Commerce considers labeling Arab Americans a disadvantaged minority

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) petitioned Commerce earlier this year to ask that Arab Americans be made eligible for the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), which helps minority entrepreneurs gain access to capital, contracts and trade opportunities.


The ADC petition cited “discrimination and prejudice in American society[,] resulting in conditions under which Arab-American individuals have been unable to compete in a business world.” The group claimed discrimination against Arab Americans increased after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“The ADC petition asserts that, in the government’s efforts to protect Americans, they essentially took away the rights of other Americans,” according to the notice of proposed rulemaking about the petition.

Commerce is asking for comment about whether there is social and economic discrimination against Arab Americans, along with examples of it occurring. The MBDA will decide whether or not to accept the petition by June 27.

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In making the case for minority status, ADC highlighted the National Security Entry Exit Registration System, "which required non-immigrants to register at ports of entry and targeted males from Arab nations; stricter travel guidelines; and ‘no-fly lists’ that predominantly contained the names of Arab-Americans," according to MBDA’s summary of the petition.

The petition also said studies indicate that Arab Americans have seen their earnings decrease since Sept. 11 compared to other ethnic groups, and have been subject to harassment and racial profiling while receiving “few prime government contracts.”  

The ADC wants any “American who traces his or her ethnic roots to one of the countries in the Arab World, including Algeria, Bahrain, Djoubti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen” to be eligible for MBDA services. Palestinians would also be included.

MBDA services are now offered to African-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Spanish-speaking Americans, American Indians, Eskimos, Aleuts, Hasidic Jews, Asian-Pacific Americans and Asian Indians.