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Trump’s policies build on U.S. legacy of anti-Blackness and Islamophobia

News & Commentary  |  By Dina El-Rifai, Jul 24, 2018
Photo: AFSC / Larry Gindhart

Family separation at the hands of the U.S. government is a national crisis. And the scale of this humanitarian disaster goes far beyond the southern border. With the Muslim ban in full effect and the Trump administration’s decision not to redesignate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Yemen and Somalia—despite the humanitarian crises in both countries—Muslims are also among the many families being torn apart by the Trump administration.

TPS is a humanitarian immigration program that grants protection to people from certain countries afflicted by war, natural disasters, or other dangerous conditions. TPS protects people from deportation and provides legal work authorization, but does not create a path to citizenship for its holders—no matter how long they have made lives here. An estimated 500 Somali people in the U.S. currently have TPS. These are people who have lived in the U.S. for years—in some cases decades—and have families, jobs, communities, and support systems that they have established. 

By refusing to redesignate TPS for Yemen  and Somalia, the Trump administration bars any recently arrived nationals from these two countries from applying for protections from this life-saving program. This is despite the fact that the U.S., in different ways, has played a major role in fueling violence in Yemen as well as in Somalia.   

These decisions are a continuation of the U.S.’s violent legacy of family separation that is deeply intertwined with anti-Blackness and Islamophobia.

Deliberate acts by the U.S. government to violently rip apart our families pervade U.S. past and present—from enslaving, brutalizing, and killing millions of Africans; to racist policies that profile, incarcerate, and kill Black people; to bombing weddings in Iraq and Afghanistan; to torturing and imprisoning Muslims incarcerated in Guantanamo.  

The U.S. has long used anti-Blackness and Islamophobia as tools to strategically dehumanize people of color by positioning them as security threats, and thus undeserving of dignity or humane treatment. Muslims are deemed terrorists and thus deserve to be tortured, surveilled, and banned from entering the U.S.; Black people are deemed criminals and thus deserve to be brutalized and even killed by police. U.S. policy and practice follows the notion that those who are conveniently dehumanized by government do not deserve dignity, and keeping our families together doesn’t matter because our humanity does not matter.  

The recent Supreme Court decision upholding Trump’s Muslim ban not only normalizes family separation and dehumanization as a practice, but also institutionalizes it and establishes it as a viable and constitutional law. 

This court’s decision legalizes discrimination and oppression against Muslims by banning people primarily from Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. Just as slavery was once legal, segregation was once legal, and internment of Japanese Americans was once legal, Muslim exclusion is now legal, too. 

The Muslim ban had been in full effect since December, when the Supreme Court allowed it to go forward while legal challenges against it continued. In that time, the number of Muslim refugees entering the U.S. dropped by 94 percent. As a result, there are fathers who are stuck in war-torn countries unable to join their children in the U.S., mothers deprived of attending their daughters’ wedding, students who cannot pursue their studies in the U.S., and families left shattered around the world. 

Today, we are living in a country where Black and brown families are terrorized by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and children are locked up in detention centers for crossing our southern border. A country where Black and brown Muslim families in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and Iran are kept from reuniting with their families and seeking safety and opportunity in the U.S. as they try to survive the impacts of violent American imperialism and militarism in their own lands that have already taken loved ones away from them. 

It's time that we stop the U.S. from using Islamophobia and anti-Blackness to justify its legacy of ripping families apart. We must continue to push forward against all forms of racist policies that dehumanize us and harm our families and communities. 

 

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About the Author

Dina El-Rifai works with AFSC's Communities Against Islamophobia project. She has also served as Public Policy Fellow in AFSC's Office of Public Policy and Advocacy in Washington, D.C.

 

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