On Monday the Supreme Court agreed to review Trump’s Muslim ban this fall, and partially reinstated the ban for residents of six Muslim-majority countries and refugees from all countries. The court ruled that “foreign nationals who lack any bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” will not be allowed into the country.
Lawyers, activists and prospective immigrants alike warn that this reinstatement, however watered down, stands to create mass confusion and chaos.
“It has further confused the issue by creating an entirely new category of ‘bona fide relationship,'” said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC), in a press conference following the decision. “Nobody knows what that means….This is an issue for travelers, for immigrants, for service providers, and not least, a problem for Border Patrol and the United States Government agencies that will now have to carry this out… it is unjust, it is un-American, and we will continue to fight it in the courts and in the streets.”
Human rights advocates were especially concerned about lack of criteria for determining said ties, and who is in charge of that determination—could it mean airport staff, a consulate in the home country, or even a judge?
“There will be such disparities that whether or not you’ll be able to get on a plane will depend on what airport you show up at and how they’ve decided to read a Supreme Court decision,” Naureen Shah, the director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Program, explained in an interview with the Guardian.
Esraa Saleh, coordinator for the Arab American Family Support Center’s Audacious Young Women of Action, emphasized the impacts on the women she works with. Even though they may be citizens, they worry about visiting family, about their ability to travel freely and whether Customs and Border Patrol will use its considerable discretion to detain people, or worse. Saleh is also troubled by Trump’s statements that national security “can be justification for religious discrimination.”
While they have not yet taken specific legal action, NYIC has set up a hotline to monitor at airports and encourages anyone in need of legal assistance to call 1-844-326-4940. Other organizations are filing their suits immediately. The Connecticut chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and Make the Road New York announced in a statement that they will be suing the Trump administration “for withholding critical information concerning its continued profiling of Muslims and other marginalized groups, on an informal basis, with respect to visa processing and immigration enforcement—a practice CAIR-CT and MRNY are calling a ‘Backdoor Muslim Ban.’”
The groups filed the suit after the Trump administration failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request for records. CAIR-CT and MRNY will be represented by a team of lawyers from the Worker and Immigrant Rights Advocacy Clinic at Yale Law School, the National Immigration Law Center, and the International Refugee Assistance Project, which is also a plaintiff in one of the original challenges to the ban.
IRAP director Becca Heller said in a statement on the lawsuit that “People with valid visas are being detained and deported from U.S. airports every day. Others are having visas revoked before they can even board, for no apparent reason. The government cannot create a de facto travel ban through rampant abuses of discretion in individual cases. They cannot discriminate in the dark.”
Choi echoed her statement, and reiterated that his organization and others like it will be ready to mobilize, on the streets, in the airports and in the courts: “This is a flash-point for our democracy: We can either succumb to the forces of hate, or rise up to defend the values that truly make America great: opportunity and justice for all.”
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