As America closes the chapter on the Trump era, millions across the nation are breathing a collective sigh of relief. The incessant barrage of headlines fixating on the one-term, twice-impeached president’s inflammatory words, tweets and policies have exacted a heavy toll.
American Muslims, in particular, won’t soon forget that four years ago, after taking his oath of office to uphold the Constitution, one of Donald Trump’s first orders of business was to violate the value of religious freedom enshrined within that charter by signing into law his discriminatory Muslim travel ban executive order.
The first iteration of the executive order mandated a 90-day moratorium on the entry of nationals from seven Muslim majority countries, an indefinite moratorium on the entry of Syrian refugees and a 120-day moratorium on the entry of all other refugees.
When Trump enacted the travel ban, he was making good on a promise he’d made on the campaign trail to call for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on."
The ban went into effect on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, and chaos erupted immediately after.
Within an hour, civil rights lawyers from organizations, including the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the ACLU, were flooded with frantic calls. Many civil rights advocates scrambled to airports to help immigrants who had been detained upon arrival and denied entry.
Passengers who were nationals of the seven listed countries were advised to cancel their travel plans, as they’d be unable to return to the United States if they left.
Legal residents temporarily traveling outside of the country, including those who had visas to work or study in the United States, were stranded abroad — uncertain if they’d be able to resume their jobs and studies.
As news stories broke of Customs and Border Protection agents detaining passengers, word spread quickly on social media.
Protesters began packing airports in different cities — passionately chanting slogans like "No ban, no fear, Muslims are welcome here!"
In Maryland, allies joined members of Congress at the International Arrivals gate of the Baltimore-Washington International Airport — a gathering that grew fervently and passionately.
CAIR went on to field many difficult calls from community members in Maryland, including an Iranian legal permanent resident seeking to fly home to bury his deceased mother; a Libyan family who was trying to arrange medical treatment for their uncle at Johns Hopkins Hospital; and a Syrian American mother wanting to arrange for her father to visit so he could meet his new grandchild.
With the crass stroke of a pen, Trump had codified bigotry into law — signaling to his base and the world that the blanket scapegoating, profiling and dehumanizing of Muslim communities was permissible and warranted.
This would prove to be only the first of many cruel, discriminatory family separation policies his administration would go on to implement, all predominantly affecting people of color.
As the masses continued to mobilize in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Muslims, civil rights groups and states explored legal options, drafted documents and prepared to obtain court orders and seek injunctions to limit the ban’s impact.
Trump’s executive order suffered multiple legal setbacks in the courts, leading to several iterations — all fundamentally rooted in the same discriminatory intent. And, shamefully, the Supreme Court ultimately voted to uphold Muslim Ban 3.0 in a 5-4 ruling made June 26, 2018.
Trump’s animus toward Muslims manifested far beyond this executive order and included approval of surveilling U.S. mosques and establishing a Muslim registry.
His reckless pandering to his base consistently conveyed that Muslims posed a threat to democracy and the American way of life.
Among President Joe Biden’s first actions in office is repealing Trump’s travel ban, which ultimately imposed restrictions on more than a dozen countries.
Biden has vowed to push lawmakers to fight the surge in hate crimes across the country. And he’s promised to honor American Muslims’ contributions, seek out our ideas, and take our input into consideration, especially when crafting policies that impact our communities.
After years of challenging toxic rhetoric and attacks from the highest office within our government, these commitments are a refreshing change in tone, and American Muslim leaders look forward to holding the incoming administration accountable.
No one looks more forward, however, to equitable, inclusive and just leadership than the families who’ve directly suffered the harmful consequences of Trump’s xenophobic, bigoted policies.
Zainab Chaudry wrote this piece for The Baltimore Sun.