Caption: A Ridgewood, Queens home displays a sign condemning the travel ban Credit: Katie Finkowski

‘State-Sanctioned Xenophobia’ — Katz and Local Leaders Condemn Supreme Court’s Travel Ban Decision

By David Brand @D4V1DBR4ND

Donald Trump’s travel ban may have withstood Supreme Court scrutiny, but that has not stopped Queens leaders from condemning it.

“[The Supreme Court] has been on the wrong side of history before,” said Borough President Melinda Katz said “History will judge this decision just as harshly. Yet again, state-sanctioned xenophobia and discrimination.”

Katz joined several local leaders in issuing harsh critiques of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Donald Trump’s third travel ban, which he issued in December 2017. The executive order prohibits refugees, asylum-seekers and other residents from Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Venezuela and North Korea from entering the US

In a 5-4 vote Tuesday, the Court upheld the ban, a ruling that experts say confirms the executive branch’s vast authority to control immigration.

Katz, however, said the ban runs counter to the multicultural character of Queens.

“We are a nation of immigrants and Queens is about all our families’ future,” she said, adding that she encourages borough residents to support her office’s ongoing “Know Your Rights” campaign to educate immigrants and activists.

During his presidential campaign, Trump frequently cited his intent to impose a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and in January 2017, days after his Inauguration, he issued the first version of the travel ban against people from eight Muslim majority countries. That initial executive order prompted huge protests across the country, including impromptu demonstrations at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy Airports in Queens and was quickly overturned by a federal judge.

The current ban — Trump’s third attempt at permanently blocking travelers from certain foreign countries — was tailored to avoid accusations of religious discrimination. But City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and other local council members say the executive order remains fueled by xenophobia.

“It is an explicitly discriminatory policy that mocks the values this country was founded on,” Johnson said. “To Muslims around the world, please know that you are always welcome here in New York City.”

Council Member I. Daneek Miller, who represents District 27 in Southeast Queens, echoed Johnson’s criticism. Miller is the only Muslim serving in the City Council.

“Today’s shameful ruling by [the Supreme Court’s] conservative majority validates government sanctioned Islamophobia,” Miller said. “This is a dreadful moment in the history of our country, particularly when hate crimes against Muslims are at levels unseen in more than 15 years.”

Yesterday, the City Council hosted its annual Eid Ul-Fitr event to celebrate the end of Ramadan. At the event, several leaders affirmed the city’s support for immigrants, Muslims and people of diverse ethnicities and religions citywide.

The ban also affects individuals who live in the US but have attempted to reunite with family members ensnared in humanitarian crises in their home countries. Residents of Yemen, for example, experience famine and a brutal civil war that has displaced hundreds of thousands of residents.

“This is a direct attack on our community that has fled war-torn countries to find peace and prosperity and an attack on their basic right to religious freedom,” said Rama Issa-Ibrahim, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. “This ruling puts our members at further risk.”

Writing for the dissent, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor described the travel ban as a violation of religious freedom.

“The United States of America is a nation built upon the promise of religious liberty,” Sotomayor said. “Our founders honored that core promise by embedding the principle of religious neutrality in the First Amendment.”

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