The following piece originally appeared on wcsh6.com as part of their feature, "Two Maines."
by Alison Beyea
Executive Director, ACLU of Maine
On Saturday, President Trump signed an executive order suspending all refugee resettlement for 120 days and indefinitely suspending the resettlement of refugees from Syria. He also ordered a ban on nationals of seven majority-Muslim countries for 90 days.
No matter what you call it, banning citizens of certain countries from entering the country amounts to religious and ethnic discrimination. This policy is unconstitutional, and it will destroy lives.
That is why, early Saturday morning, the ACLU joined other groups in filing a lawsuit on behalf of people who have already been harmed by this policy. Multiple courts have already responded with emergency blocks on the policy, until our case can be fully heard in court.
One of our clients, Hameed Khalid Darweesh, worked as a contractor for the United States government from 2003 to 2010. Brandon Friedman, a platoon leader during the invasion of Iraq who used Mr. Darweesh as an interpreter, credited him with spending years “keeping U.S. soldiers alive in combat in Iraq.”
The other, Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, was traveling to the United States to join his wife and 7-year-old son, who are lawful permanent residents living in Houston. He has already been separated from them for three years.
Under Trump’s order, both men were detained at JFK airport and would not have been admitted back into the United States.
President Trump’s plan to keep Muslims out goes against everything this country claims to stand for – the promise of safety and liberty, freedom from religious and ethnic discrimination, and fair leaders who respect the Constitution.
Trump’s ban sends a message to American Muslims that they are not fully part of American society, by barring their family members and friends from coming here to visit them. And it jeopardizes U.S. businesses, investors and universities that depend on people throughout the Muslim world who come here to collaborate and contribute.
The Muslim ban is also reminiscent of tragic mistakes in our nation’s past. History shows that when our policies are driven by fear and distrust of other cultures, we will come to regret them. This was true when we forced thousands of Japanese-Americans into internment camps within our borders. And it was true when we turned away Jewish refugees fleeing the German occupation for fear that they themselves were Nazis (one of those German refugees denied a visa to come to the U.S. was Anne Frank).
The world is facing the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Syrian refugees are fleeing a civil war that has already claimed 400,000 lives. They will very likely die if they don’t find safe haven. Yet the richest, most powerful country in the world is turning them away.
President Trump has waged a war on American values, and it is up to all of us to stop him before he does more irreparable harm to human lives and to the fabric of our country. Join us to fight this ban every step of the way.