March 12, 2015

In support of a just sentence for Rasmea Odeh

by Brant Rosen

Tomorrow morning in Detroit, the Palestinian-American community organizer Rasmea Odeh, who is in her late 60s, is to be sentenced by a federal judge for her conviction on making false statements in immigration documents. Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence. Many are speaking out on her behalf.

Rasmea Odeh has dedicated fifty years of her life to serving her community by supporting immigrants and refugees and serving women facing painful life situations. As of this writing, Rasmea faces an extremely dire situation herself as she awaits sentencing by a Federal court on charges of immigration and naturalization fraud.

A prison sentence would most certainly deprive the Chicago community of a devoted and important leader. Though her past has been used to unfairly portray her as dangerous, her actions over many decades in this country tell another story. As Associate Director of Chicago’s Arab-American Action Network Rasmea has transformed the lives of many in our city’s Arab and Muslim community. Indeed, Chicago’s diverse communities rely upon activists like Rasmea – compassionate civic leaders who help new immigrants to find their place and comfort in their new American home.

On a deeper level, it would be a grave injustice to imprison Rasmea Odeh. As an elderly woman and a survivor of torture, the effects would be truly devastating. Having suffered sexual torture in an Israeli jail, the trauma inflicted by further imprisonment would be profound. Already Rasmea has been held in solitary confinement for almost three weeks during her trial. Further imprisonment would not in any way serve the cause of justice – it would only cause egregious pain and suffering to a treasured member of our community.

As an activist, it has been my honor to stand and work alongside Rasmea for many years. As a rabbi, a Jew and a person of conscience, I am honored to stand with her now as she awaits her sentence. Like so many others, I fervently hope she will be afforded the kind of justice to which she herself has devoted her life.

Brant Rosen
Midwest Regional Director
American Friends Service Committee