By Prem Calvin Prashad
On March 6, the Trump administration unveiled its newest iteration of its ban on travelers from predominantly Muslim nations. Among the changes in what opponents of the action call the “Muslim Ban” are the exclusion of Iraq from the list of banned countries and exemptions for travelers with green cards and visas.
The ban is still intended to last six months while the federal government assesses its protocols regarding travelers from those countries.
Additionally, there is a ban on the resettlement of refugees from the Syrian Civil War. No citizens from the countries covered by the ban (Iran, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Sudan) have committed a fatal terrorist attack in the United States and most national security experts agree that national identity is a poor predictor of terrorist activities.
Additionally, there are no provisions in place for large and wealthy predominantly Muslim nations such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The administration has thus far been unable to issue a coherent reason for the exclusion of these nations, aside from obvious strategic, business and logistical challenges. The discriminatory intent of the ban was the basis for the challenge brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Yemeni-Americans from Queens were particularly vocal in their opposition to the ban, with many striking for a day by closing businesses and demonstrating at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Since the surprise signing of the initial ban, suspected hate crimes have spiked precipitously in the United States, including the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and the shootings of at least four people of Indian origin, two of which were fatal.
In the Olathe, Kansas shooting, which killed one and wounded another engineer from India, the victims were reportedly asked about their immigration status before being shot at by the alleged gunman.
A Sikh man in Kent, Wash., was reportedly told to go back to his country, before being shot in the arm. There have been numerous reports of vandalism at mosques as well as homes and businesses owned by South Asians.
Arguably, expansive media coverage has made these incidents national news, but supports a national trend of increased anti-Muslim sentiment, which a backlash against people also appearing South Asian or Middle Eastern. South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) a South Asian advocacy group, chronicled 207 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic rhetoric against South Asians from late 2015 to one week after the 2016 elections.
Notably, the group points to a large increase of South Asian Americans living in the South as a contributing factor for the spike in xenophobic incidents with 43 out of 140 violent incidents reported in the region. The group came out against the new “Muslim Ban,” decrying it a “stimulus package for hate.”
The ACLU has promised to take the federal government to court about the implementation of the ban.
Previous judicial rebukes to thetravel ban have been met with consternation by President Trump. The day following the signing of the second ban, the state of Hawaii filed a legal challenge against the order, decrying it as “Muslim Ban 2.0.”
On March 15, the U.S. District Court for Hawaii issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of the executive order.
In response to the rising wave of anti-immigrant sentiment, “sanctuary” spaces for immigrants have been established around the country. In Queens, a Hindu temple (mandir) followed the lead of houses of worship around the country in declaring itself a sanctuary.
The partnership of the Shaanti Bhavan Mandir, in Richmond Hill, and Sadhana, a faith-based progressive advocacy group in the neighborhood, was announced at morning prayers last weekend. The Shaanti Bhavan mandir serves the area’s predominantly Indo-Caribbean community.
Sadhana co-founder Aminta Kilawan praised the mandir as “one of the most progressive, welcoming and action-oriented mandirs (temples) in this community and arguably in this nation.”
AJ Yusuf, a representative of the Mayor’s Officer on Immigrant Affairs, decried “incursions” by the federal government and promised to “keep this city an open and welcoming city to immigrants.”
The temple plans to meet with the leaders of other mandirs next month.