AFSC strongly condemns President Trump's executive action today ending the Syrian Refugee program, suspending visas from majority Muslim countries, and temporarily halting refugee resettlement.
The order bans residents of seven countries - Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq and Sudan - from visiting the U.S. and imposes new restrictions on the entry of refugees. The current ban calls for a months long stoppage, but in reality this will effectively last for years because of how immigration bureaucracy functions. Additionally, the order makes clear there is an intention to extend and, perhaps, expand the ban. It also includes exceptions for religious minorities from those countries, which means it amounts to a targeted Muslim ban.
We recently saw the election intensify discrimination and violence by labeling all Muslims as threats. With this policy, the Islamophobia that permeated the presidential campaign is converted into government action. As a result of this order, families will be torn apart, people will be denied refuge, and violence against people from these countries will be further encouraged.
This is racist. Muslims and Arabs are being subjected to blanket discrimination based on nation of origin and religion. The order is constructed around a false association between Muslims and violence. People fleeing to the U.S. in large part because of this country’s violent actions abroad are being painted as perpetrators instead of victims, based on their religion. This is wrong, and flies in the face of our nation’s stated respect for religious freedom.
The U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program should be open to those of all nationalities and religions who face persecution.
The president’s action is a step back towards past policies that criminalized and dehumanized targeted minorities in the U.S, actions that have led to internment and genocide of entire groups of people. This includes the ban on immigration from Japan, which preceded the great national shame of Japanese internment that AFSC actively opposed. And that ban extended one that already existed on immigration from some Asian countries.
Yet we must also recognize the president’s action as a continuation of recent discriminatory policies as well. The order directly extends and builds on discriminatory restrictions imposed on the US Visa Waiver program passed under the last administration, restrictions that AFSC also opposed. It also recalls the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System enacted after 9/11 and terminated in 2011. Widely condemned by members of Congress, human rights organizations, and the United Nations, that system controlled and limited travel to the U.S., gathered information on visitors, and required registration by citizens of specific Muslim-majority countries already in the U.S.
The action would close off the U.S. in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since World War II. AFSC won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947, in part in recognition for our work helping Jewish refugees escape Europe, and the resonance of this history now is stark. Just as we were called to stand against injustice to Jews and Japanese-Americans, we are called to stand against the attacks on Muslims today.
All of us have a role to play in challenging discrimination and protecting the civic space. At AFSC we will continue to pressure the government to protect and welcome refugees and implement humane and non-discriminatory immigration policies. We will also work to end profiling and surveillance programs and work with Muslim communities to defend their rights and liberties. We are committed to ending racism and discrimination, and together we will bring change.