Justices’ travel ban decision divides Detroit area

Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed some parts of a controversial travel ban to go into effect for travelers from six mostly Islamic countries — but local activists were divided over the ruling’s impact in Metro Detroit, which has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Muslims and Syrian refugees.

The High Court allowed the ban to go forward with an exception: those coming to the U.S. could enter if they present a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”

The court will hear arguments in the fall after two federal appeals courts stopped the ban from going into effect. The ban spawned widespread opposition and chaos erupted in airportswhen it was unveiled in January.

“My number one responsibility as commander in chief is to keep the American people safe,” Trump said in a statement. “Today’s ruling allows me to use an important tool for protecting our nation’s homeland.”

Trump: Travel ban decision a national security victory

But some attorneys and immigration activists said a travel ban is unnecessary since most terrorists were either born in America, or came from counties other than the six on the list: Syria, Libya, Somalia, Iran, Sudan and Yemen.

“The whole notion behind the travel ban is nonsense and a complete waste of time,” said Nasser Beydoun, chairman of the Arab-American Civil Rights League in Dearborn. “There is no rhyme or reason to the travel ban other than Trump promised to ban Muslims. He is catering to his base.”

Others — including the Michigan arms of the ACLU and the Council on American-Islamic Relations — contend that the travel ban is unconstitutional.

“The challenge to Mr. Trump’s travel ban is not over and done with,” said Dawud Walid of CAIR-Michigan. “CAIR and other civil rights organizations, along with states that filed legal actions, will continue to fight this in the courts.”

Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said she was heartened by the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“At least for now there will be minimal impact,” Moss said. “After oral arguments in October, we’ll have to see where things go from there. We hope the court will find it’s an unconstitutional order. There’s no question there are serious constitutional issues at stake.”

Meanwhile, some suggested that the U.S. should take some steps to protect national security, and vet those entering the country.

“We want to make sure whoever is coming here is loyal to this country, and also is working for the betterment of this country,” said Joseph Kassab, president of the Iraqi Christians Advocacy and Empowerment Institute in West Bloomfield. “We want people coming here who are willing to integrate.”

But protecting the country by applying a broad policy is wrong, said Warren-based immigration attorney Eman Jajonie-Daman.

“Our country must be protected from potential terrorists who want to do us harm,” said Jajonie-Daman, who is also a magistrate in Southfield. “But you cannot do a blanket order. It must be on a case-by-case basis.”

The ban, among Trump’s first executive orders, barred individual travelers from entering the country for 90 days and refugees for 120 days.

When it was unveiled in January, it generated a national outcry that reverberated locally among affected individuals and families. Soon afterward, the ban was blocked by the courts.

The ban was implemented too hastily, Jajonie-Daman said, disrupting the lives of those who were already vetted, including one of her clients who spent a month in Switzerland trying to get back into the United States.

“It wreaked havoc on a lot of people who were lawfully here,” Jajonie-Daman said.

The travel ban was narrowed in March, and dropped references to religion.

The new policy eliminated Iraq from the list — which created another issue for Metro Detroit’s population of Iraqi Christians, the largest in the U.S.

For years, Iraq had not accepted deportees from the U.S. without travel documents in an effort to secure its border against terrorists from groups such as the Islamic State. Many Iraqis came to the U.S. when they were young and do not have documents to prove they were born in that country.

But an agreement reached in March between the U.S. and Iraq paved the way for more than 1,400 Chaldeans across the country with criminal records to be detained and slated for deportation to Iraq, where Christians face persecution and even death.

The first U.S. plane since 2010 to deport Iraqi-born residents to their native land left in April with eight people aboard, including one Metro Detroit man who went voluntarily.

Recently, more than 114 local Chaldeans from Metro Detroit have been detained and face deportation to Iraq. A federal judge issued a two-week stay against deporting them last week and heard arguments Monday on a request to extend that protection nationwide.