DEARBORN— It did not take long for President Trump to deliver on campaign promises to bar Muslims and refugees from entering the United States. On the fifth day of his presidency, Trump signed a slew of anti-immigrant executive actions and intends at press time to order a suspension on refugees and visas for citizens of Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.
A draft of the executive orders, which were leaked to the press on Wednesday and could be amended before being signed, are being likened to the abolished NSEERS program. It includes indefinitely banning travel to the U.S. from Syria and freezing immigration from predominantly Muslim countries like Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Somalia – except for religious minorities, like Middle Eastern Christians.
Trump signed orders to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and impose sanctions that vow to end “sanctuary cities” that create safe spaces for immigrants to reside and conduct business without fear of deportation. The president’s plans have sparked protests and fear among Arab Americans and civil rights organizations who say the actions are unconstitutional, a de facto ban on Muslims and further stigmatize minority communities.
Humanitarian activists like Omar Abdrabboh, who helps newly arrived Syrian refugees settle in Michigan, said while enacting policies for immigrant screening is vital, banning families fleeing destruction and looking for a second chance is insensible.
“They are not violent people; they are survivors,” Abdrabboh said.
He added that crime among refugees has historically capped below 5 percent; and that as small business owners, those same refugees have been crucial to the revitalization of the American economy.
Houssam Attal, or “el doktor”, a laboratory scientist and Syrian immigrant who many refugees have come to trust, has helped them settle in Grand Rapids.
He said blocking refugee admissions is unnecessary as refugees are already extensively vetted and that the president is attempting to score easy points through these actions to satisfy those who elected him.
“All indications show that they invigorate the communities they live in and they improve the economy,” Attal said. “It’s unfortunate that this vulnerable segment of people is the target of the president’s sanctions.”
Ibrahim Aljahim, a Hamtramck-based Yemeni American activist, said the orders have immigrants in his community scared that they could be sent back to their devastated homeland – devastation advanced by a war in which the U.S. participates.
“They come here for a better life and education,” Aljahim said. “This is a clear violation of the spirit of human rights, the Constitution and what America is about.”
He said he has begun calling a handful of senators and urges Arabs and Muslims to remain nonpartisan in mobilizing against the measures.
Nihad Awad, CAIR’s executive director, condemned the refugee ban during a news conference on Wednesday, pointing to the existing extreme, invasive and multi-tiered vetting refugees already undergo.
He added that the ban will also adversely impact American Muslim families trying to connect with visiting relatives from overseas.
“This ban does not make our country safer,”Awad said. “Instead, it serves to stigmatizes Muslim refugees and the entire American Muslim community. It will hand a propaganda tool to our enemies who promote the false narrative of an American war on Islam.”
On Wednesday, the president signed an executive action placing funding and grant sanctions on “sanctuary cities.”
The measure creates a “show me your papers” culture, violates the Fourth Amendment’s protections from unreasonable searches and seizures and withdraws federal funding for transportation, housing, health, public safety and education programs, The Arab American Institute (AAI) said in a statement.
The AAI stated the actions and building of the wall are “nothing more than an extremely costly symbol of xenophobia and division.”
“Put simply, this is scapegoat politics and has no place in America.”
Hiba Krisht, a translator based in Indiana, said Trump’s “Muslim ban” conflates being an Arab with being a Muslim and perpetuates racism toward brown non-Muslims.
She added that many who immigrated to the U.S. from the proposed banned countries are on work or education visas or have since become citizens, but their spouses are not. In other instances, asylum cases are pending.
“Nationality-or-race-based profiling is not only a very ineffective way to try to hone in on and isolate perceived Muslim ‘threat’, the huge margin of error is one of collateral damage to the lives and dignity of people based on an inherently racist standard,” Krisht said.
Abed Ayoub, policy director at the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in Washington, D.C., advised that students from the included countries not leave the U.S., as they may not be permitted back in.
He said those who hold U.S. visas but have not traveled here might not be allowed in, and that the ban could extend to spouses of U.S. citizens who live in one the targeted countries and have pending applications.
Ayoub added the executive action will call for a “values test”, an ideology test that would ask applicants about their religious beliefs, including their views on Sharia law, beheading and homosexuality.
While the executive actions have not been signed at press time, President Trump said in an interview with ABC News’ David Muir on Wednesday night that he intends to enact a ban on travel from terror-ridden countries and demand extreme vetting procedures for others.
The president also pointed to the 9/11 and San Bernardino attacks, said Europe made a “tremendous mistake” by allowing millions of refugees to settle there and that the FBI is investigating more individuals involved in terror than ever.
“It’s going to be on countries that have tremendous terror,” Trump said of the ban.
“That people who are going to come in and cause tremendous problems…. you’re looking at people that come in many cases with evil intentions…they’re ISIS; they’re coming in under false pretenses.”
Lena Epstein, a spokesperson for Trump in Michigan, told The AANews that the president’s priorities are to bring power back to Americans, regardless of ethnicity or religion. She said to be patient and to allow Trump to establish himself in the role.
Epstein said she recommended that the president approach the refugee challenge with as much respect and caution as possible, but lauded his non-politically correct approach to identifying and solving solutions.