Since 9/11, Muslims have been subjected to unlawful state surveillance, profiling, and deportation for imagined threats to the United States. This treatment has permanent consequences for individuals and their families and is a stain on our collective conscience. In his first days in office, President Donald Trump acted on his campaign promise of “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” by implementing anti-immigrant executive orders. By January 27, 2017, three Executive Orders were signed by the president concerning immigration. The “Muslim Ban” restricted immigration from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days, suspended all refugee entry for 120 days, and suspended Syrian refugee entry indefinitely. On television, the president said he would favor Christian refugees. This violates the First Amendment, which mandates that no religion shall receive preferential treatment, and the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.
One way localities, campuses, and churches have already resisted is through declaring themselves sanctuary cities. Exact provisions vary by locality, but generally this means that officials in sanctuary cities will not act as extensions of federal law enforcement by helping to investigate the citizenship status of its residents, and will provide services to everyone regardless of their status. In Ohio, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lake County, Lima, Lorain, Lucas County, Oberlin, and Painesville are sanctuary cities.
One day after President Trump announced the ban, protests erupted at airports across the U.S., including Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Columbus. Attorneys camped out in airport waiting areas to begin litigation for incoming refugees who had been approved for entry but were being illegally detained. Two of those individuals illegally detained at New York Kennedy were Hameed Khalid Darweesh and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, both Iraqi refugees entering the U.S. with visas. Darweesh had served in the U.S. military for eight years in Iraq, and his safety was threatened because of that affiliation. Alshawi, as well, was endangered because of perceived ties to the U.S. The ACLU and partner organizations filed Darweesh v. Trump to challenge their unlawful detainment.
Another executive order, Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States, signed on January 25, calls for defunding “sanctuary jurisdictions.” This is not only unconstitutional, but it is bad policy. It will increase deportations and threaten immigrant communities.
On January 28, a federal judge granted the ACLU’s request for an emergency stay, temporarily preventing the deportation of those detained in transit at international airports. While several other cases were filed against the Trump administration on behalf of Muslim plaintiffs, this was the first legal victory against the Trump administration’s immigration policy. On March 6, the president signed a revised executive order, dubbed by the media “Muslim Ban 2.0.” The revisions removed Iraq from the list of banned countries as well as language about preferential treatment to non-Muslims, and exempted all visa and green-card holders. It also replaced the complete ban of Syrian refugees with a 120-day freeze. What stayed the same? The discriminatory and unconstitutional core of the executive order.
The day President Trump signed Muslim Ban 2.0, the Council on American-Islamic Relations launched Register Me First, a campaign to fight Trump’s promises of a Muslim registry.
As of March 16, federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland stopped the Trump administration from refusing to grant visas from six predominantly-Muslim countries on the grounds of religious discrimination. In Hawaii, the judge went further to also stop the freeze of Syrian refugee entry. The ACLU will remain vigilant as we fight against unconstitutional and discriminatory legislation, policy, and executive orders.