Abire Sabbagh, Community Engagement Coordinator with Palestinian American Community Center (PACC)

“It’s the people. The ones that are physically, mentally and emotionally resisting oppression. They inspire me.”

-Abire Sabbagh

Abire on how she supports PACC...

I am the Community Engagement Coordinator! I am responsible for coalition-building with local, state-wide, national and (eventually) international organizations. I also write press releases that highlight the existence and resilience of our people. I coordinated PACC’s Census campaign and Get out the Vote campaign, as well. I also support PACC’s education classes focusing on Palestine! I started our advocacy and community engagement youth teams in order to empower our youth to advocate for Palestine. It’s a mix of community building, solidarity statements, internal Palestine education, and civic engagement.

Abire on PACC’s five main focus areas...

  1. Providing cultural, social, educational, and recreational activities to our local community members to help them integrate in American society while holding onto their Arab heritage 
  2. Engaging in social service and mutual aid support to provide both short-term and long-term sustainable relief 
  3. Building partnerships and coalitions with other local organizations and referring our community members to the relevant organization that can help meet their needs   
  4. An on-going commitment to civic engagement, to ensure that our local Arab/Palestinian community’s voice is elevated and heard by local and national elected officials
  5. Leading Palestine education efforts to ensure that Palestinian history, struggle, culture, and resistance to present-day occupation is never forgotten or overlooked. 

Abire on PACC’s involvement with the Alliance...

We have been a member of the Alliance for about a year now! PACC has built a solid foundation for the local Arab and Palestinian community. We wanted to expand to have more of a statewide, and eventually national, reach. We also wanted to build coalition with other organizations across New Jersey. PACC is intentional about being intersectional in our work. The Alliance was the perfect way to do it all.

Abire on what the Alliance means to PACC...

The Alliance provides us the opportunity to share our community’s stories and needs, especially when Arabs and Palestinians are excluded from the mainstream immigrant justice conversation. We are often forgotten, but working with the Alliance has given us the opportunity to represent the diversity of the immigrant community and raise awareness around the issues that impact Arabs and Palestinians. We also bring another perspective to the Alliance: we highlight foreign policy issues and how it impacts our communities, too.

Abire on her moment of politicization...

In 2006, when I was twelve years old, I went to visit my family in Lebanon. It was then that Israel invaded Lebanon, which is known in the region as the 33-Day War. We were located in southern Lebanon, so we had to evacuate north. Because we were U.S. citizens, my mom, my siblings, and I were able to be evacuated on a U.S. military ship. When I came back, I wondered why was Lebanon invaded and by whom? And also, I questioned the idea of privilege. Why was it that I got to leave, and my family had to stay behind? It goes back to the idea that because of a piece of paper, my life is deemed more valuable than the people I share blood with. From there, it was learning more about the world and getting involved.

Abire on who inspires her...

The people inspire me. The people on the ground doing the work. The people abroad who resist U.S. imperialism, those who are forced to immigrate, survivors of the carceral state, and so on. The people of the Arab world inspire me. It’s the people. The ones that are physically, mentally and emotionally resisting oppression. They inspire me.

Abire on the need of Arab-American Heritage month...

It’s important to have a designated time period to honor the contributions of Arab-Americans. It’s a time to highlight immigrants who come to this country, build in the community, and build a legacy. It's an opportunity for youth, and generations to come, to have examples to follow. Especially post-9/11, there is a need to decimate the stereotypes of who Arabs are, combat orientalism, and the falsehood that we’re backwards. It’s a time to reclaim who we are. 

Abire on the beauty of Ramadan...

Ramadan moves away from the ego. It’s a time to build community in the sense of “I have and you have, so let's come together.” There’s also great discipline that comes with Ramadan. We are so conditioned and used to material things, and Ramadan reminds us of the things in life that are so much more important than that. Are you treating people with respect? Are you meeting community needs? Are you working on yourself?

Abire on what she’s currently reading and impactful books...

I just started reading Begin Again by Eddie Glaude. He is amazing. The book that has impacted me the most is the Autobiography of Malcolm X. I read it when I was 16. I remember feeling so validated after reading it, especially as a Muslim committed to social justice. My passion for social justice is inherently connected to my identity as a Muslim.

Abire on what brings her joy in these turbulent times...

Teaching. Having the opportunity to teach the youth about what is going on in Palestine. It’s about being a part of that moment when things connect and a spark is lit.

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New Year, New Team, New Session | Same Fight for Justice

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January Newsletter

Archived 2017 picture of NJAIJ rally against the Muslim Ban.

Friends, I'm writing with a personal message this month.
January marks one year since I joined NJAIJ and one year since we grew our team to include our Movement Building Coordinator, a role that has transformed how we empower immigrant communities all across the New Jersey. In my twelve months in coalition with you, I feel both grateful and galvanized.
In that year, New Jersey also
became the first state on the East Coast to ban ICE detention agreements. We became the 15th state to enact a status-neutral drivers' license program, and fought for a first-of-its-kind direct cash benefit program, the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund, to provide relief for households excluded from federal stimulus. We made history together, and I'm humbled by and in awe of your fight.
It's January again and we are pleased to announce that we are growing our team again, too!
I am thrilled to be joined in this work by advocates who have an unwavering dedication to social, racial, and economic justice. Please join me in welcoming:

Michelle Ancil, she/her, Communications Coordinator. Laura Bustamante, she/her, Policy & Campaigns Manager. Aidee Pascual, she/her, Administrative Assistant. Kat Phan, she/her, 2022 Intern.

Click to read more about our team.

January is a time of renewal and reflection.
This month, we highlight Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director of the New Jersey chapter of Council for American Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ). CAIR-NJ is at the fore of the fight to designate January as Muslim Awareness and Appreciation month. Selaedin reminds us about the importance of reflecting on the legacies and movements that came before us and celebrating the richness of our diversity.

In Solidarity and Community,
Amy Torres


Member Spotlight

 It's a blessing to be a part of a social movement that stands on the frontlines. We proudly and humbly stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, and the legacies of those who did tenfold of what we are doing today. Championing these causes and being a voice for the voiceless is a huge honor and blessing," says Selaedin Maksut, Executive Director, CAIR-NJ

A header image with the words


The Values Act was re-introduced in the Assembly and Senate as A1986/S512. The Values Act would provide critical protections that allow New Jerseyans to seek support from state and local agencies without fear of deportation. Tell your legislator you expect to see their support!


NILC Features NJ's Anti-Detention Law

National Immigration Law Center

The incredible campaign behind the bill that banned new ICE detention agreements, renewals, and expansions was featured in the National Immigration Law Center's annual report on Winning in the States.

The report celebrates New Jersey's win by acknowledging the many fronts of the battle: "The anti-detention fight in New Jersey has been a decades-long movement...but with closure announcements and the ban on new and renewed contracts, New Jersey will not have any ICE detention centers after 2023."

Excluded NJ Fund Falls Short

In the midst of the news that major parts of the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund had been diverted and then quickly restored, New Jersey Policy Perspective released a report.

NJPP's analysis finds, "[e]ven if the Excluded New Jerseyans Fund were kept at its original funding level, it does not match the aid provided to others facing financial hardship due to COVID-19." The report goes on to say, "not only do payments...fall far short of the cost of living in New Jersey, but the size of the fund is also too small to reach all excluded workers."

Fair Legislative Districts

Legislative redistricting is still underway but time is running out! Your voice is needed to make sure maps are fair, racially just, and representative of your community. 

NJAIJ is a proud member of the Fair Districts coalition. 
Research shows that public testimony at redistricting hearings is effective when it offers specific instructions to mapmakers, focuses on small-scale changes (like keeping a neighborhood together), and effectively defines a community and its needs for representation. You are the expert on your community. Get involved!

Ready to act? Spread the word:

New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice

P.O. Box, 200492,  | Newark, New Jersey  07102| [email protected]

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