The Muslim Ban is Dead, but Trump v. Hawaii Lives On

| Reproaction

By: Shireen Shakouri

Within the first few hours of the Biden administration, a series of executive orders were signed overturning some of the most egregious policies of the Trump years. [1] We saw construction of the border wall halted, preservation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and reversal of the travel ban that blocked entry from citizens of 13 mostly Muslim-majority countries into the U.S., among other orders.

I’ve written about the impacts of the Muslim ban on communities like mine elsewhere, [2, 3] but not specifically from a reproductive rights and justice lens. And while many in the progressive and reproductive movement communities are feeling a cocktail of emotions and fighting a variety of new fires as we ease into the new administration, I think it’s valuable to step back and acknowledge the importance of this ban – and its aftermath – on the issues our movement holds dearly.

For one: the Muslim ban was a family separation policy, pure and simple. It was the same racist, hateful ideology that birthed family separation in detention centers at the border and tried to disband DACA. According to The Brennan Center:

“Imagine being married or engaged to someone and not being able to live with them because your government, without any proof, has claimed that letting people into the United States from your partner’s country would harm national security. That’s the situation for at least 3,882 people, according to the State Department. The ban has also kept at least 1,545 children from their American parents and 3,460 parents from their American sons and daughters.” [4]

Some families are still ‘in limbo,’ facing uncertain futures. [5] And that doesn’t even account for those who didn’t even apply for visas, knowing the tremendous effort would likely be fruitless, as has been the case for my family members abroad.

Beyond that is the ever-more devastating refugee crisis that only promises to worsen with the combination of environmental, economic, and conflict factors that have been long-running but worsened by the Trump administration and its brethren of worldwide right-wing authoritarians. [6]

Our humanitarian responsibility to these people isn’t over with the flick of a pen, as McCormick writes, “Truly living up to our responsibilities and values would mean significantly scaling up refugee resettlement and rallying the 40 or so richest countries in the world to do the same — so that a fourth and fifth generation of refugees are not born in places like Dadaab.” [6] The reproductive justice movement must continue to see issues of refugee and asylee resettlement, as well as large-scale immigration reform, as our issues, too.

And while it is encouraging that Biden revoked the Muslim ban, and some lives will be spared or improved, the Supreme Court that allowed the ban to continue under the Trump administration very much remains. Now with a conservative majority solidified even further than what existed when Trump v. Hawaii was decided in 2018, we can expect even more cases that uphold a double standard for the elevation of Christianity above other religions. Conservatives in the courts and halls of Congress, emboldened by Trump and his allies in the ‘pro-life’ movement, are making progress in their goals to solidify Christian supremacy as law in this country, not just de facto as it has been.

Just weeks before the court issued its decision on the Muslim ban, ignoring the facts of case and their duty to the Constitution, they decided in favor of a baker who used his Christianity as an excuse to discriminate against gay couples getting married in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. While the details of the cases differ greatly, it’s plain to see that a Muslim baker wouldn’t get such treatment from the court, nor would a president be allowed to block entrance from Christian-majority nations to our country, after repeatedly villainizing the religion’s adherence in public statements.

And just a few weeks ago, we saw another example of the court’s bias towards Christianity: mercifully, an execution order was stayed because the accused was being denied the presence of his pastor. [7] The details of this man’s death penalty order are abhorrent – as is all state-sanctioned violence – and any moral society would not require anyone, let alone mentally handicapped people, jump through hoops to avoid execution by the state. But not long ago, the court sided with the same state, Alabama, in allowing the continuation of an execution order for a man who requested his Imam’s presence at his death. [8] Again, the cases are different, but the constitutional arguments largely aren’t: The government and courts are much more comfortable denying Muslims their constitutional rights than Christians, and furthermore, protecting the supposed rights of Christians to behave in ways that infringe upon the rights and dignity of others.

I wrote previously about how the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the court was likely the final blow to the separation of church and state as we knew it in this country. This reality has been a long time coming, and the aftermath will be a spiraling tumble after the initial knockout. This isn’t to say there’s nothing we can do to hold the line, or even advance it, but we can only do so when we act like these issues impact our day-to-day struggle as reproductive justice activists, because they absolutely do.


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