The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Monday blamed “Islamophobes” and “white supremacists” in the White House for President Trump's new travel executive order – or what CAIR has dubbed “Muslim ban 2.0.”
“The driving force behind this Muslim ban are the Islamophobes and the white supremacists employed by the Trump administration, including [counterterrorism advisor] Sebastian Gorka, [chief strategist] Steve Bannon, and [senior policy advisor] Stephen Miller,” CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad told a press conference at the group's Capitol Hill headquarters. “This order is just a preview of future anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant policy proposals being fed to President Trump by his Islamophobic advisors,” he added.
Earlier in his remarks, Awad described the fact the president had to issue a new order – after federal courts placed holds on his original issued in late January – as a “major defeat” for the administration. “While this is a major defeat for the Trump administration, we cannot be complacent,” he said. “We must continue to fight this discriminatory and unconstitutional executive action.”
Awad recalled that Miller said last month that the new executive order would “have the same basic policy outcome” as the original order. “As White House advisor Stephen Miller promised, this watered-down Muslim ban 2.0 was retooled to achieve the same unconstitutional policy outcome as the first deeply-flawed order,” he said. “We believe this policy outcome is the fulfilment of now-President Trump's campaign pledge to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.”
In December 2015, then-Republican candidate Trump called for Muslims to be temporarily banned from entering the U.S., “until our country's representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.”
The remarks were prompted by an ISIS-inspired terrorist attack in San Bernardino, Calif., carried out by the U.S.-born son of Pakistani migrants and his Pakistani-born wife, who had entered the U.S. 17 months earlier on a fiancée visa. The couple killed 14 people in an attack at a social services center, fled the scene and were killed hours later in a shootout with police.
During a presidential debate later in the campaign, Trump said his Muslim ban proposal had “morphed into extreme vetting [of Muslim visitors] from certain areas of the world.” He cited Syrians in particular.
The new executive order bars citizens and nationals of Syria, Sudan, Iran, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. Green-card holders and citizens of the six countries who have valid U.S. visas issued before the date of the original order, January 27, are exempt.
A seventh country in the original order, Iraq, was excluded this time. The administration says the Iraqi government has agreed to “increase cooperation with the U.S. government on the vetting of its citizens applying for a visa to travel to the United States.” While media reports frequently use the descriptor “Muslim-majority” to describe the six countries – and they do indeed have large Muslim majorities – the order makes it clear they were not selected for that reason, or randomly.
“Each of these countries is a state sponsor of terrorism [Iran, Syria and Sudan are designated as such], has been significantly compromised by terrorist organizations, or contains active conflict zones,” the order states.
Moreover they were countries, it points out, “that were designated by Congress and the Obama administration as posing national security risks with respect to visa-free travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.”
A law signed by President Obama in Dec. 2015 required additional security for arrivals from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Sudan and any other country designated by the Department of Homeland Security as a source of legitimate terrorism concerns.
Two months later Obama's DHS added Somalia, Yemen and Libya to the list of “countries of [terrorist] concern.”
Awad of CAIR said Monday that Trump's new order “still stigmatizes the faith of Islam and Muslims. It does not make America any safer. But it does make America less great.”
“This administration is actively working to undercut religious liberties and the freedom of American Muslims, despite constitutional protections that guarantee freedom of religion to all,” he said. CAIR, which calls itself the nation's biggest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group, regularly labels its critics “Islamophobes.”