This piece was originally published in the Orlando Sentinel.
When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s travel ban, imposing travel restrictions on several predominantly Muslim-majority countries, it affected many people in our state. One such person is Basma Alawee, a community advocate with the Florida Immigrant Coalition and a former delegate with the United Nations Refugee Agency’s congress. Alawee and her husband arrived in Florida as refugees from Iraq.
“For many of us here impacted by this Muslim ban, we worry about whether we will see our family members again,” Alawee said, “or if those from countries like Syria and Yemen will find refuge from the destruction that the United States has helped to create.”
When the president issued the first travel ban in January 2017, it sparked outrage. Trump’s abrupt and what many call “xenophobic” executive order immediately faced lawsuits, appeals and massive protests in airports as it left people traveling from other countries trapped in airports, creating a global chaos. Trump’s travel ban was laterblocked by multiple federal judges.
This travel ban is a repetition of dark moments in our country’s history. For instance, the 1944 Supreme Court ruling of Korematsu v. United States sided with the government to imprison Japanese Americans in detention centers solely based on their nationality and ethnicity on the grounds of protecting national security after World War II. Today, Trump uses the same fear-based reasoning for his travel ban on the grounds of defending national security.
Trump made his stance on immigration very clear when, as a candidate, he called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” After the Supreme Court ruling in June, Trump reacted in his characteristically smug fashion bytweeting: “SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!”
Justice Sonia Sotomayor was one of four who ruled against the ban, a 5-to-4 vote led by the court’s conservatives in favor of the president’s policy. Sotomayor noted in herdissenting opinion this action shows a “harrowing picture from which a reasonable observer would readily conclude that the Proclamation was motivated by hostility and animus toward the Muslim faith.”
According to the American Immigration Council, one in five Florida residents is an immigrant, while nearly one in eight residents is a U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. Altogether, this accounts for more than a fourth of Florida’s work force.
“This is not the first time the court has been wrong, or has allowed official racism and xenophobia to continue rather than standing up to it,” according to Anna Eskamani, the daughter immigrants from Iran, one of the countries on the banned list, who is running for Florida’s House District 47.
“History has its eyes on us,” Eskamani said, “and will judge these decisions harshly.”
To make this moment even more critical, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedyannounced his retirement, which led Trump to quickly nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace Kennedy.
It is up to the Senate to not allow another conservative judge be part of our Supreme Court.
Yet it is up to us, voters, to decide who ends up in the U.S. Senate. Let’s vote for people who embrace our values and respect all members of our communities.