During his first week in office, President Trump signed an executive order putting a moratorium on all refugee resettlement and banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. Despite defeats in the courts and resistance in the streets, the president hasn’t given up on his extreme campaign promises. Last month, Trump announced he issued a third version of the Muslim Ban and lowered the number of refugees to be resettled next year to 45,000 - the lowest number in the program’s history.
Different Ban, Same Islamophobic Agenda: On Sunday, September 24th, the day the second iteration of the Muslim ban was set to expire, the White House unveiled Muslim Ban 3.0, which will go into effect on Wednesday, October 18th. Muslim Ban 3.0 changes and expands the list countries whose nationals are barred from entering the U.S. The countries on the list now are: Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Yemen, North Korea, and Venezuela. Sudan is no longer included, and Chad, North Korea, and Venezuela have been added. For a detailed list of criteria for each country on the ban, visit here.
The Trump administration claims these countries have not cooperated in providing information for visa vetting however, Somalia remains banned even though it does live up to the government’s new visa cooperation standards. While Muslim Ban 3.0 includes two non-Muslim majority countries (North Korea and Venezuela), the addition of these countries does little to provide substantive evidence that this is still anything but an attack on Muslim immigrants and an effort to follow through on his promises of a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslim immigration to the US. North Korea, for example, only accounted for 61 of the more than 75 million total U.S. visas given to foreign travelers in 2016. And, only Venezuelan government officials and their families are barred from tourist and temporary business visas. On the other hand, nearly all nationals from the Muslim-majority countries are barred from obtaining green cards regardless of what business or family ties they have in the U.S.
Unlike previous bans, this one has no expiration date, indefinitely keeping tens of thousands of families apart and aspiring Americans from coming to the country.
Closing Our Doors to Refugees: Just three days after the announcement about Muslim Ban 3.0, President Trump lowered the refugee ceiling to 45,000 refugees for the 2017-2018 Fiscal Year, which begins each October. In the midst of a global refugee crisis, the largest displacement of people since World War II, this number is a shameful betrayal of our values and the lowest in the history of the resettlement program. Since the resettlement program creation in 1980, the average admissions ceiling has been 96,000 - more than double what the President has proposed for next year and far less than the previous record-low of 67,000 set by Ronald Reagan in 1986. The dramatically lowered ceiling means that fewer people fleeing persecution and violence will be able to find refuge in the U.S.
To justify this decision, the Trump administration has relied on a series of problematic arguments around security, cost, capacity, and community support. But, these justifications are not based on data or evidence. In fact just recently, the White House rejected a study by a federal bureau which showed that refugees bring in $63 billion more in government revenues than they cost.
The Local Impact: Previous iterations of the Muslim ban lowered the refugee ceiling to 50,000, forcing local resettlement agencies to close or cut staff. Meanwhile, the state legislature is suing the federal government in an effort to end resettlement in Tennessee. Tennessee has long been at the forefront of extreme and hateful anti-Muslim and anti-refugee rhetoric and policies. As detailed in our 2015 report, Countering the Backlash, the national anti-refugee movement has used Tennessee as a testing ground for some of the nation's most extreme policies. In fact, one of the country's first explicitly anti-refugee policies in recent times was introduced in the Tennessee legislature by Shelbyville Senator Jim Tracy in 2011, allowing local governments to pass (symbolic) moratoriums to stop resettlement in their communities. More recently, a group of white nationalist organizations announced they would be holding "White Lives Matter" rallies in Middle Tennessee, including in Shelbyville and Murfreesboro, to protest the “ongoing problem of refugee resettlement.”
Despite these efforts, we believe that our state has the opportunity to lead the country in turning the tide, defending refugee resettlement, and building truly welcoming communities where everyone belongs.
What You Can Do: On October 18th, the day Muslim Ban 3.0 is set to go into effect, join the ACLU of TN, the American Muslim Advisory Council, Bridge Refugee Services, and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition for a rally and vigil to say #NoMuslimBanEver and #RefugeesWelcome.
These events are part of a nationwide day of action. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our mailing list to stay updated on what you can do to help us build a more welcoming Tennessee.
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