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Hon. Benjamin L. Cardin, Chairman
Hon. Alcee L. Hastings, Co-Chairman
For Immediate Release
September 15, 2010


WASHINGTON— France should stop playing a “shell game” with Roma and abandon discriminatory laws targeting Muslims, Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL), Co-Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) said today after Commission-hosted events held alongside the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference Capitol Hill Day.

Co-Chairman Hastings drew parallels between the inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero and France’s expulsion of Roma and adoption of laws targeting Muslims.

“I perceive such actions as wrong-headed political maneuvers, particularly the discriminatory policy of targeting Roma for expulsion, and I would argue that there is a danger to politicians, the media, and the public focusing only on these issues,” said Co-Chairman Hastings. “Minority communities are part of the larger fabric of society and we are all put at risk when those who seek to divide for political gain are allowed to take the lead.”

The French senate passed a law yesterday banning the wearing of burqas, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women and other face coverings. The law is to take effect in six months.

European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding called the Roma expulsions a “disgrace,” and the European Parliament has passed a resolution calling France’s actions "discrimination on the basis of race and ethnicity.”

“France, and other countries, should focus on integrating Roma where they are,” Hastings said. “The situation of Roma in Europe will not be fixed by playing a shell game with them -- expelling them from one place to another.”

Media Contact: Neil Simon
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The U.S. Delegation visits the Svalbard Ground Station in Longyearbyen, Norway on July 11, 2010. Pictured here are Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Congressman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), and U.S. Ambassador Barry B. White.