An ailing, elderly woman is waiting for one of her adult sons to arrive in the United States to help her and her equally health-challenged husband. But because of President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim ban, their son can’t enter the country, and his mother worries she may never see him again.
“It is very difficult for my other son to take care of us by himself and very hard for us to get around or meet our own needs. We desperately need my other son to be here also,” said the woman, identified by the pseudonym “Jane Doe No. 5” for her protection.
“I have been extremely anxious, sad and worried. I am afraid that I will never be able to see my son. I am afraid that he will not be able to come and be with his elderly parents. This causes me great pain and suffering on a daily basis.”
This woman is one of the plaintiffs in Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) v. Trump, a lawsuit filed by Americans United, Muslim Advocates and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP in consultation with the National Iranian American Council to challenge the Muslim ban. She is one of thousands of people who are cruelly separated from their families by Trump’s anti-Muslim policies.
A resolution may be at hand, however. On Jan. 19, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear Trump v. Hawaii, one of several legal challenges to the Muslim ban that have been percolating in the federal courts.
Americans United, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Hawaii case, hopes that the justices rule on the right side of history by striking down Trump’s attempt to block people from coming to the country for no reason other than their religious beliefs.
“The Supreme Court has the power to end a disgraceful chapter in American history, during which President Trump has ignored the Constitution and our fundamental values of religious freedom and fairness,” Richard B. Katskee, AU’s legal director, said in a Jan. 19 statement.
“It is unfair to discriminate against people because of their beliefs. And it is un-American to bar people from our shores because the president doesn’t like their religion. But President Trump has done just that.”
The high court had previously agreed to hear two cases challenging Trump’s second Muslim ban – Trump v. IRAP and Trump v. Hawaii. But on Oct. 10, after Trump released the third version of his ban, the court announced it wouldn’t hear the cases after all.
Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog correctly predicted that cases challenging the Muslim ban would find their way back into the high court so that it could examine “whether the Trump administration’s restrictions on entry into the United States violate the Constitution or exceed the president’s authority.”
Although AU’s legal challenge to the ban is not currently before the high court, the organization is still litigating it and will remain involved in fighting the ban through legal briefs before the Supreme Court, grass-roots activism and education. (Trump v. Hawaii will be argued before the high court this spring, with a decision likely by the end of June.)
The Trump administration’s third attempt at implementing a Muslim ban came just as the second Muslim ban was expiring on Sept. 24. Trump issued a proclamation indefinitely banning immigrants from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen – all of which are Muslim-majority countries. The ban also barred most business and tourist visitors from all of those countries except for Somalia.
There are slight distinctions among the three bans. Sudan, which was included in the first two versions of the Muslim ban, was removed this time but replaced with Chad, another Muslim-majority country. Trump’s proclamation also mandated “additional scrutiny” for Iraqi immigrants, like the second version of the ban but unlike the first version, which had banned them outright.
The third ban also applies to North Koreans and certain Venezuelan government officials and their families. But many observers said that these additions are just cover because they affect few people, and that the order’s main intent was to bar Muslims from entry to the United States.
Katskee emphasized that the ban targets and hurts Muslims in this country by treating people from Muslim-majority countries unfairly, which undermines the principle of religious freedom.
“Trump’s Muslim ban cruelly separates families and signals to American Muslims that they are second-class citizens who don’t have the same rights as everyone else to travel, study, work and worship as they see fit,” he said.
This applies to the plaintiffs in IAAB v. Trump, which include IAAB, a nonprofit serving the Iranian-American community; the Iranian Students’ Foundation at the University of Maryland; and six individuals, all of whom are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents with relatives who are currently blocked from coming to the United States by the ban.
For “Jane Doe No. 2,” an Iranian-American woman who was born in Maryland and met her fiancé while traveling in Iran, the Muslim ban is standing in the way of her marriage and her life because her fiancé is unable to travel to the U.S.
“I have to choose between my home and my country here in Maryland and the love of my life, the man I want to marry.… It will be very difficult for me to leave my job and the only home I have known,” she said. “This will tear us apart, and we are already devastated just thinking about it.”
Since Jan. 2017, the Muslim bans have affected 10 countries; approximately 60,000 to 100,000 visas have been revoked as a result, according to the Bridge Initiative, a multi-year research project studying Islamophobia based at Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. The bans were legally challenged in several cases and rejected by courts at least 10 times.
The Bridge Initiative also highlights Trump’s disturbing rhetoric. During his presidency, Trump has referenced the Muslim ban 31 times on his Twitter account, with 18 of those tweets coming after an international terrorist attack involving a Muslim suspect.
Mana Kharrazi, executive director of IAAB, noted that Trump’s rhetoric, coming mainly through tweets and speeches, likely played a role in the rise of hate crimes.
“The travel bans issued in the past year, and the anti-Muslim rhetoric during the campaign, resulted in our organization having to devote significant time responding to members of our community who were subjected to hate speech and intimidation in public places and/or were otherwise distressed and stigmatized by these events,” Kharrazi said.
A 2017 Pew Research Center survey noted that about half of Muslim respondents said that they personally had faced religion-based discrimination – including being “treated with suspicion,” being singled out by law enforcement or airport security and being physically attacked or threatened. Muslim women and Muslims who wear distinctive religious garb or are otherwise perceived as having a Muslim appearance were the most likely to have experienced discrimination.
Not to be overlooked is how the anti-Muslim rhetoric unleashed by Trump during and after his campaign not only led to the Muslim ban but also put a target on the backs of people perceived to be Muslims.
According to South Asian Americans Living Together (SAALT), a nonprofit that advocates for the civil rights of the South Asian community in the U.S., between Nov. 9, 2016, and Nov. 7, 2017, 302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic hate speech aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern and Arab communities in the U.S. were reported – a 45 percent increase from the year before.
The report notes that of those incidents, 213 involved violence, 89 included xenophobic rhetoric and 248 incidents (accounting for a full 82 percent) featured anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The human impact of harmful policies like the Muslim ban is significant, and it’s among the reasons why Americans United is fighting the ban in court, through grass-roots activism and education.
“We urge the Supreme Court to protect our values and our Constitution by ending Trump’s Muslim ban and preserving America’s commitment to religious freedom and fairness for all,” Katskee said.