UPDATE, January 27, 5:48 p.m.: Trump on Friday signed an executive order that calls for “extreme vetting” of Muslims, according to an American Civil Liberties Union statement. The details of the order were not available at the time of this update.
Civil rights groups, educators, and national organizations are outraged that President Trump intends to restrict Muslim immigration from Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.
Reuters reported the temporary ban Wednesday just hours before Trump signed executive orders to expand the border wall and threaten sanctuary cities. While he hasn’t yet signed a Muslim ban, leaked drafts of an executive order indicate that Muslims from Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria will be barred from entering the United States for several months. Another executive order will suspend the refugee resettlement program for 120 days.
The leaked order reflects Trump’s campaign promise to ban Muslims from the United States, though it does not cover Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan. As political scientist Ian Bremmer pointed out on social media, it also excludes countries where Trump has business dealings, such as Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The president insisted in an interview with ABC’s David Muir that the immigration block does not constitute a Muslim ban.
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“We are excluding certain countries but for others we’ll have extreme vetting,” Trump said, adding that the intent is to prevent terrorists and people with “evil intentions” from coming into the country “under false pretense.”
The president said he supports creating safe zones in war-torn Syria but is wary about taking in too many refugees.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy group, condemned the order in a Wednesday press conference at its Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C.
“This ban does not make our country safer. Instead, it serves to stigmatize Muslim refugees and the entire American Muslim community. It will hand a propaganda tool to our enemies who promote the false narrative of an American war on Islam,” said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad. “We have already seen an unprecedented spike in anti-Muslim bigotry in recent months. The negative perceptions and association created by these orders will very likely cause a further increase in hate crimes, discrimination and bigotry against ordinary law-abiding American Muslims.”
Jewish Voice for Peace, the National Council of Churches, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council joined CAIR in the press conference.
Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, said in a statement that Trump’s actions “show an absolute contempt for American values of freedom and religious liberty.”
“From defunding ‘sanctuary cities’ to expanding detention centers for undocumented immigrants to ordering a ban on refugees and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries, Trump is moving forward with a plot against America, selling off American values just so he and his friends can make a buck,” Robinson said. “We still don’t know what taxes, if any, Trump pays, but now we’re being forced to foot a bill for billions of taxpayer dollars to build a U.S.-Mexican border wall. Meanwhile Trump’s cronies in the private prison industry will be lining their pockets as more detention centers are built on the border.”
Scholars across the country have expressed similar concerns.
The orders, if they are put into place, will be “a disgrace,” Louise Cainkar, professor at Marquette University, wrote in an email to Rewire. A sociologist whose research focuses on Arab Americans and Muslim Americans, Cainkar is president of the Arab American Studies Association.
“What kind of ‘great’ bans people seeking refuge from war? What kind of ‘great’ bans persons based on religion or nationality? This is not a ‘great’ many of us want to be part of, spurned as it is by racism and white privilege,” Cainkar said. “I say bravo to the more ‘civilized’ peoples of the world who have hosted Syrian refugees for years with dignity, despite stressful impacts on their economies and societies.”
Amer F. Ahmed, social justice educator at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, told Rewire in an email that Trump’s executive orders dismantle the United States’ moral standing by targeting a particular religion. “Such a ban fundamentally alters the constitutional basis of the United States of America,” Ahmed said.
The orders tarnish the image of the United States in the world, Roozbeh Shirazi, an Iranian-American professor at the University of Minnesota, wrote in an email to Rewire.
“It signals that the U.S. is embracing exclusionary policies that fly in the face of its carefully tended self-image as a welcoming land for immigrants … and signals a new and unsettling era,” Shirazi said.
The YWCA USA was among other groups that spoke out against Trump’s discriminatory Muslim immigrant order.
“We cannot allow our leaders to further institutionalize racism through public policy. An immigration ban, a constructed wall, or other limitations and policies based on an individuals’ nationality or religion, is bad policy and not a reflection of American values,” said a statement from YWCA USA.
The National Hispanic Leadership Agenda (NHLA) issued a statement promising to stand in solidarity with the immigrant community, the Muslim community, and refugees.
“Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-Latino, anti-Muslim campaign threats are becoming a terrifying reality,” said NHLA Chairman Hector E. Sanchez in the release. “This is bad for the economy, for our democracy, and for our nation. We are particularly concerned about the impact it is having on our families, children, and our communities, including the psychological impact and the real victimization, rise in hate crimes, bullying and harassment. We will do all that is in our power and all that is necessary to safeguard the most fundamental rights in our country.”
Muslim community members who believe their rights have been violated are urged to contact local police and CAIR’s Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or file a report online, according to a press release.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the YWCA USA as a Christian organization. Although the group has Christian roots, it is no-longer a faith-based organization.