Before President Donald Trump took office, Hussam Ayloush promised that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would fight any of his anti-Muslim policies with every legal means available. After Trump’s move to bar entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries to the United States, the Executive Director of CAIR-LA based in Anaheim is making good on his word.
Ayloush joined more than 20 plaintiffs yesterday in a federal lawsuit filed in Virginia by the national Muslim civil rights group challenging the executive order on the grounds it violates the First and Fifth amendment of the constitution. Trump imposed the 90-day ban on Friday, singling out Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia and Libya, transforming the nation’s airports into scenes of chaos and protest over the weekend. The American Civil Liberties Union won a stay on deportations Saturday night but the legal battles are only beginning.
“Make no mistake, President Trump’s executive order banning refugees and visitors from Muslim majority countries is not only un-American, but also unconstitutional,” Ayloush tells the Weekly. “[It’s] a confirmation of the proposed anti-Muslim polices he made during his presidential campaign.”
Attorneys Gadier Abbas and Lena Masri argue in the suit that the absence of the words “Muslim” and “Islam” from the order shouldn’t fool anyone. No less than Trump himself promised a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during the campaign trial, proving reason enough to call Trump’s policy the “Muslim Exclusion Order” throughout the text of their complaint.
Prominent Muslim activists from across the nation join Ayloush as plaintiffs. Linda Sarsour, the firebrand Palestinian feminist from Brooklyn who helped organize the Women’s March on Washington and Namira Islam, the Michigan-based co-founder of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (MuslimARC) are also enlisted in CAIR’s legal challenge.
The suit contends a lesser discussed, but no less nefarious intent behind the order: bringing about the mass expulsion of immigrant and non-immigrant Muslims legally residing in the U.S. How? By denying them the ability to renew their residencies based on their Islamic faith. “Many Muslims lawfully in the United States that are targeted by the Muslim Exclusion Order,” the suit reads, “will be forced to return to their home countries, where they will likely face persecution, torture and even execution, simply because they’re Muslim.”
Twelve anonymous plaintiffs in the suit fear the worst. A Somali on a student visa, a Syrian refugee on asylum, and a Sudanese permanent resident petitioning for his wife to rejoin him are among those arguing that they stand to lose their ability to become U.S. citizens on the basis of religious discrimination.
Trump’s ban also indefinitely halts all Syrian refugees fleeing their war-torn country from coming to the U.S. The President fired acting U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates yesterday after she defiantly instructed Justice Department lawyers not to enforce his order writing to them that she remained unconvinced of its legality.
“Never before in our country’s history have we purposefully—as a matter of policy—imposed a ban on immigration or refugees on the basis of religion or imposed a religious litmus test on those coming into this nation,” Ayloush adds. “My aim with this federal lawsuit, as an American and as a civil rights activist, is to hold the President accountable to our constitution.”