WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan. 28, 2017) — South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT), a national South Asian advocacy organization, staunchly opposes the latest Executive order in the litany of divisive, un-American measures issued by President Trump this week.
Saturday’s announcement effectively bans Muslims, rejects refugees, and expands surveillance on Muslim-American communities, creating separate and wholly unequal standards of law and justice for millions of Americans.
“The ethos and impact of these Orders contradict America’s founding values and take us further away from our bedrock commitment to freedom and civil liberties for all,” stated Suman Raghunathan, executive director, SAALT. “Today’s announcement will criminalize people of color based on their religion and national origin, and reinforces a climate of suspicion and increasing violence aimed at Muslim communities living in the U.S. Our nation is better than this.”
The Executive orders block refugees entering the U.S. from war-torn Syria indefinitely; suspends refugee admissions from other countries for 120 days; vaguely suspends visa issuance to countries of “particular concern;” bans immigrant and non-immigrant entry of individuals from several Muslim-majority countries; and creates an entry-exit tracking system for all visitors to the United States in addition to requiring in-person interviews for all nonimmigrant visa applicants.
A majority of American voters do not support the measures announced today: in fact, 52 percent of Americans oppose a ban on immigrants and travelers who are Muslim. President Trump’s decision to transform his divisive and irresponsible campaign rhetoric into policy expressly targets millions of our community members nationwide, and explicitly runs counter to the will of the electorate. The most recent policies will only serve to further divide us as a nation at the very moment when we must all come together as the resounding national message rings of exclusion and racism.
The entry-exit policy in particular has a troubling precedent that devastated South Asian American, Muslim, and Arab communities for much of the last 15 years, and was just dismantled at the end of 2016. Under the guise of “national security,” the 2002 National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS) forced immigrants from Muslim-majority countries to register at local immigration offices for lengthy interrogations. Over 83,000 individuals registered; over 13,000 were placed into deportation proceedings, resulting in zero terrorism-related convictions. President Trump’s order reopens this wound at a time when our communities are increasingly under attack nationwide.
Just this month, SAALT released “Power, Pain, Potential,” which documents over 200 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities during the 2016 election cycle. An astounding 95 percent of these incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment.
President Trump was responsible for 21 percent of the xenophobic political statements we documented. Just one week into his administration, the President’s rhetoric is now being implemented via destructive policies. It is clear that this administration’s rhetoric and policies serve only to criminalize and dehumanize large segments of our country, and will continue to embolden neighbors to target neighbors, Americans to target Americans-all for the narrow end of “making America great again.”
As Black, Brown, indigenous, immigrant, and Asian American communities who have survived systemic racism, internment, and genocide, we will stand strong as a united front against any policies rooted in discrimination and divisiveness. Working with our partners in the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations, we will forge a future driven by the fundamental value that all people must be treated equally under the law. We must be better than this.