Two weeks ago, a coalition of Muslim and immigrant grassroots groups gathered together at Wayne State University to protest the most recent rollout of anti-immigrant policies at the federal level. Since the 2016 election last fall, advocates from across the state have gathered time and time again to push back on the increasingly hostile climate toward Muslim and immigrant communities. Beginning in his first week in office, President Trump began to make good on his campaign promise to ban Muslims from entering the country by issuing a travel ban targeting Muslim majority countries. Last week, advocates came together once again to oppose the latest iteration of the Muslim ban unveiled on Sept. 24 by the Trump administration. The ban, which again mostly targets Muslim-majority nations, continues to restrict travel from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen (Sudan is no longer included). It now also includes a ban on certain residents from North Korea, Chad and Venezuela, and goes into effect tomorrow, Oct. 18. Unlike its predecessors, this Muslim ban has no end date.
The scope of the president’s power over our borders and the legal future of travel bans in the U.S. Supreme Court is somewhat uncertain. The court allowed portions of the second travel ban order to go into effect in an unsigned opinion in June and set a date for arguments for Oct. 10. But when that 90-day ban expired, Trump issued a third iteration of the ban and the high court dropped the earlier case. Since this third travel ban is indefinite, legal challenges to it—which began Monday—will be pivotal in resolving these issues.
The initial version of the travel ban, which expired in September, narrowed travel from listed countries for those with “close family ties” in the United States. Though narrower in scope than the January version, the second version of the ban kept out refugee families fleeing natural disasters and war-torn countries who had no previous connections in the United States. The refugee restrictions in the second iteration of the travel ban are set to expire on Oct. 24. The current version of the ban has different travel restrictions set for each country listed. Some of the new restrictions include a ban on tourists, relatives of American residents and those seeking medical visas. Legal experts and community advocates argue that the administration is attempting to hide the ban’s discriminatory intent towards Muslim refugees by adding countries that are not majority Muslim in its latest version.
While the latest version of the travel ban does not include refugees in its scope, the refugee restrictions from the second version of the ban are still in effect and are set to expire on Oct. 24. These restrictions will likely continue to slow the resettlement process for families and resettlement agencies in Michigan in the latter half of the year, and the process is also likely to be affected by a new cap on refugee admissions for the coming budget year. According to a report from the Trump administration, the refugee cap will be set at 45,000. This is a stark drop from the Obama administration’s cap which had been raised by 30% to 110,000 refugees for budget year 2017.
When it comes to refugee resettlement, Michigan has a history of being a good global neighbor as a site for resettlement. In fact, for the past several years, Michigan has remained among the top 10 resettlement states in the country. In the first seven months of budget year 2017, for example, Michigan resettled 2,121 refugees, and was the fourth highest initial state of residence for refugee arrivals to the country during that time period. Michigan is also one of 12 states that has resettled more refugees from Iraq than any other group in the past 10 years.
Despite these gains, there is still much work to be done to truly make Michigan a welcoming state for all refugees and immigrants. Policies like a Muslim ban will undo the progress Michigan has made in the area of immigration, and will only lead to pain and separation for countless families from around the globe. Residents, business owners and elected officials should all speak out against a Muslim ban and the countless other xenophobic and anti-immigrant policies coming out of Washington.
— Victoria Crouse, State Policy Fellow