Muslim and immigrant advocates were dismayed at the Trump administration’s issuance of a revised executive order Monday that temporarily restricts U.S. entry for people from countries seen as terror threats and halts refugee programs over national security concerns.
The order blocks entry for foreign nationals from Sudan, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen for 90 days, while suspending the admittance of refugees for 120 days.
Iraq was dropped from the list of banned countries and the administration is clearing the way for travelers who were legal residents or had valid visas as of Jan. 27.
But the restrictions, set to take effect March 16, are still seen by immigrant advocates and community leaders as an unjustified ban on countries where most people are Muslims.
“It is a Muslim ban, still,” said Habeeb Ahmed, president-elect of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury.
The temporary restrictions are “absolutely necessary” to improve security, said Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford). The revised order “should survive all the court challenges” with the new exceptions it makes, he said.
“We are talking about countries that are either enemies, such as Iran and Syria, or countries like Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, which have failed governments, and it’s very difficult to determine who’s violent and who’s not and it gives us basically 90 days to make vetting arrangements,” King said.
A Feb. 9 ruling by the Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals had denied the administration’s request to reinstate travel restrictions under the original executive order.
Eric M. Freedman, professor of constitutional law at Hofstra Law School, said the thrust of the policy doesn’t change. “The court will look to see the real intention of executive actions regardless of their proclaimed intentions.”
Even though Long Island’s Muslims are largely unaffected by the order’s direct terms, because they are not new visitors and are largely from countries other than those listed, Ahmed said the policy has had a corrosive effect. He said many people in the community — particularly women wearing hijabs — have postponed travel to avoid getting stuck at ports of entry.
“People who are immigrants and citizens are given such a hard time coming through different airports — hours and hours they are being held up and people are watching like you are a culprit,” Ahmed said. “There was no reason . . . to do this.”
Immigrant and refugee advocates were mobilizing again Monday to monitor how the revised order is implemented. More legal actions are expected to challenge the policy’s constitutionality.
“We consider this to be Muslim ban, version 2.0,” said Ruthie Epstein, senior policy adviser for the New York Civil Liberties Union in Manhattan. “The president has made it clear to the entire world that he wants to ban Muslims, that he thinks this is a strategy worth pursuing, and he’s made that claim based on an assertion that this is the best way to protect our nation from terrorist threats with absolutely zero information.”
The Trump administration is linking the policy to serious national security concerns, with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stating Monday that the order seeks “the proper review and establishment of standards to prevent terrorist or criminal infiltration by foreign nationals.”
Nearly 20 metropolitan area advocates had headed to Kennedy Airport on Monday to start monitoring flights from those countries, said Camille J. Mackler, legal initiatives director at the New York Immigration Coalition.
One major concern was the refugee program’s halt and the administration’s decision not to exceed 50,000 refugees for the 2017 fiscal year that ends in September.
“Yes, there is a need for screening,” said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities of New York, which aids hundreds of refugees each year, “but our approach should be America is a land of immigrants, a land of refugees. We should welcome them and we should be a country that’s open to newcomers.”
Malik Nadeem Abid, a Valley Stream businessman who had protested the previous Trump order, called this “the same thing, just different packaging” and said he expects it will be defeated in court. “A Muslim ban cannot be replaced or repealed with a better Muslim ban.”