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LAPA public forum discusses Trump immigration ban

The University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs hosted a public forum covering the interpretation and ramifications of executive orders enacted by President Donald Trump Feb. 21. Among the speakers present were LAPA Fellow and visiting scholar from UC Berkeley Professor Kathryn Abrams, Edward S. Sanford’s Professor Amaney Jamal, the Wilson School’s Professor Robert Keohane, and University Muslim Life Coordinator Sohaib Sultan. LAPA Fellow Professor of Politics Paul Frymer moderated the discussion.

Trump’s recent ban on immigrants from Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, as well as his stated intentions to deport undocumented immigrants, were the two core focuses of the discussion.

Sultan opened up the discussion, arguing that much of Trump’s policy is centered around the population’s fear.

“Islam hates us,” he claimed, is the primary message being put out to American citizens by the current administration. Sultan noted that, ever since Trump was inaugurated, there have been an increasing number of cases of the immigration ban being misapplied, with Muslim Americans facing extra security checks at airport security.

Jamal, on the other hand, argued that, while she believes Trump’s actions to be reprehensible, the current course of things will, in the end, prove fruitful.

“[This] is the best thing that’s happened to the Muslim community since 9/11,” she said, arguing that issues of discrimination against Muslims only enter the public eye when the discrimination is at its worst.

A topic of debate at the forum was how the immigration ban should be addressed. Jamal and Sultan stood adamant that it should be regarded as a “Muslim ban,” as non-Muslim members of the countries listed were exempted under the executive order.

However, Keohane warned that it would be careless to describe it as such, noting that most Muslims are not affected, barring improper application of the order by immigration officials. He noted that the ban does not cover countries such as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Pakistan, which have large Muslim populations. Keohane agreed that it was indeed discriminatory, but urged for the rhetoric used to be clear and accurate.

For Keohane, the most pressing issue that Trump raises is his attitude towards dissenters. The fact that Trump’s administration argued that the executive orders were “unreviewable,” he argued, was of great concern. He notes that there is no precedent for this, and that it is worrying that the current president believes himself to be capable of “[…] power on or off the constitution at will.”

Sultan regarded that 57 University students, primarily of Iranian origin, have found themselves to be directly affected by the recent immigration ban. Noting this issue, the panel advised that all students to be aware of their legal rights, whether or not each is a US citizen. They stressed that, given the unpredictability of current administration, each student should know what the law guarantees himself or herself, and prepare for issues that may arise.

Additionally, Jamal noted that a ban on the Islamic Brotherhood, a moderate Islamic political party, has been proposed by Texas Senator Ted Cruz ‘92. Jamal explained that the current wording of the ban could prove to be problematic, in that many Muslim life organizations, including college religious groups, could come under fire. She noted that it is expected that Trump will address this issue sometime within the coming weeks.

The lecture, entitled "Trump and the Constitution: the Rights of Immigrants and Refugees,"  took place place in Robertson Hall at 4:30 p.m. It was co-sponsored by Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice.