America. I believe we all desire the same goals.”
She also offered to meet with residents who want to discuss this further.
Brannigan sounds genuine. I don’t believe she is racist. I accept her apology because that is the American thing to do.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and former Chicago City Hall reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Here is Brannigan’s complete statement: