Don’t Be Fooled, Trump’s New Muslim Ban Is Still Illegal

People protesting the executive order President Trump signed in January, barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times
People protesting the executive order President Trump signed in January, barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries. Credit Yana Paskova for The New York Times

President Trump’s executive order barring immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries experienced nearly universal defeat in the federal courts. On Monday, he issued a revised version of that order, but it still suffers from a fundamental, and fatal, flaw: It constitutes unlawful religious discrimination.

On the surface, this revised order looks different from the first version. It explicitly exempts Iraq from the travel ban, thus reducing the number of affected countries to six, as well as lawful permanent residents (that is, green card holders) and people who have visas. It no longer categorically bars Syrian refugees or includes a religious test to determine which refugees may enter the country. And in a marked departure from the earlier order, it goes into effect in 10 days, so that the chaos that unfolded in airports around the world when the January order became effective presumably won’t happen again.

These changes are, no doubt, intended to address the due process concerns that led the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to affirm a lower-court ruling that put a hold on part of the original order. But while these changes are important, they do not fix the core problem with the executive order: The administration is waging an all-out assault on Islam and Muslims.

That’s because anti-Muslim bias and bigotry that characterized the original travel ban remain in this revised version. The order is still limited to only Muslim-majority countries: namely, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Residents of those countries — and only those countries — will be severely restricted in their ability to travel into the United States for 90 days. Left off are the predominately Christian countries that the State Department lists as “Terrorist Safe Havens” like Colombia, the Philippines and Venezuela.

The revised order also continues to traffic in bigoted and largely false perceptions: By requiring the government to compile occurrences of “honor killings” by immigrants, it gives official recognition to an inflammatory and misleading trope of Islam that is perpetuated by anti-Muslim hate groups.

President Trump has not been subtle in his intentions. We need look no further than his own words to figure them out. On the campaign trail, he constantly conflated the vast majority of peaceful Muslims with the small handful of violent Muslims.

After the Paris attacks in November 2015, Mr. Trump said that “we’re going to have no choice” but to close some mosques in the United States, where “some really bad things are happening.” The next month, after the attack in San Bernardino, Calif., he called for a “complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and released a factually dubious statement that “large segments of the Muslim population” have “great hatred towards Americans” and favor Shariah law. Astonishingly, that statement is still posted on Mr. Trump’s website.

In December, when a reporter asked whether he had reconsidered his stance on Islam, President-elect Trump replied: “You know my plans. All along, I’ve been proven to be right.” This dark and wholly unsubstantiated worldview about Islam and the American Muslim community is shared by several of the president’s senior aides and advisers.

Let’s be clear: This revised order is a Muslim ban. All the countries he has excluded are more than 90 percent Muslim. Three of them — Iran, Somalia and Yemen — are more than 99 percent Muslim. Even though Mr. Trump tailored his order to survive legal challenges, as his former adviser Rudolph Giuliani conceded on national television, his objective is clearly to exclude Muslims.

The Trump administration argues that the ban protects the country. Yet by excluding Iraq from the order, Mr. Trump has cleared travel from one of the two countries from which Islamic State terrorists operates. Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security concluded last month that “country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.” Former national security officials from Democratic and Republican administrations have made clear that the January order does not make our country safer. Instead, the bigotry that Mr. Trump spews at news conferences and on Twitter have been a boon for terrorists’ recruitment efforts.

The twisted worldview does not match reality. Muslims have been part of America for centuries, since the first slave ships arrived in the 17th century. Today, Muslims represent 1 percent of the United States population: They are our teachers, doctors, neighbors and co-workers.

American Muslims will suffer a particular harm from this executive order: Those who have ties to the banned countries won’t be able to see their family members and close friends. American Muslims will also be deprived of the instruction from the leading Islamic scholars who are from those countries.

Thousands of Muslim men and women serve in the armed forces; many have given their lives defending our nation and our ideals. They contribute to the diversity that has always been our nation’s pride and strength. President George W. Bush paid tribute to this in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks when he said, “There are thousands of Muslims who proudly call themselves Americans, and they know what I know — that the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”

President Trump and his top advisers would be wise to listen to President Bush. The Muslim ban and President Trump’s relentless attacks on Islam are not just an assault on thousands of patriotic, innocent Americans — they violate our Constitution and our most fundamental American values and beliefs.

Farhana Khera is the president and executive director of Muslim Advocates, a civil rights legal organization, where Johnathan Smith is the legal director.

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