Trump’s Travel Ban, SCOTUS Decision Are ‘Government-Sanctioned Discrimination,’ Muslim-American Leaders and Allies Say

11-9-16 Trump Muslim leaders
A woman wearing a Muslim head scarf walks past people holding Donald Trump signs before the start of the Muslim Day Parade in Manhattan on September 25. Stephanie Keith/Reuters

Muslim-American leaders and allies came together on Tuesday to urge the Supreme Court to rule this fall against President Donald Trump’s travel ban. 

The court announced on Monday that it would take the case. It also reinstated part of Trump’s order in the interim, barring travelers from six Muslim-majority countries—Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen—who do not have a “bona fide” connection to the United States from entering the country.

“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court ignores the anti-Muslim bigotry that is at the heart of the travel ban executive orders and will inevitably embolden Islamophobes in the administration to expand efforts to target the Muslim community with unconstitutional and counterproductive policies,” Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement on Monday.

“It also ignores the almost-unanimous rejection of the Muslim ban by lower courts due to its religious intolerance and racial animus,” Awad added. “While the court continued blocking those parts of the Muslim ban that would prevent entry for anyone with a ‘credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States,’ it has opened the door to legal chaos and official overreach in embassies and at the border.”

Awad was joined on Tuesday by representatives from the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. They spoke at a news conference held at CAIR’s Capitol Hill headquarters in Washington, D.C. and live-streamed on the organization’s Facebook page.

“We know that Mr. Trump claimed victory, but I think the victory is for those who advocated that the majority of this ban is unconstitutional,” Awad said in his remarks. “We believe that this is a partial victory for the advocates for justice and civil rights and for refugees in this country… However, we are also concerned,” he added, referencing the reasons laid out in his Monday statement.

Trump indeed interpreted the court’s decision as one of his favorite things—a win. He tweeted: “Great day for America’s future Security and Safety, courtesy of the U.S. Supreme Court. I will keep fighting for the American people, & WIN!”

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich chimed in, saying on Fox & Friends on Tuesday that the Supreme Court’s decision “proves that the president in fact was right, despite all the news media attacks.”

muslim ban photo Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders on January 29. Brian Snyder/Reuters

But Gadeir Abbas, CAIR’s senior litigation attorney, pointed out on Tuesday that “we have to acknowledge how far back from the brink that the courts have pulled the Trump administration,” he explained. Trump’s initial executive order “was designed to lead to the expulsion of lawfully present Muslims inside the United States. It would have denied green card holders the ability to re-enter the United States after being abroad.”

The reinstatement by the court of part of the ban, however, underscores that “the Muslim community and our allies across the country are not going to simply wait for the Supreme Court to do what it’s going to do in October,” Abbas said. “It’s up to all of us to oppose these discriminatory and bigoted policies, just as we had back in January and February and March,” he added.

Despite Trump’s declaration of a resounding victory, “it is at the end of the day a technical decision, and the Supreme Court did not weigh in at all on the likelihood on the success on the merits of this Muslim ban,” Abbas said.

Although the portion of the ban that will go into effect until the Supreme Court’s fall term is milder than either of Trump’s executive orders in full, and though the ban could ultimately be struck down in its entirety, some leaders gathered on Tuesday were appalled by the interim decision.

Suman Raghunathan, executive director of SAALT, said her organization strongly objects to the decision to reinstate even part of the ban. “It is disappointing to us that the highest court in our land will hear the federal government’s appeal despite numerous federal appellate courts repeatedly striking down and staying key portions of the Muslim ban as unquestioningly unconstitutional,” she said. “For us, reinstating any part of this administration’s patently discriminatory and openly discriminatory Muslim ban not only runs contrary to the values of the U.S., but it also runs contrary to the nation of immigrants.”

Raghunathan added that the president’s executive orders, as well as the court’s decision to reinstate a portion of the ban, “amounts to government-sanctioned discrimination.” She called on Congress to overturn the ban “to safeguard our national integrity and say clearly and convincingly that hate and fear will not be allowed to guide our country’s policies now or in the future.”

John Yang, president and executive director of the AAAJ, said Trump’s order echoes the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “The Asian-American community comes at it from a special perspective, and that is that we have been down this road before. In World War II, Japanese-Americans were incarcerated on this notion of national security based on an executive order. So we understand what this means, and we understand the false premise that this provides. And we cannot go back to that.”

Abbas and his colleagues at CAIR are hopeful that when the Supreme Court hears the case in the fall, the justices “will see it for what it is, what millions of Americans, what judges from the West Coast to the East Coast have seen,” he said. He called the ban “an expression of bigotry” and “a policy designed to politically benefit from the animus that has swept the Trump administration into office.”

The issue is not just about the legality of the ban, several speakers emphasized on Tuesday, describing how their communities have been affected in recent months by discrimination, hate and violence.

“While other people can talk about the theory of the Supreme Court case, we really need to talk about the practicality of what is coming down the road,” said Ilhan Cagri, senior program fellow for religious liberty at MPAC.

“What this president has done and continues to do is un-American, and it’s immoral,” she added. “What happens as a result of these policies is that we are pushing toward the worst in America, and that is why we must really stand up against this.”