Rep. Conyers: Immigration at the crossroads

John Conyers

Two months into the Trump presidency, our nation stands on the verge of turning away from our historic role as a place of refuge and tolerance and, instead, heading down a path of xenophobia and paranoia.

The repackaged Muslim ban, issued by President Donald Trump this month and already blocked by two federal courts, is only the most immediate flash point, but the risks go much further. Like the previous ban which was also stayed by the courts, the intent and effect of the revised executive order is the same: religious discrimination. The ban circumscribes travel from six nations, totaling more than 180 million people that are all more than 90 percent Muslim.

It does this even though the Homeland Security Department’s own leaked memos conclude that citizenship is a poor threat indicator. The executive order also ignores the fact that not a single individual from the six identified nations has killed an American on U.S. soil in the last 40 years.

Although receiving less media attention, the revised order also ends our nation’s traditional leadership providing refuge for persecuted individuals. It does this by suspending the refugee program entirely for one third of a year, then cutting refugee admissions in half, and also paving the way for state and local governments to restrict refugee resettlement even further.

Other Trump executive orders issued since the inauguration also reverse longstanding policy and unfairly and inhumanely target immigrants. On his fifth day in office, Trump issued decrees allowing the federal government to cut off federal funding to so-called “sanctuary cities,” estimated to cost Michigan nearly $2 million per year in urgently needed public safety funds.

Late last month, the Homeland Security Department issued two additional orders classifying virtually all undocumented individuals in America — not just violent felons — as enforcement priorities; and eviscerating their due process rights. This subjects millions upon millions of law abiding immigrants to the risk of deportation. As a direct result, immigrant homes are already being broken into by federal agents and immigrant families have already been torn apart, with many more to come. In one case, a father was arrested after dropping of his daughter at school, sending fear and shockwaves throughout the school and the community.

There are even more dangerous immigration orders still being considered by the Trump administration. One such order would designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a “foreign terrorist organization.” This would subject non-violent, law-abiding Muslims across the world to Draconian penalties, including denial of entry to the U.S. or deportation, as well as criminal penalties. Another potential order would overhaul a federal program designed to counter all violent ideologies to only focus on “radical Islamic extremism.” A third pending proposal would separate women and children crossing the border together, which could negatively impact more than 50,000 people a year.

Because of our openness and diversity, southeast Michigan is ground zero in the Trump administration’s war against immigration and Islam. It is also clear that this is a battle Trump will not give up easily.

If we are going to avoid the path of fear mongering and division, we will need to rely on all of our institutional checks and balances to counter these dangerous, counterproductive policies.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit, represents Michigan’s 13th District.