Trump travel ban draws flak

Activists point to apparent religious hypocrisy in rulings by U.S. Supreme Court

 Amal Kassir says the travel ban has kept her relatives from fleeing battle-torn Syria for the United States. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Amal Kassir says the travel ban has kept her relatives from fleeing battle-torn Syria for the United States. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

An array of Illinois groups railed against the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Tuesday to validate President Trump's travel ban, largely imposed against Muslim countries.

"My family is prohibited to come into the United States because of this ban," said Amal Kassir, a Syrian-American woman who recently moved from her native hometown of Denver to Chicago. Charging that 11 members of her father's family had been lost in a 2014 bombing by the Assad regime in Syria, she said the U.S. ban on travel from that nation was "quite frankly inhibiting the safety of people and shutting down the American dream." 

Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called it "a particularly difficult day for the Islamic-American community." He said the court ruling was "decidedly un-American and does not make us any safer."

Kassir, Rehab and several others spoke at a midday news conference at the CAIR offices in downtown Chicago within hours of the release of the court's decision Tuesday morning in the case of Trump v. Hawaii.

Trump's travel ban, imposing limits of people from a handful of Muslim nations, as well as the more recently added Venezuela and North Korea, was struck down by appeals courts, but was reinstated in Tuesday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"This ruling will go down as one of the Supreme Court's great failures," said Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.

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"This ruling will go down as one of the Supreme Court's great failures."

Colleen Connell, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

Citing language in a dissenting opinion by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor that "the United States of America is a nation built on the promise of religious liberty," and "the majority's decision today fails to protect that fundamental principle," Connell added that the ACLU joins in that dissent.

Azam Nizamuddin, president of the Muslim Bar Association, said the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts "blatantly ignores that was a case about religious bigotry" by not referencing Trump's own remarks and tweets on the issue calling it a "Muslim ban."

Connell agreed, calling that oversight in Roberts's opinion "a complete abdication of the court's role."

Nizamuddin drew parallels with how the court cited a Colorado commissioner's remarks in defending the religious rights of a baker in refusing to make a cake for a same-sex couple in an earlier decision this month, adding that the court's failure to do the same in this case "privileged one religion over another."

Connell pointed out this was the third attempt to write a legally acceptable version of Trump's Muslim travel ban. Rehab cited how the president's own lawyer Rudy Giuliani had admitted he'd been brought in to craft an acceptable version of the Muslim ban.

Calling Trump a "showman," Rehab said, "This is about showmanship. It is not about actual policy that makes our country safe.

"This is a battle between two sets of values and two political cultures in this country," Rehab said. 

Citing Trump's own language in calling it a "Muslim ban," Rehab said the court ruling represented nothing less than "the resurgence — and excuse me for not mincing words — of white supremecist America."

Other speakers drew attention to Illinois Senate Bill 3488, passed by the General Assembly and prohibiting any attempt to create a Muslim registry — a concept brought up before by Trump. They called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Rauner spokeswoman Elizabeth Tomev said, "We’re in the process of reviewing the legislation."

"At the end of the day, politicians on both sides play us against each other," Rehab said in closing. "This is about our common interests as a people.

"The polarizing society that is being built by special interests and special money," he added, "is what is against the national interest of the United States. And it's time that we wake up to that truth."