Politics & Government

Christians, Jews reject revised Trump ‘Muslim ban’

Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 to protest Trump’s original travel executive order.
Protesters assemble at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 to protest Trump’s original travel executive order. AP

Multiple religious groups reacted on Monday with outrage at the Trump administration’s revised travel ban, calling the new directive discriminatory.

President Donald Trump’s new executive order makes several changes from the original, issued in January, that brought court challenges and protests at airports. The new order issued Monday continues to ban travel from several Muslim-majority countries, but it removes Iraq from the list. Now, only people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Libya are impacted.

“President Trump’s revised executive order is still a Muslim ban, and it's still bigoted and un-American,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, an organization representing members of 75 different faith traditions. “Despite efforts by the President and his administration to spin the executive order as a security measure, the truth is self-evident. Today's action is fueled by anti-Muslim bigotry and motivated by a desire to score political points – not keep Americans safe.”

Religious groups strongly protested the original order on the grounds that it unfairly discriminates against people based on their faith. The revised order, which goes into effect Mar. 16, makes other changes: Permanent green card holders or people who already have visas approved from the six countries will be allowed in, but travel for those without previously approved visas will be banned for 90 days.

The order also renews a ban on the U.S. refugee resettlement program. It no longer includes a provision prioritizing Christian refugees, and Syrian nationals are no longer barred indefinitely from refugee admission.

"The Jewish community — like all Americans whose ancestors arrived as refugees and immigrants — was given opportunities to access education, join the workforce, and contribute to their communities and their country,” said Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. “Let us not now allow fear to overwhelm our nation’s capacity for compassion. We call on President Trump to rescind this executive order, and in doing so to embrace the longstanding American tradition of welcoming those seeking a safe haven and a new life for themselves and their families.”

A court challenge to the original travel ban found it unconstitutional and concluded it would do nothing to advance national security. According to the New York Times, out of the 36 Muslim extremists who have carried out attacks since 2001, 18 were born in the U.S. Fourteen immigrated as children and would not have been kept out under the guidelines of the travel ban. No one from the six banned countries has committed an attack on U.S. soil.

Trump, who called for a “Muslim ban” during his campaign, has advocated for stricter security measures before refugees are admitted to the U.S. which he calls “extreme vetting.” The current process takes between 18 months and upwards of two years, and requires applicants to go through a series of in-person interviews and security and health checks. It is the strictest security procedure for any class of traveler entering the U.S.

“While we support our government in ensuring our safety and security, we believe that compassion and security do not have to be mutually exclusive. We believe that the order simply remains disproportionate,” said Scott Arbeiter, president of World Relief, an evangelical Christian refugee resettlement organization. “In our national experience, the actions mandated by this executive order are inconsistent with the security record established by the refugee program since its inception and even since 9/11.”

World Relief is one of six faith-based refugee resettlement organizations that help place new arrivals and help acclimate them to their new country. Catholic Charities, another resettlement organization, also rejected Monday’s revised order.

“At the heart of the work of Catholic Charities is the Gospel mandate to welcome the stranger and care for the most vulnerable among us,” said Sister Donna Markham, president of Catholic Charities. “Today’s executive order not only hinders that work, but also effectively abandons, for four months, the thousands of endangered refugees fleeing violence, starvation and persecution. It is deeply disturbing to know that the thousands of women, children and other persecuted individuals around the world will face a closed door rather than a helping hand from the United States.”