Travel ban ruling stirs fear, anguish among Minnesota Muslims

Published 8:54 pm Wednesday, June 27, 2018

By Peter Cox, Minnesota Public Radio News


A long-awaited U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upholds President Trump’s travel ban on several majority Muslim countries is reverberating in Minnesota.

Email newsletter signup

For the state’s Somali community, there is anguish about how the ban will affect the lives of family and friends.

“I do have family back in Somalia — my aunts and uncles and my cousins too — and they would love to come to this country,” said Anisa Ali, who attended a rally Tuesday night in front of the federal courthouse in Minneapolis decrying the court decision.

Ali came to the U.S. on a visa, and is now a U.S. citizen. She’s worried her extended family won’t get that opportunity. “They did apply and they’re just stuck there. And my parents, especially my mom, is really sad, because that’s her sister that she grew up with. They’re really close. So, it’s really hard.”

The 5-4 ruling upheld a ban on travel from several majority Muslim countries. The justices in the majority said the ban was within the president’s authority over immigration and keeping the nation safe.

The dissenters called the decision misguided and said history would not look kindly on it.

John Gordon, executive director of the ACLU of Minnesota, agreed.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has failed to do it’s job of protecting civil liberties,” he said. “I will just ask as a theologian did famously during World War II, ‘If you don’t stand up for other people, who is going to be there to stand up for you when they come for you?’”

The decision reverberated with the large Somali community in the Twin Cities.

“The Supreme Court’s decision really just magnified the fear and anxieties that many people in this community have had,” said Jaylani Hussein, the head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Minnesota. “There’s so many people that are confused. The majority of the people that we got calls from are citizens.”

He said he’s heard from people concerned about traveling outside the United States for fear they might not get back in.

The ban applies to travelers from five countries with overwhelmingly Muslim populations: Somalia, Iran, Libya, Syria and Yemen. It also blocks travelers from North Korea and some Venezuelan government officials.

Amir Malik, an attorney with CAIR-MN, said that may not be the end of it.

“Unfortunately, with this green hate light that’s been given to the Trump administration, we expect more countries to be added to the list,” he said shortly after the decision. “The truth is, today, hate won.”

But Jim Hagedorn, the Republican-endorsed candidate for Congress in southern Minnesota’s 1st District, sees a victory for national security. He said the policy does not reject the constitution’s protection of religious freedom.

“The responsibility of our government is to make sure that if we allow people to come into the United States and become permanent residents, that we have a high degree of certainty that they’re not going to harm our country, that they’re going to assimilate, that they’re not going to engage in welfare fraud and these other things,” he said. “And so that’s just being prudent.”

Another congressional candidate, DFL state Rep. Ilhan Omar, is running in the state’s 5th district, which includes Minneapolis. It’s a district that made history when it elected the first Muslim, Keith Ellison, to Congress.

“As someone who comes from one of these countries, one of these Muslim majority countries that is now banned from entering the United States, if this ban was in effect, I would not be able to enter this country,” Omar said.