This Muslim Ban Won’t Make Us Safer — But It Will Harm Us All

By Rebecca Ma, Associate Campaigner, Security with Human Rights, Amnesty International USA

As we await Muslim Ban 2.0 — a replacement of the order that banned most people from seven Muslim-majority countries — many observers are wondering whether the public outcry that met the first executive order will occur again. We can’t yet know how loud the opposition will be, but what’s clear is that the new order will renew the sense of alarm and uncertainty for immigrants and U.S. citizens who fear that, sooner or later, they may be targeted by the government due to their identity or religious beliefs. Indeed, with Muslim Ban 2.0, the Trump administration is doubling down on its agenda to put fear, hate and bigotry at the heart of its policies.

The new executive order will certainly be challenged in court, but reports suggest that it was written to try to get around legal concerns and satisfy court scrutiny. That underscores that we cannot simply take a wait and see approach — Congress must step in to repudiate this new ban.

Last week, we co-hosted a briefing with Church World Service and Human Rights First to motivate the Senate to urgently act. We brought speakers to testify about the real-life impacts of the order. They shared first-hand accounts about the range of effects — on refugees who fled from harm in these banned countries, people in need of medical attention in the US, universities and scholars, military service members, and those in US industries and business.

You can catch the entire event here. And here’s a run-down of what you missed:

Carrie Schuschard, who has lived and worked with refugees and people with disabilities from more than thirty countries, shared stories of victims of war in need of urgent medical care– many of whom will now be unable to travel to the US to get treatments they desperately need.

Amal Eltaib is a Muslim refugee from Sudan who settled in Connecticut with her husband and son. She shared her family’s story of being forced to leave Khartoum due to violence and resettling in the U.S. after a years-long application process. Despite enrolling in community college, working at Whole Foods Market, and finding happiness in her new home, Amal and her family now grieve — because of this ban, their loved ones in Africa and the Middle East won’t have the chance to find peace and safety in the U.S., and they fear that their own green cards will be taken away.

Omar Al-Muqdad is a Syrian journalist who was imprisoned and tortured for speaking out against the Assad regime. Though he found a new home in Arkansas, he worried about the fate of his family who stayed behind in Syria. Quoting a Somali writer in London, Omar underscored the importance of understanding that “no one leaves home, unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Those fleeing Syria have faced human rights violations and war crimes committed by the Assad regime and by armed groups such as the one calling itself Islamic State.

Scott Cooper, the founder of Veterans for American Ideals, served in multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Drawing from personal experience and accounts from his Army colleagues, he warned against the debilitating effect that this executive order has on the bonds of brotherhood between U.S. and foreign military.

Scott Cooper, Veterans for American Ideals

We also brought the voices of people from around the country to the Senate, as they testified via video:

Gillian Lester, the Dean of Columbia Law School, said that one million international students come to the United States each year to study, drawn to the unique opportunities and leading faculty, labs, and research centers. They contribute more than 30 billion per annum to the US economy. The ban, however, has stranded students and interrupted their studies. What’s more, the order has instilled fear amongst Muslim, Arab and South Asian students not from the banned countries, as they remain targets for hate crimes and stigmatization.

Waleed Alhariri, head of the New York office of the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, stressed the impact of the ban on research and understanding of the situation in the “banned” countries. He reminded the audience that since the U.S. embassy staff moved out in 2014, the U.S. has even less access to Yemeni civil society and the understanding of political dynamics it brings. Yet the U.S. is engaged in counter-terrorism operations and is supporting a Saudi-led military intervention in the country. Yemeni civil society leaders have in the past traveled to the United States to brief U.S. policymakers on developments in Yemen, but now can’t.

Ofelia Calderon, a lawyer in Virginia, described the sense of fear among travelers and family members at Dulles airport just after the executive order went into effect. She joined a loose coalition of lawyers that formed at the airport that evening. Despite their efforts and the temporary restraining order issued by Judge Brinkema, their clients were handcuffed, detained, and denied access to counsel.

Danielle Drake, who works for a refugee resettlement agency in Ohio, said that she believes that the U.S. has a humanitarian obligation to accept refugees; she also highlighted their value to the American economy. She stated they are thoroughly vetted and authorized to work, and yield a ten-to-one return in Ohio, meaning that for every $1 resettlement agencies spend on refugees, refugees are putting $10 back into the local economy.

Take action against the new Muslim ban.