What Will It Take To Stop Trump’s Muslim Ban?

Movements are gearing up for the fight ahead.

Michelle Chen December 18, 2017

Protesters gather at the Los Angeles International airport's Tom Bradley terminal in January 2017 to demonstrate against President Trump's then-executive order effectively banning citizens from seven Muslim majority countries. (KONRAD FIEDLER/AFP/Getty Images)

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s cam­paign to ban migrants from Mus­lim-major­i­ty nations from enter­ing the Unit­ed States received the Supreme Court’s stamp of approval in ear­ly Decem­ber, even after his administration’s efforts inflamed out­rage around the world and trig­gered a surge of legal oppo­si­tion in the courts. Now, as the bor­der once again tight­ens against count­less refugees and trav­el­ers from eight coun­tries, Trump’s oppo­si­tion is gear­ing up to fight back — head­ing back to Wash­ing­ton to once again chal­lenge against the so-called Mus­lim ban.”

"We're not dividing ourselves. We're going to stand united."

The Supreme Court issued an inter­im rul­ing on Decem­ber 4 that upheld the lat­est ver­sion of Trump’s exec­u­tive order bar­ring trav­el­ers from eight coun­tries, tar­get­ing six Mus­lim-major­i­ty nations (Chad, Iran, Libya, Soma­lia, Syr­ia, and Yemen). Though not a final rul­ing, the deci­sion allows Mus­lim Ban 3.0” to go into effect while the order is fur­ther lit­i­gat­ed in the low­er courts.

After var­i­ous tweaks, the sweep­ing ban is now a hodge­podge of legal ratio­nales laced with War on Ter­ror jin­go­ism. But the frame­work is unchanged: The order sus­pends trav­el visas and blocks immi­gra­tion visas, pre­vent­ing future long-term set­tle­ment of work­ers, refugees and fam­i­ly mem­bers. And the under­ly­ing mes­sage remains: Mus­lims are not wel­come here.

The most recent ver­sion of the ban adds two heav­i­ly maligned U.S. foes, Venezuela and North Korea, but the cen­tral tar­get is trav­el­ers from the Mus­lim-major­i­ty coun­tries. Oth­er revi­sions seem to add new uncer­tain­ties about the order’s scope. Where­as the first ver­sion was based on a 90-day sus­pen­sion, the new ver­sion has no set timetable. Pre­vi­ous exemp­tions for fam­i­ly mem­bers have been replaced with a patch­work of exemp­tions sur­round­ing cer­tain work-relat­ed and stu­dent visas.

Yet the ban’s social toll was felt on the ground long before this lat­est rul­ing. Since last Jan­u­ary, immi­grant com­mu­ni­ties with ties to the banned coun­tries have been mired in legal chaos — barred from bring­ing loved ones to the Unit­ed States for crit­i­cal med­ical treat­ment and unable to reunite with fam­i­ly mem­bers. Peo­ple have been forced to put on hold their aspi­ra­tions to work or pur­sue edu­ca­tion in the Unit­ed States — and to suf­fer the indig­ni­ty of being denied a right that many in the Unit­ed States take for granted.

After con­fronting var­i­ous legal twists and turns for a year, the oppo­si­tion is now fight­ing to keep the pub­lic spot­light on the ban as the final stretch of lit­i­ga­tion approach­es. What­ev­er is decid­ed in the courts, the com­mu­ni­ties that have been grap­pling with post‑9/​11 anti-Mus­lim bias for years know that the real ban” extends through­out the Trump administration’s worldview.

Murad Awawdeh, vice pres­i­dent of advo­ca­cy with New York Immi­gra­tion Coali­tion, says that the ban has helped con­cen­trate the ener­gies of many inter­sect­ing move­ments. The polit­i­cal con­ver­gence was evi­dent at a ral­ly that his orga­ni­za­tion helped orga­nize on the Thurs­day fol­low­ing the inter­im rul­ing. Par­tic­i­pants protest­ed the Mus­lim Ban, the Repub­li­can tax plan and Trump’s over­all anti-immi­grant agen­da, includ­ing ongo­ing crack­downs on undoc­u­ment­ed residents.

Since the ban was first announced a year ago, Awadeh told In These Times, we were able to mobi­lize a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple … Folks who just knew that the Mus­lim Ban was inher­ent­ly wrong, were able to come out and real­ly voice their oppo­si­tion to such a big­ot­ed policy.”

Advo­cates will also seek to high­light before the court how the ban ties into Trump’s wider reac­tionary agen­da. Civ­il lib­er­ties lawyers with the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can Islam­ic Rela­tions (CAIR) have cit­ed Trump’s inflam­ma­to­ry tweets — which peaked in late Novem­ber when Trump’s retweet­ed vicious anti-Mus­lim media from a the far-right white suprema­cist group Britain First. Groups are also spot­light­ing a sharp rise in hate crimes against Mus­lims that has coin­cid­ed with Trump’s ban. Inten­tion­al­ly or not, CAIR con­tend­ed in its brief, the ban pro­vid­ed a val­i­dat­ing plat­form for indi­vid­u­als to open­ly express ani­mos­i­ty towards Islam and Muslims.”

After the lat­est inter­im rul­ing allowed the ban to go for­ward, grass­roots activists point­ed out that court chal­lenges are inher­ent­ly inad­e­quate. The New York-based South Asian Amer­i­can advo­ca­cy group Desis Ris­ing Up and Mov­ing (DRUM) post­ed a mes­sage to sup­port­ers short­ly after the Supreme Court rul­ing. Legal strate­gies large­ly are lim­it­ed to oper­at­ing with the sys­tems that exist,” they wrote, but orga­niz­ing our own forces builds and works toward the vision of the world we want to see with­out constraints.”

DRUM has mobi­lized every­day resis­tance through its net­work of Hate Free Zones” across Queens and Brook­lyn, in an effort to orga­nize to defend our com­mu­ni­ties from work­place raids, depor­ta­tions, mass crim­i­nal­iza­tion, vio­lence, and sys­temic vio­la­tion of our rights and dig­ni­ty.” Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Fahd Ahmed not­ed that the group has sought to focus on both the ris­ing Islam­o­pho­bia and xeno­pho­bia, but also on how attacks on any oth­er com­mu­ni­ties are also attacks on us.”

With or with­out an exec­u­tive order, the admin­is­tra­tion’s dis­crim­i­na­tion will like­ly per­sist in sub­sur­face ways. For exam­ple, var­i­ous legal bar­ri­ers could still ensnare many indi­vid­u­als in the visa screen­ing process, since Home­land Secu­ri­ty has con­sid­er­able dis­cre­tion to impose extreme vet­ting” or added scruti­ny under the pre­text of pub­lic secu­ri­ty concerns.

It’s not a Trump-era inno­va­tion to dis­crim­i­nate against Mus­lims in pro­cess­ing their visas … What is new is the vast dis­crim­i­na­to­ry treat­ment being uti­lized to broad­cast a mes­sage of con­dem­na­tion of Islam and to use that mes­sage to mar­gin­al­ize the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty,” Abbas said. Don­ald Trump has brought to the high­est office the idea that demo­niz­ing Mus­lims is effec­tive pol­i­tics. And unfor­tu­nate­ly, for him, it large­ly has been.”

Although the legal bat­tle has grown more con­vo­lut­ed over the past year, the resis­tance has sharp­ened and widened. In Jan­u­ary, lawyers rushed to estab­lish emer­gency legal aid clin­ics at air­ports. Since then, the lit­i­ga­tion efforts have evolved into an exten­sive nation­wide defense network.

The lev­el of legal involve­ment is stag­ger­ing,” said CAIR senior attor­ney Gadeir Abbas, not­ing that state gov­ern­ments, uni­ver­si­ties and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty groups are coor­di­nat­ing lit­i­ga­tion strate­gies to thwart the ban in mul­ti­ple courts. Such col­lab­o­ra­tion, is not inevitable,” he told In These Times, cit­ing the his­tor­i­cal exam­ple of the mass impris­on­ment of Japan­ese Amer­i­cans dur­ing World War II, under an exec­u­tive order by the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion. Although there was lit­tle oppo­si­tion dur­ing the war to the mass incar­cer­a­tion of Japan­ese Amer­i­cans, Abbas believes we are see­ing a more robust response to Trump’s efforts to crim­i­nal­ize immi­grants today. There is a strong oppo­si­tion … put togeth­er by the Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ty and its allies,” said Abbas. That’s been heartening.”

The dri­ve to weave togeth­er today’s cross-cut­ting crises ener­gized the ral­ly in New York as well. With every­thing hap­pen­ing so rapid­ly, I think peo­ple tend to think that we as move­ments are pit­ted against each oth­er, and we’re not,” Awadeh said. We’re not divid­ing our­selves. We’re going to stand unit­ed. And we’re going to fight all these dif­fer­ent attacks that are com­ing from the admin­is­tra­tion all together…because when we stand togeth­er, and we stand unit­ed, we’re all stronger as a community.”

With or with­out a trav­el ban, the resis­tance faces a long road ahead across the coun­try. At the air­port, before the Supreme Court, or in sol­i­dar­i­ty with next-door neigh­bors, there are many more bor­ders to overcome. 

Michelle Chen is a con­tribut­ing writer at In These Times and The Nation, a con­tribut­ing edi­tor at Dis­sent and a co-pro­duc­er of the Bela­bored” pod­cast. She stud­ies his­to­ry at the CUNY Grad­u­ate Cen­ter. She tweets at @meeshellchen.
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