Trump’s Attack on Muslims & Refugees & the ACLU Response
After signing a proclamation on Holocaust Remembrance Day excluding Jewish people, Donald Trump followed up his disrespect for history, disenfranchised minorities and refugees by signing an executive order targeting Muslims and refugees. The order targeted Muslims in countries not known for originating terrorists while excluding countries where terrorists have actually radicalized before attacking the United States. More egregiously, Trump targeted at-risk refugees.
Specifically, Trump targeted those traveling from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen (none of which have a high rate of originating terrorism on U.S. soil). Missing are countries that Trump holds financial ties to that also have historical ties to terrorism including the four countries the 9/11 hijackers originated from: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Lebanon. Bans on the targeted countries is set to last at least 90 days and will affect over 100 million people.
More egregiously, the order suspended the refugee program for four months. Given the day of the order – the day set aside to remember those lost in the Holocaust and the very reason the United States instituted its refugee program to begin with – people were already furious with Trump. It was when his order began affecting those already en route and in U.S. airports that people began protesting and organizations like the ACLU stepped in.
In one case, a man was literally being prevented from joining his wife and son already on U.S. soil. Mimicking the practices of slaveholders generations ago, Trump’s executive order sought to dehumanize refugees to the point of literally not carving out exceptions to make sure families were not separated.
The order specifically targeted Syrian refugees stating, “I hereby proclaim that the entry of nationals of Syria as refugees is harmful to the interests of the United States and thus suspend any such entry.” Though he repeatedly called allowing Syrian refugees in a ‘Trojan horse’ during the presidential campaign, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of those resettled have become productive members of society after undergoing rigorous and years-long vetting.
Trouble began following the order when refugees already en route to the U.S. and even permanent residents experienced trouble in airports across the nation.
Protests over the order erupted at John F. Kennedy airport on Saturday after two Iraqi refugees who had been granted asylum and were carrying valid visas were detained by border agents and denied entry. But “dozens and dozens” of other travelers were still held at JFK by Saturday evening, lawyers told CNN.
One of the Iraqis, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, was released Saturday afternoon after two New York lawmakers arrived at the airport and demanded to see him. The second was released later Saturday evening, according to CNN.
Hundreds of protesters descended on the airport’s Terminal 4, wielding signs that read, “No ban, no wall,” and, “Refugees welcome,” local media reported. Similar protests were staged at airports across the country, including Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco.
It’s unclear how many travelers have been affected by the order so far, but refugee advocates and lawyers say they have been receiving reports of immigrants and refugees being detained at airports across the country.
“They’re literally pouring in by the minute,” Becca Heller, the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project, told The New York Times.
One of the men, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, worked for the U.S. government for 10 years as an interpreter. He was detained upon landing at JFK on Friday night, but his wife and children were let through, a former colleague of Darweesh’s told The Huffington Post. Darweesh was released the following day.
The other detained man, Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was coming to the country to join his child and wife, who had worked for a U.S. government contractor, The Washington Post reported.
Lawyers for the two men told CNN they have filed a lawsuit against the president and the government over their detention. The action in federal court seeks a writ of habeas corpus — an order declaring their detention illegal — and the certification of a class action covering any immigrants and refugees denied admission at ports of entry across the country, according to the complaint filed in New York.
Alisa Wartick, 36, said she and a group of 38 people in her neighborhood had co-sponsored a Syrian refugee family through the organization Refugee One in Chicago.
The family ― a mother, father and 16-month-old daughter ― was supposed to arrive on Monday to join the woman’s parents and siblings. The co-sponsorship group had already furnished their apartment, and met the family via FaceTIme so they could see their new home, which they now may never see again.
“Just imagining raising a child in a refugee camp environment and then being told you could see your family again, you could be reunited with your mom and your daughter’s grandma and being told ‘No, sorry, you’re three days too late for that’ ― I can’t imagine what that’s like,” Wartick said.
Following the mass disruption across the world Trump’s executive order caused the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Trump’s administration and won the first round.
U.S. District Court Judge Ann Donnelly ruled in favor of a habeas corpus petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of two Iraqi men who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday after Trump signed his order.
Donnelly, who was nominated by former President Barack Obama and confirmed to her judgeship in 2015, ruled in the Eastern District of New York that “there is imminent danger that, absent the stay of removal, there will be substantial and irreparable injury to refugees, visa-holders, and other individuals from nations subject” to Trump’s order.
Commenting on the victory, Lee Gelernt – deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project – said, “This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil.”
“Clearly the judge understood the possibility for irreparable harm to hundreds of immigrants and lawful visitors to this country,” ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero added. “Our courts today worked as they should as bulwarks against government abuse or unconstitutional policies and orders. On week one, Donald Trump suffered his first loss in court.”
Hillary Clinton additionally released a message condemning the action against refugees stating, “I stand with the people gathered across the country tonight defending our values & our Constitution. This is not who we are.”