Maryland judge hears arguments on Trump's travel ban. (WJZ)
In our country, no one — not even the president of the United States — should be above the Constitution. This core pillar of our democracy was affirmed recently in Greenbelt, where a federal court gave a stinging rebuke to the Trump administration by blocking the ban on Muslims from certain countries. This case, which we filed with the ACLU and the ACLU of Maryland, served as part of the nationwide legal defense against a discriminatory attempt to keep people out based simply on how they pray.
In the two months since Mr. Trump took office, the courts — led by plaintiffs like the International Refugee Assistance Project, HIAS and the Middle Eastern Studies Association — have played a crucial role of serving as a check on this administration's anti-immigrant agenda. Courts overwhelmingly rejected the first Muslim ban, finding that it was "contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy." And while the Trump administration may believe they wrote a more palatable revised ban to work their way around the courts, the courts affirmed again last week that the discriminatory intent remains the primary purpose, first in Hawaii, then a day later in Maryland.
Since the inception of his presidential campaign, Mr. Trump has built a clear record of discrimination against immigrants, refugees and Muslims — either from his tweets, speeches or statements. And just days after taking office, he made good on his promise to administer "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," hurling the country into chaos. The government attempted to separate Mr. Trump from his record in the Maryland court this week, but the judge rejected any such suggestion, finding that Mr. Trump's record makes clear the order is meant to be a Muslim ban, violating our Constitution's most cherished religious freedom protections.
So many lives are at stake with any portion of this ban in effect. The Hawaii court has temporarily blocked the core refugee provisions from implementation, but there is still an urgent need to ensure this provision remains blocked. We will be back in court later this month to protect our nation's commitment to providing refuge to the world's most vulnerable. To slash the number of refugees into this country by more than half is not only unprecedented; it is a matter of life and death for thousands. With this refugee reduction edict in effect, families who are seeking safety are forced to remain in unstable and unsafe settings. Children must continue living without knowing when they might see their mothers or fathers again.
This order isn't only about immigrants and refugees; it is about all of us and about the soul of our nation. The Muslim ban is part of a sinister mechanism meant to dismantle our American identity, which is strongly rooted in the belief that diversity is our greatest strength and that welcoming the world's most vulnerable is our moral obligation. The Muslim and refugee ban is just one of many proposed and signed executive orders that promote an exclusionary and extremist blueprint for immigration policy in America. The Trump administration's intention is to instill fear in communities and change the face of who immigrants and refugees are. They want to make immigrants' lives so inhumane and unbearable that people will voluntarily leave the country they call home.
On the night of the federal court's decision blocking the Muslim and refugee ban, a D.C. taxi driver shared his fears with me. He is a naturalized U.S. citizen and Muslim, and he has three U.S. citizen children. In his 30 years in this country — the country he and his family call home — he has never felt so afraid for his own safety and his kids' future.
Fear can be a paralyzing. But we cannot and must not allow Mr. Trump's nationalist agenda to erase our history as a nation that was built by native communities, enslaved people forced to come here and immigrants.
Our eyes are open and we will not rest until our policymakers — including Gov. Larry Hogan, who has been conspicuously silent on the matter –— heed the call for an outright rejection of this ban, along with all other policies that criminalize our communities and undermine our democracy.
The strength of our conviction will continue to be tested, and how we protect the rights of those in Mr. Trump's crosshairs will be its measure. Together we must all continue to relentlessly fight against any and all threats to our democracy's promise of equality and justice for all, for doing any less makes us complicit in its unraveling.