Post Authored by Sufyan Sohel
On January 27, 2017, President Trump signed Executive Order 13769, titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” and more commonly referred to as the Muslim Ban or Travel Ban. When the Executive Order was signed, the lives of Muslim Americans, and many other immigrant populations, permanently changed. In its language, the Muslim Ban restricted travel from seven predominantly Muslim-majority countries and limited the number of refugees allowed into the United States. It instilled fear in the hearts of many communities and caused them to question their place in the American diaspora. Additionally, travelers reported–and still report–increased scrutiny and bias by Customs and Border Patrol officers at O’Hare airport from nations apart those listed in the travel ban.
Immediately after the Muslim Ban was signed, two things happened. First, travelers who were traveling during the Ban’s execution landed amidst chaos and confusion, unable to enter the United States and unsure why. Second, thousands of attorneys flocked to airports around the country to offer their services and legal skills to those affected. The movement at O’Hare is a unique study; thousands of attorneys remained vigilant and constantly visited the airport until June 2017, longer than any other airport around the country. Further, it is the only airport nationwide to still have a dedicated 24-hour hotline, via CAIR-Chicago’s Traveler’s Assistance Project, advising and supporting travelers and their loved ones who may be detained or denied entry due to the lingering effects of the Muslim Ban.
Two versions later, the Muslim Ban is still completely in effect, which comes as shocking news to many. In June 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the third version of the Muslim Ban. Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said “[t]his ruling will go down in history as one of the Supreme Court’s great failures. It repeats the mistakes of the Korematsu decision upholding Japanese-American imprisonment and swallows wholesale government lawyers’ flimsy national security excuse for the ban instead of taking seriously the president’s own explanation for his actions.”
With civil wars, political unrest, and crises around the world, those seeking refuge in the United States often have no other options. Most would love nothing more than to stay in their native state but are unable to due to violence and destruction. For example, in Syria, there are over 6 million Syrians internally displaced, and another 5 million seeking refuge elsewhere, out of the 22 million that lived there before the start of the civil war. Between 2011-2016, Germany took in more than 500,000 Syrian refugees. The United States, in that same time frame, only took in 21,000. Because the Muslim Ban limits entrance of refugees and asylees into the U.S. from countries like Syria, these individuals must seek safety elsewhere, often in overpopulated camps in neighboring countries.
Others seeking entrance into the United States include students, professionals with valid work visas, tourists, immigrants, and those looking to visit family and loved ones; the latter groups are the most predominantly affected by the Muslim Ban. For those seeking entry into the United States from countries listed in the Ban, the U.S. has a waiver program under which individuals can file and seek admittance. Out of nearly 38,000 visa applications from the targeted countries that the State Department reviewed in the first 11 months the ban was in effect, only 6% received a waiver. As a result, these visa applicants are spending months hovering around local consulates, praying for the opportunity to travel to America.
Citizens of the seven countries singled out by President Trump have killed zero people in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil between 1975 and 2015, yet the Trump Administration has continuously defended the Muslim Ban as essential to national security. The Ban has done nothing but marginalize communities seeking safety, family, and opportunity in the United States. It is clearly unjust and biased on its face. Fortunately, for those who are affected, there are lawyers available around the clock to prevent the infringement of their rights.
About the Author:
Sufyan Sohel is CAIR-Chicago’s Deputy Director & Counsel where he oversees the organization’s advocacy efforts, legal services, strategic initiatives and Traveler’s Assistance Project (TAP) which provides support and relief for travelers, and their loved ones, affected by the Muslim Ban. Information on TAP can be found at https://tapus.org/
Sufyan is a trained mediator and speaks frequently on social justice and civil rights. Sufyan earned his undergraduate degree from Tulane University and holds a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) and a Master of Science in Finance (M.S.) from DePaul University.
He is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Legal Clinic, and proudly serves on the Chicago City Clerk’s Civic Engagement Advisory Council, the Red Cross Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, the DePaul Law Alumni Engagement Board, and is a volunteer magician with Open Heart Magic. Sufyan is a recipient of the Chicago Bar Association’s Vanguard Award, the DePaul College of Law Young Alumnus Award, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Community Leadership Award, and is a 2018 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.