Politics

Civil rights groups will double down to protect Muslims on heels of Trump’s expanded ban

The Trump administration’s most recent executive order to indefinitely restrict travel from multiple countries to the United States is just as Islamophobic as its previous variants, civil rights groups said Monday, spurring them to double down on efforts to stop the ban from taking effect in the courts and on the streets.

“This fulfills an Islamophobic campaign promise to ban Muslims from coming into the United States,” Zahra Billoo, a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) representative, told reporters on a press call Monday morning. “We’ve seen this panic hit the Muslim community time and time again as new iterations of the ban were signed.”

“For us, this was a Muslim ban, and it remains a Muslim ban,” Billoo added.

In his proclamation expanding on a previous Muslim ban that was set to expire on Sunday, President Donald Trump signed a new executive order placing travel and immigration restrictions on foreign nationals from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well as certain Venezuelan government officials and their families. Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela are new additions to a previous executive order issued. Sudan was dropped from the latest order, although the federal government previously indefinitely suspended Temporary Protected Status for Sudanese beneficiaries in November 2018. Travel restrictions for Somalians were relaxed for non-immigrant visitors. Restrictions were also relaxed for Iranian students and exchange visitors, the executive order noted.

Trump’s initial travel ban targeted six Muslim-majority countries, inciting nationwide immigration protests that resulted in a block by a federal court as unconstitutional discrimination. A limited version was greenlit in June, while the U.S. Supreme Court justices looked into the legality of the executive order.

Trump’s latest executive order is set to go into effect on October 18. But concerned advocates say that this order could stand up against some of Trump’s campaign rhetoric to exclude travel by Muslims.

The latest order takes out one Muslim-majority country and adds two countries not tied to Islam. But civil rights groups have continued to argue that the president’s executive orders on travel are rooted in Islamophobia. Chad is a Muslim-majority country, for example, even while the State Department recently praised it for its counter-terrorism efforts. North Korea is not a Muslim-majority country, but its citizens have probably never left its borders except to defect. And travel restrictions to Venezuela was limited to government officials.

Now, prominent civil rights groups like CAIR and the National Immigration Law Center (NILC) are intending to help fight Trump’s third attempt to stifle travel by Muslims into the United States.

On Sunday night, the president rooted his announcement on the justification that the United States would only admit people it could “safely vet.”

But experts point out the latest travel ban fails to adequately justify why countries on the banned list are on the list out of public safety and national security concerns.

“One of the things that was noteworthy about the proclamation — it never made a case that existing vetting procedures were inadequate,” Justin Cox, staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center, said on the same press call. “It stated that certain countries fell short of that, but it never made a case of why current vetting procedures are, for some reason, inadequate.”

“[The administration] tried to manufacture criteria to get them there,” Cox added.

It’s unknown yet whether civil rights groups would again take the Trump administration to court over the latest iteration, but it seems plausible that civil rights groups will argue in the same way it’s done with other travel bans.

“We can say our clients would continue to be injured by this ban,” Cox explained. “It does continue to injure our current plaintiffs. Exactly what position we’ll take at the Supreme Court, we haven’t decided yet.”

CAIR and NILC are among a growing number of organizations that intend to bring the Muslim ban’s impact to the streets by showing testimonial videos, and holding mock trials and rallies in various U.S. cities.

Starting Tuesday, CAIR will introduce testimonial videos on what the travel ban means for Muslim-Americans. The organization will also hold mock trials in Atlanta and rallies in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, and Miami, Billoo said, along with various other events.

“This is as much about resisting the Muslim Ban in the courts as it is in the streets,” Billoo said. “We want to make sure our fellow Americans have a chance to engage in the effort and we are engaging in an ongoing action that this ban is not any better than any previous ones.”

In the meantime, advocacy groups are urging Muslims and other foreign travelers from the updated list of banned countries to consult with immigration attorneys before travel.

“Our advice, unfortunately, all year has been if you’re not a U.S. citizen, consult with an immigration attorney before you travel,” Dr. Debbie Almontaser, president of the Muslim Community Network and founder and CEO of Bridging Cultures Group, said on the same call. “If someone is from one of the eight targeted countries, we strongly suggest them get in touch with one of our groups.”
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