For days, Muslim-Americans in Orange County anticipated the United States Supreme Court ruling on President Donald Trump’s Muslim Ban with the same plan. As soon as an announcement came, the Council on American-Islamic Relations Greater Los Angeles Area (CAIR-LA) chapter would host a press conference at its Anaheim office with a rally in Little Arabia to follow in the afternoon. With the 5-4 decision yesterday morning to uphold the travel ban mostly targeting Muslim majority nations, the planned response kicked into effect.
“We, like four of the Supreme Court justices, believe that the Muslim Ban is unconstitutional and un-American,” said Farida Chehata, CAIR-LA immigrants’ rights managing attorney, to a room full of reporters. “We have hope that it…will be overturned by the court of history.”
Federal courts struck down all three versions of the ban, but the Supreme Court allowed its third iteration to go into effect in December while the case was being heard. Trump’s executive order singled out Yemen, Somalia, Iran, Libya and Syria for a ban on nearly all travelers. It also tacked on North Korea and Venezuela, a move criticized as a ploy to distance the travel ban from any charges of religious discrimination, especially given Trump’s repeated anti-Muslim statements.
The president greeted the news as a bolster to national security, but the largest Muslim civil rights group countered that the ban impacts people who pose no such risk. Chehata spoke about a CAIR-LA client who’s a green card holder from Yemen. He teaches at a prestigious university in state and has a wife and two children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. After discovering that he suffered from an acute form of advanced leukemia a few months ago, the attorney noted, doctors advised finding a bone marrow match from a relative to have any chance for survival. His sister wanted to travel to the U.S. to be a potential matching donor, but on two occasions the U.S. Embassy in Dubai denied her visitor visa application requests.
“What is particularly dismaying and problematic is that the current version of President Trump’s Muslim Ban has no expiration date,” Chehata added. “We’re ultimately left at the mercy of the State Department’s visa waiver program.”
The press conference featured speakers from Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, Orange County Communities Organized for Responsible Development, Unite HERE Local 11, Activate Labs and the Arab American Civic Council. “We will resist this racism which is institutionalized as a policy in our nation,” said Shakeel Syed, Executive Director of OCCORD. “This is not the end of the fight, but the beginning of the fight.”
Later that afternoon, about a hundred people gathered along Brookhurst Street in Anaheim’s Little Arabia district for a rally. Rashad al-Dabbagh, executive director of the Arab-American Civic Council, upheld the business corridor during the earlier press conference as one transformed for the better with the help of local Muslims and refugees. Activists denounced the Muslim Ban with chants amplified by bullhorn and broke out into a small march.
None expressed surprise at the Supreme Court decision, but felt disappointed by it just the same. “We’re obviously not going to give up hope,” said Rasha Moubacher, a 25-year-old Muslim from Anaheim. “We’re going to continue to organize.” The activist is Lebanese and Palestinian but has family members that are Syrian nationals who are affected by the news. She’s also a CAIR-LA staffer for the Muslim Latino Collaborative and the news cycle dominated by family separation at the U.S.-Mexico border and, now, the Muslim ban underscores an urgency for the group’s efforts.”This is just fueling our work to stand in solidarity with both communities,” she says.
With yesterday’s decision, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, giving only the slimmest hope for future arguments that the ban discriminates on the basis of religion could prove persuasive.
For those gathered in Little Arabia, such is already a given. “It’s a continuation of a long, long history,” said Johanna Mustafa, a Palestinian activist with the Arab-American Civic Council, of the decision. “The addition of North Korea and Venezuela is just a distraction. This way they can argue that it’s not a Muslim ban, but it is a Muslim ban.”
Gabriel San Roman is from Anacrime. He’s a journalist, subversive historian and tallest Mexican in OC.