Trump’s Immigration Orders Signal End of Civil Rights Era

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On January 27th President Trump issued an Executive Order on immigration that brings us back to the days of overtly racist and discriminatory policies.  In 1965, Congress ended the national-origins quota system that had been in place since the 1920s because it was clearly discriminatory, favoring northern Europeans and against eastern and southern Europeans, Africans and Asians.  The Hart-Cellar Act was heralded as a complement to the Civil Rights legislation enacted just two months earlier.  On signing the landmark immigration act, President Lyndon Johnson stated, “This [old] system violates the basic principle of American democracy, the principle that values and rewards each man on the basis of his merit as a man.  It has been un-American in the highest sense, because it has been untrue to the faith that brought thousands to these shores even before we were a country”.

We can expect that our domestic civil rights will go right out the window with the end of non-discriminatory immigration policies.  Trump’s immigration orders end all refugee entries for four months and ban all citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) from entering the country.

Hours after signing the order, scores of refugees with valid visas and green card holding permanent residents from those countries were detained at US airports or prevented from boarding airplanes to the US.  Thousands of protestors rushed to JFK to protest.  The outright ban on 134 million people from entering the US echoes the blanket ban on Chinese from the late-nineteenth century, which was expanded to include other Asian countries in 1917 in what was called the Asiatic Barred Zone.  The only difference now is that Trump’s ban is more draconian than the earlier racist legislation that only targeted laborers, and had exemptions for merchants, students and diplomats.  Trump’s only exemption is for diplomats.

The Trump administration has argued that it has authority under a 1952 law to “suspend the entry” of “any class of aliens” that are detrimental to the interest of the United States. However, in 1965 Congress explicitly limited the president’s powers, stating clearly that no person can be “discriminated against in the issuance of an immigrant visa because of the person’s race, sex, nationality, place of birth or place of residence.”  Trump may try to contend that banning entry and issuing a visa are two different issues, but a fifth grader can see through this ruse.

Trump’s Order creates an explicit religious test for immigration by prioritizing Christian over Muslim applicants for refugee status.  Unfortunately, the 1965 Act did not ban religious discrimination, but the US Constitution does.  Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe told MSNBC,  “I believe Trump’s unprecedented proposal would violate our Constitution, both the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses and the equality dimension of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”  Tribe further suggested that Trump’s ban would violate the No Religious Test Clause of Article VI.

Lawyers will challenge the president on all of these issues, and they may prevail in the courts.  After all, the courts blocked Obama from granting reprieve for deportation for his DAPA program that was designed to temporarily shield parents of undocumented childhood arrivals from deportation proceedings.  The courts argued that such a blanket protection overstepped the executive authority of the president.  If Obama’s protection of a few million undocumented people living in our country is overly broad, then surely the blanket ban on 134 million people from seven different countries is outrageously so.

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SourceThe Huffington Post

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