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Reaction To Trump's Immigration/Refugee Order Continues

Abdul-Badi/Shawn Strong
Jewish, Christian and Unitarian Universalist Clergy from the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council stand in solidarity with area Muslims at the Masjid Al-Ihklas Mosque in Newburgh

Leaders of religious and civil rights organizations continue responding to President Trump’s executive order barring entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days and blocking refugees for 120 days.

There have been protests and lawsuits, though Trump supporters say the president is doing what he said he would do during the campaign: Put America first. Reverend Chris Antal is president of the Greater Newburgh Interfaith Council, which represents about a dozen faith communities in Orange County. Clergy from the Interfaith Council gathered with the local Muslim community at the Masjid Al-Ihklas Mosque in Newburgh Saturday to publicly repudiate President Trump’s order. Here’s Antal.

“And this ban on refugees is like a ban on the Bible and a violation of our free exercise of religion and affront to human dignity,” Antal says. “So this ban by President Trump on refugees entering the United States is like taking a wrecking ball to the Statue of Liberty dashing the hopes of the huddled masses across the globe.”

Antal is considering legal action.

“I am seeking legal counsel about the possibility of taking legal action for the violation of the free exercise of religion of many people in our community,” says Antal.

Imam Islam Hassan, with the Islamic Society of Vermont, says he cannot change the travel ban but is concerned that last week’s deadly shooting at a mosque in Quebec City will spark similar violence in the U.S.

“We are also concerned that maybe some people will have the guts now to go ahead and attack Muslims in their places of worship because they feel backed up by the government, or feel backed up by the president, so any… go ahead and do anything you want, we don’t want them here, just go ahead,” Hassan says. “So we’re afraid that this might translate to violent actions against Muslims.”

He says he’ll meet with his congregation later in the week to talk more about the ban’s effect.

“We have a heavy Somali community and heavy Iraqi community here. I’m sure not all of them are citizens. Many of them came as refugees,” says Hassan. “So it does affect them. Yes, it does affect them especially because most of our congregation they leave on a regular basis to Canada. They cross the border and they come back again.”

He supports strengthening national security, but not the discrimination detractors say is accompanying it. Meanwhile, Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott says the state will not work with federal authorities to carry out border security and immigration enforcement orders as suggested by Trump’s recent executive orders. Scott also said he would ask the legislature to pass laws that would prohibit local officials from carrying out such actions.

Back in New York, Republican Rockland County Executive Ed Day says there should be an orderly process of immigration.

“How it’s playing out obviously has upset many people,” Day says. “There should not be an outright ban based on religion or ethnicity. That is ridiculous. But I think we should get a handle on who’s coming into this country. That, to me, is common sense.”

He adds:

“Well, I’m not going to characterize it as Trump’s immigration policies. What I’m going to say is that I support immigration policies that are  designed to be fair to people who are looking to come to this country and, by the same token, are done in such a way to ensure to American citizens that people coming here are not coming here with intent to injure them.”

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly says Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees is not a ban on Muslims. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, announced Monday the filing of a federal lawsuit on behalf of more than 20 named and “John Doe” Muslim individuals lawfully residing in the U.S. CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad says the suit challenges the constitutionality of Trump’s order.

“Donald Trump is hurting who we are as Americans. And, therefore, the way I see this lawsuit, it is really the law versus Donald Trump,” Awad says. “It is the American traditional values of openness, human dignity and respect versus Donald Trump.”

Two of the “John Does” named in the suit reside in Albany County. The suit says one is a permanent resident and a Muslim of Sudanese origin who filed for U.S. citizenship and whose application, CAIR says, will be denied based on his origin and religion. The second John Doe plaintiff is a Muslim American who filed a marriage petition for his pregnant wife, a petition CAIR says now will be denied. The CAIR suit is one of several filed by various groups across the country. 

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