Advancing Justice, JACL, Chu Criticize Latest Executive Order

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WASHINGTON — The White House on March 6 issued a new executive order that critics say continues the administration’s attempt to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

“We should not be distracted by the slightly different packaging of today’s executive order — this is still a Muslim ban,” said Christina Sinha, national security and civil rights staff attorney at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus in San Francisco. “It tries — and fails — to remedy the unlawful scope and impact of the original ban. We are not fooled, and the courts will not be either.”

It continues to target individuals from six Muslim-majority countries: Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Syria, and Sudan. Iraq has been removed from the list.

The new executive order also continues the 120-day suspension of the entire refugee program, which has provided humanitarian relief to people fleeing political turmoil.

Over the last month, Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus has consistently been on the ground at San Francisco International Airport protecting and defending impacted community members through direct advocacy and conducting “Know Your Rights” with community-based partners.

“We have seen first hand the negative impact, confusion, and fear the executive order has caused in our communities,” said Elica Vafaie, an Iranian American national security and civil rights staff attorney. “Many mixed-status families’ lives are in limbo due to this discriminatory law.”

The new ban clarifies it will not apply to green-card holders; eliminates preferences for religious minorities seeking refugee status; and eliminates the indefinite ban on Syrian refugees. The ban will not become effective until March 16, which allows time for inevitable legal challenges.

“This new executive order is sadly more of the same: state-sanctioned bigotry that betrays our American values and will make us less safe,” said Aarti Kohli, executive director of Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. “There will still be fear in our communities and we unfortunately expect hate crimes to continue to rise. Asian Law Caucus will continue its fight to make sure blatant discriminatory laws are defeated.”

The Japanese American Citizens League, which opposes “executive orders that are based on racism and xenophobia,” said in a statement: “Yesterday, the White House issued an ‘Executive Order Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States.’ Like other executive orders issued earlier this year, this order uses security as a rationale to discriminate against the Muslim community. Although this order offers more specific details around who should or should not be banned from entering the country, ultimately it continues a pattern of excessive tactics being utilized by this administration against refugees and immigrants seeking a better life.

“Earlier this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit responded to a similar executive order by stating that ‘the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the Order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States.’ A recent document prepared by the Department of Homeland Security also determined that ‘country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity.’ In light of these decisions, it is appalling that the administration continues pursuing these divisive tactics.

“JACL continues to support the resettlement of refugees and the rights of immigrants, and stands with those who believe the United States is a country of opportunity for anyone seeking a better life. We must stand against fear-based policies and stay true to the values that make our country truly great.”

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said in a statement, “This order has nothing to do with national security, and everything to do with encouraging fear of Muslims. Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security has concluded that nationality has little to do with one’s potential to engage in terrorist acts.

“From the first day that then-candidate Trump stood up to announce his idea of a Muslim ban, he has been painfully clear about his intentions. And if there were any doubt, his stated desire to give Christians preferential treatment under his first executive order – something that is blatantly unconstitutional – showed that he was in search of a legally palatable way to implement a Muslim ban as president.

“The tweaks made today do not make this order any less unconstitutional or immoral than the last. No individual from any of the countries named in this order has committed an act of terror in the United States. And worse, he’s particularly targeting refugees – some of the most vulnerable and least dangerous people in the world.

“If President Trump truly wants to make America safer, he will drop this fanatical and ideological war against Islam, stop his plans to gut the budget of the State Department, and listen to the advice of national security and law enforcement officials who have warned against isolating the Muslim community in this way.

“As it stands, this updated order is still a policy of cruelty and bigotry and I will continue to resist it as an elected representative and as an American citizen.”

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