Civil rights advocates in Maryland called the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Donald Trump’s travel ban, which applies to seven countries — most of them majority-Muslim — “shameful” and “Islamophobic” Wednesday morning, before rallying in Baltimore in the evening.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations — along with allies from other civil rights organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the NAACP, and the United Maryland Muslim Council — decried the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, announced Tuesday, that Trump’s ban is constitutional and within his presidential powers.
“It is deeply disappointing that the highest level of our judiciary has decided to allow this administration to target Muslims, empowering this president and future administrations to discriminate on the basis of religion,” said Zainab Chaudry, CAIR director of Maryland outreach. “Yesterday’s decision undermines Muslim communities and opens the door to state-sanctioned discrimination towards minority groups.”
The decision represents a victory for Trump, who has attempted to enact similar immigration restrictions since he took office. This ban, issued in September, is the third and most recent iteration of policy designed to restrict travel and immigration from largely Muslim nations, a promise he had made on the campaign trail. It has been dubbed a “Muslim ban” because the policy targets five majority-Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as well as North Korea and Venezuela.
A sixth largely Muslim country, Chad, was removed from the list of barred countries in April. But by then it had already affected Aban Jones, 16, a Chadian national and an American citizen, and his family.
“There were concerns that if you go, you may not be able to return,” Jones said about a recent trip to Chad his family decided to cancel because of the travel ban. Jones also said his grandmother, a Chadian national and citizen, missed his high school graduation from Al-Huda School, a private Islamic school in College Park.
“When you graduate and you achieve something, you would like for your family to be there to celebrate your success because they are the ones that stood by you,” he said.
Some immigration advocates have called the travel ban an attack on families.
“This is just another example of family separation,” said Nick Katz, a spokesperson for CASA, the region’s largest immigrant rights organization. “Most of our members are from the Latino community, but we stand here together in denouncing this decision by the Supreme Court as another step by the administration, in affirming the administration’s policy of racist attacks against all immigrant communities.”
The Supreme Court decision follows Trump’s June 20 executive order aimed at stopping family separations at the border that has already separated about 2,300 immigrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
The issue of immigration reform drew supporters to Baltimore City Hall on Thursday evening to rally against the travel ban and show support for the city’s Muslim community.
“This is not the time to keep our heads down. This is the time to make some trouble,” said Sid Chaudhury, an organizer for Indivisible Baltimore, as his 3-year-old daughter clung to his leg.
“Governor Hogan is against immigrants, he’s against refugees,” he said before urging the crowd to vote in November.
The speeches delivered by community activists were punctuated with bursts of chanting: “No ban, no registry! No white supremacy!”
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City Councilman Zeke Cohen joined in. “As opposed to the president, Baltimore City stands with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Cohen, who comes from a family of refugees who fled Germany and Austria in the 1930s. “Two generations later, I’m a city councilman.” Last year that same City Council established the Safe City Baltimore program, which created a legal defense fund for immigrants.
A Baltimore resident, Debbie Steinig,46, carried a sign that read: “I stand with Muslims, I stand with immigrants.”
“Everything I ever learned as a Jew and as an American is you don’t persecute people on the basis of race, religion or nationality,” said Steinig, a teacher at Krieger Schechter Day School. “The travel ban strips foreigners and residents alike of freedom of travel; inhibits cultural, academic and economic exchange; and has even sometimes made it impossible for family members to be together for weddings or funerals.”
Despite the anger and frustration expressed by many of the protesters, there were moments of hope.
The somber faces of the poster-wielding demonstrators lit up as Carla Gates, a member of Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, sang “Woke Up This Morning,” to the crowd. The song dates back to Civil Rights-era protests.
“That song was about people dealing with oppression and what they were saying was, they woke up with freedom on their mind,” Gates said. “They were focused on what they wanted, what they needed to survive and thrive. And that’s what we need now."