By Zach Gewelb
Queens’ elected officials and state officials railed against the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to uphold President Donald Trump’s controversial Muslim travel ban with a 5-4 ruling.
The policy, which Trump has referred to as a watered-down version of the first two iterations of his plan, will prohibit travel from eight nations, including Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Chad and Somalia — all majority Muslim nations — while North Korea and Venezuela are also on the list.
Chief Justice John Roberts, along with justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, penned the majority opinion. He wrote that the ban “does not exceed any textual limit on the President’s authority.”
Trump celebrated his victory on Twitter, writing “Supreme Court upholds travel ban. Wow!”
The president has argued that the policy would make the United States safer from hostile foreigners. The first executive order Trump signed back in January 2017 was turned aside by lower courts, and the second was allowed to partially go into effect by the Supreme Court last year, expiring in September.
Rallies were held in New York City and across the nation. Locally, hundreds of lawyers and volunteers headed to Kennedy Airport to assists detained travelers from 20 nations after Trump announced the ban. Protests at JFK sparked actions across the country, including a demonstration at Battery Park which drew more than 30,000 protesters.
The case was first filed by the state of Hawaii and advanced all the way to the Supreme Court. Opponents of the legislation claimed that it was motivated by racism and religious discrimination.
Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement Tuesday declaring “New York City will continue to welcome people from all over the world to our shores, from all faith traditions.”
“This ban is institutionalized Islamophobia, promoted under the guise of national security,” de Blasio. “Banning people from our country on the basis of religion is an affront to our founding ideals. With this decision, the highest court in the land has sent a message of exclusion and division across the globe… Our values have helped make our city the safest big city in the United States — and they are what make America great.”
Half of Queens residents are foreign-born and close to 40 percent of all the people living in New York City come from other nations.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz also chimed in with a statement.
“The Supreme Court has been on the wrong side of history before, and history will judge this decision just as harshly,” Katz said Tuesday morning. “Such state-sanctioned discrimination and xenophobia have rendered some of the deepest stains on our nation’s history. Queens – the birthplace of religious freedom in the United States courtesy of the Flushing Remonstrance, home to over 2.3 million residents (half of whom were born abroad), and host to New York City’s two major airports – is deeply disappointed by this decision that affirms such wholesale profiling.”
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) warned that the Supreme Court’s decision will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
“This is a deeply shameful decision that strikes at the heart of the principles our nation was founded on and the values we hold dear as Americans,” he said. “Instituting a religious test and vilifying refugees seeking asylum is immoral, ignorant, and hateful. President Trump’s Muslim Ban is the antithesis to everything we stand for, and we will continue to fight against this policy and this administration’s xenophobic and intolerant agenda.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said “the Trump travel ban is a gross violation of our American values, and the Supreme Court’s ruling along partisan lines does nothing to change that.”
“This shameful and bigoted policy is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to govern by hate and division and continue the federal government’s assault on immigrants,” he added.
State Attorney General Barbara Underwood called Trump’s travel ban “a stain on American history that (was) rooted in deep anti-Muslim animus and unleashed chaos on families, businesses, institutions and communities throughout New York.”
Despite the ruling, “New York will continue to serve as a beacon to the world, welcoming people of all faiths, races, nationalities and backgrounds,” she added.
Former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman led a coalition of 17 attorneys general around the nation and filed a new amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in March opposing Trump’s third travel ban. Underwood is looking forward to continuing the fight.
“I’m proud of our work to successfully beat back President Trump’s first two discriminatory bans,” Underwood said. “My office won’t hesitate to act to protect New York’s families and ensure that we live up to the values on which this state and this nation were built.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said on Twitter that the Supreme Court had erred in upholding the travel ban.
“This is a mistake. It’s a discriminatory policy, period. The policy came out of Trump’s stated desire to achieve ‘a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.’ As Maya Angelou said, ‘When someone shows you who they are, believe them.’ #NoMuslimBanEver.”
Reach reporter Zach Gewelb by e-mail at zgewe