Leaders with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said Wednesday any executive order targeting Muslims will not make the U.S. safer.
The organization’s leaders were joined by leaders of other faith-based groups as they condemned any attempt by President Donald Trump to restrict immigrants from Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries. The president was expected to sign such an executive order Thursday.
The suspension of refugee programs will send a dangerous message, CAIR leaders said, and will not do much to enhance national security or public safety.
CAIR National Director Nihad Awad said refugees often go through multiple levels of security screening by several federal agencies. The vetting process currently takes almost two years, he said.
“What do we need more? I believe it has nothing with national security. It has a lot to do with prejudice and with campaign slogans that are now becoming policies,” he said.
“As Americans we do not ban, register or deport people based on how they pray or the color of their skin,” Rabiah Ahmed, spokesperson for the Muslim Public Affairs Council said. She believes “fear-mongering” policies weaken U.S. leadership.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump spoke to employees at the Department of Homeland Security after signing two executive orders in keeping with campaign promises to boost border security and crack down on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
"We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States," Trump said.
On Thursday, the president is expected to suspend the issuance of U.S. visas in countries where adequate screening cannot occur and suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry for citizens of countries of particular concern for 30 days.
That could include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Federal law gives Trump broad authority to suspend immigration for groups of people whose entry is deemed "detrimental to U.S. interests." He is expected to specifically suspend any immigration, including for refugees, from Syria.
CAIR asked for members of other faiths to stand with Muslim community groups to protest the proposed action.
“Never before in our country’s history have we purposely, as a matter of policy, imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion or imposed a religious litmus test on those coming to this nation,” Awad said.
“We cannot allow religious bigotry to affect our willingness and ability to welcome those fleeing violence and persecution,” he said.
The president proposes to reduce the maximum number of refugees by more than half, to 50,000, for the budget year ending in September. Trump has the authority to set the limit of how many refugees can be admitted annually. He can also suspend refugee processing, as was done by former President George W. Bush in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks
Steve Martin of the National Council of Churches said a state-sanctioned policy of banning refugees based on faith is an unbelievable development.
“We explicitly condemn any attempts to place a religious test upon refugees attempting to build their new lives in the United States,” Martin said.
CAIR said any restrictions would not only impact U.S. citizens whose families may be visiting or seeking medical care but will also create an uncaring image of the U.S. with other nations.
Reported hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. rose in 2015 to their highest levels since those seen in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to FBI statistics released in November.
In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents the prior year, an increase of 67 percent.
San Diego has been the launching point for the resettlement of 78,000 refugees, according to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Muslims living in San Diego jumped 179 percent according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.
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