BY Ally Schweitzer, WAMU
Following up on proposals made during his election campaign, President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would temporarily ban new visas and most refugees from seven countries in the Middle East and Africa.
Trump has said banning Muslim immigration to the U.S. would decrease the risk of terrorist attacks. In the Washington region, the move is attracting sharp criticism from members of the Muslim community.
Hoda Hawa directs policy and advocacy for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in D.C.
“This has nothing to do with national security,” said Hawa. “I think ultimately what he is trying to do is further divide the country based on racial and religious lines.”
A draft of the order calls for a 120-day ban on most refugees, and a 30-day ban on “immigrant and non-immigrant” entry from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Refugees from Syria would be indefinitely barred from entering the U.S.
According to the State Department, more than 1,600 refugees from those countries resettled in D.C., Maryland and Virginia in 2016. Maryland alone took in more than 500 Syrian refugees last year, with most relocating to Baltimore.
In a press event on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Nihad Awad of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the executive order wouldn’t strengthen national security.
“Refugees coming to America are the most vetted of all those entering our country,” Awad said. “They go through multiple levels of screening by multiple national security agencies before they can enter, and before they are even selected as refugees.”
Awad added that restricting new visas from the seven countries would negatively affect Muslims living legally in the U.S. “These orders will have an adverse impact on the American Muslim community and their families trying to connect with visiting relatives from overseas, or parents seeking medical treatment,” he said.
Rameez Abid, who leads the Northern Virginia chapter of the Islamic Circle of North America, says the order could also discourage non-citizen legal U.S. residents from visiting friends and family back home.
“Now [Muslim Americans are] afraid of going back out of fear that when they come back, they’ll be stopped at the border and told to go back to their country because now there’s a ban,” Abid said.
Some Muslims in the D.C. region say Islamophobia is on the rise. Last year, officials in Culpeper County, Virginia, attempted to block the construction of a mosque, prompting a discrimination lawsuit from the Justice Department.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S., Virginia is home to three active anti-Muslim organizations.
The FBI reported a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes nationwide in 2015.
“I am fearful that we will continue to see an increase … in hate incidents and hate crimes against not just American Muslims but those who are perceived to be Muslim,” Hoda Hawa said.
Multiple media outlets have published a draft of the immigration order Trump is expected to sign. In addition to suspending visas and refugee admissions, it calls to drastically lower the total number of refugees admitted to the U.S. in fiscal year 2017.
Article Courtesy: American University Radio