Aden Hassan came to the United States in 2017 with high hopes for the future – only to be separated from his family because of President Donald J. Trump’s Muslim and refugee ban.
“My mother and my family were supposed to follow, but because of the Muslim ban, my family has been unable to come,” Hassan told AU before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for the Muslim ban case. “They are still not yet allowed to come.”
And for Safoura Kashfipour, an Iranian-American Muslim, Trump’s Muslim ban has had tangible, negative effects: It has also separated her from her family.
“My uncle had been in line for a visa for the longest time. With the Muslim ban, he was denied entry, and now he had to move his whole life outside of Iran and try to apply again from another country not listed on the ban,” Kashfipour said. “It’s preposterous, to say the least.”
(Photo: Iranian-American Safoura Kashfipour protests Trump's Muslim ban.)
These stories are unfortunately not uncommon, and thanks to the Supreme Court’s disappointing 5-4 ruling that upheld Trump’s third iteration of the Muslim ban, the policy continues to harm people – indefinitely.
The nation recently marked the one-year anniversary of Muslim ban 3.0, a policy that continues to show its inhumanity and discriminates against people because of their faith.
“The ban affects people’s lives directly,” Kashfipour said. “It spreads ignorance, allows for xenophobia to take hold and enforces prejudices of beautiful people and countries that the education system fails to recognize. It’s sad.”
In its Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission decision, the Supreme Court criticized state commissioners for “hostility” toward the religious beliefs of a Christian baker. But in the Muslim ban case, the court ignored Trump’s hostility toward Muslims.
This is despite the fact that while campaigning for the presidency, Trump called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what ... is going on.”
He even suggested creating a database to register Muslims, lied about Muslims’ reactions to the 9/11 terrorist attacks and claimed that he thinks “Islam hates us,” which further denigrated Muslim Americans as “others”; i.e., less “American” than other Americans of faith.
So one may ask: Religious freedom for whom? That question remains unanswered, thanks to the lack of accountability from the Trump administration.
A year later, we still have no proof that Trump’s Muslim ban 3.0 was based on anything other than his hostility toward Muslims. That’s why Americans United and its allies are in court to force the administration to produce reports that Trump claims justify the ban.
When Trump issued the third ban in late September 2017, he claimed that the Departments of State and Homeland Security conducted a “worldwide review” of other countries’ immigration procedures to justify his ban. To this day, the administration hasn’t provided any evidence to back up these claims.
Americans United, Muslim Advocates, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law and the law firm Covington & Burling LLP filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request in July 2017 with the State Department asking officials to produce the reports the administration claims to have used in creating the three iterations of the Muslim ban. More than a year has passed, but the government still hasn’t produced any such documents.
After the administration didn’t budge, AU and its allies filed a lawsuit, Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State, to force the government to fulfill its legal obligation to provide the information or explain why it couldn’t. A federal judge in January ordered the government to produce the documents AU requested by Feb. 9, 2018, or provide an explanation for why the reports were being withheld. But still, the Trump administration hasn’t produced any substantive documents.
As the push for transparency continues, AU’s lawsuit against the administration challenging the Muslim ban is still pending. AU joined Muslim Advocates and the law firm Covington & Burling in filing the first lawsuit to challenge Muslim ban 3.0, Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump.
“The government’s lack of transparency about the justification for the ban and the availability of waivers for people from banned countries makes it even more difficult to believe the Trump administration was acting on anything other than the president’s well-documented bias against Muslims,” said Liz Hayes, AU’s assistant director of communications, in a June 19 “Wall of Separation” blog. “Real people are being harmed – including those seeking desperately needed waivers.”
The government’s lack of transparency about the justification for the ban and the availability of waivers for people from banned countries makes it even more difficult to believe the Trump administration was acting on anything other than the president’s well-documented bias against Muslims.
~ Liz Hayes, AU’s assistant director of communications
AU continues to represent people harmed by the ban. This includes an elderly Maryland couple who desperately want to see their son, who is being blocked from entering the United States from Iran; two American women who have to live abroad to be with the men they love; a married couple separated from family; and a public-school teacher who has been unable to see her brother.
Family separation isn’t where the harm ends, either.
The Muslim ban and the Islamophobic rhetoric associated with it isn’t just hurting Muslims. For a handful of the American population that’s perceived to be Muslim because of their ethnicity or skin color, the ban and Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has caused harm in their communities and made them feel like outsiders.
According to researchers, there’s a correlation between Trump’s anti-Muslim tweets and hate crimes against Muslims.
In a research paper titled “Making America Hate Again? Twitter and Hate Crime Under Trump,” researchers Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz at the University of Warwick in England examine anti-Muslim hate crimes recorded by the FBI and their correlation with how Trump tweets about Islam.
“Whether it’s a tweet or whether it’s in a policy [Trump is] introducing, or if it’s in a policy someone in his administration is introducing, I think it all comes together to create this kind of environment where targeting Muslims is acceptable or has become acceptable,” Madihha Ahussain, special counsel for anti-Muslim bigotry at Muslim Advocates, told Religion News Service.
This research aligns with stories that religious and ethnic minorities have shared with Americans United.
“Especially since the Muslim ban went into effect, as a Hindu person from Pakistan, I’ve noticed heightened hostility towards my community and other religious minorities,” Monica Ahuja, a Hindu American fashion blogger, said. “Getting pulled over at the airport when I travel with my passport has become a new norm for me.”
After Trump’s election, Rasha Kathawa, a Catholic Iraqi-American, told Church & State that she “felt like I did not belong here [America], that this was not a place for me anymore.” (See “Searching for Acceptance,” April 2018 Church & State.)
Kathawa cited Trump’s anti-Muslim and xenophobic rhetoric as the biggest factors for this, given that people often perceive her to be Muslim since she’s from Iraq. She added that even if she were Muslim, hate speech, harassment and other forms of bigotry would be unacceptable.
With the Supreme Court upholding the ban, many Americans are left wondering why the court didn’t learn from history, particularly from Korematsu v. United States, in which the court allowed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order sending Japanese Americans to internment camps to remain intact. (The U.S. government formally apologized for the internment in 1988.)
Prior to the decision, The New York Times explained that “the justices will consider how much weight to give to Mr. Trump’s campaign statements. And they will act in the shadow of their own decision in Korematsu v. United States, which endorsed [President Franklin] Roosevelt’s 1942 order and is almost universally viewed as a shameful mistake.”
Yet, despite the warnings of children of Japanese-Americans held in those wartime detention camps that the Muslim ban case has historical parallels, the Supreme Court has again shamefully rubber-stamped a presidential executive act of ethnoxenophobic discrimination against an entire class of people.
“History teaches caution and skepticism when vague notions of national security are used to justify vast, unprecedented exclusionary measures that target disfavored classes,” the Japanese American Citizens League wrote to the high court.
While we await evidence of validation from the Trump administration on why it implemented the bans, the policy remains unpopular. According to Pew Research Center, white evangelicals are the only religious group in the country in support of the ban, at 76 percent.
The ban also doesn’t fare well with youth activists, which could signal a brighter future for religious-freedom activism. Students who participated in Americans United’s essay contest tended significantly to identify the Muslim ban as the biggest threat to religious freedom within the past year.
Rimpal Bajwa, a Sikh-American high school student from Washington who won first place in the contest, and Ariel Hall, a Muslim African-American high-schooler from Ohio who won third place, described how they and people in their communities have experienced intolerance as a result of the ban.
As the country embarks on Muslim ban 3.0’s anniversary, activists are continuing to push for legislative action to block the ban.
“We will not rest while hate drives this and other shameful policies,” AU’s president and CEO Rachel Laser said at the June rally outside the Supreme Court when the decision was issued. “Together, we will continue to fight for the very soul of our country. ... In our America, all religions are welcome here.”
We will not rest while hate drives this and other shameful policies. Together, we will continue to fight for the very soul of our country. ... In our America, all religions are welcome here.
~ Rachel Laser, AU’s president and CEO