Rama Issa-Ibrahim, the executive director of the Arab American Association of New York (AAANY), was already in the midst of a crisis before the news broke Monday that the Supreme Court had announced a stay of the preliminary injunctions against Trump’s Muslim ban. The Supreme Court’s decision allows the administration to enforce the third, latest version of the travel ban that bars citizens of six majority-Muslim countries (plus North Korea and some Venezuelans) from entering the United States, as appeals wind their way through the 4th and 9th Circuit Courts.
A large number of Issa-Ibrahim’s clients are Muslim women from Yemen (on the ban’s list), she explained on a joint press call with the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and the New York chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). There is a devastating civil war raging in Yemen, and clients were so visibly shaken by reports of famine and the death of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh that her staff had “to bring in our social worker to de-escalate the situation, to process those feelings. Then just a few hours later, the Supreme Court decision [was announced.]”
It makes an already tragic situation worse, eliminating these and other Yemeni nationals’ ability to bring family members fleeing the conflict to the United States. Issa-Ibrahim—who is from Syria, another country on the list—doesn’t even know when she’ll next see her own father.
Camille Mackler, director of immigration legal policy at the New York Immigration Coalition, emphasized just how uncertain the results of the Supreme Court’s decision are nearly a day after their ruling. As of Monday evening, neither the Supreme Court nor the Department of Homeland Security offered any guidance to Customs and Border Patrol officials at airports or in consulates in the impacted countries. In response to the potential confusion, NYIC has reactivated the No Ban JFK email address and hotline, where anyone from or with family in Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia can call for legal advice.
Said Mackler, “This stay on the preliminary injunctions leaves many immigrants in limbo and terrified. Many people are planning on traveling during the holiday season and are scared to travel out of the country, not knowing whether or not they will be allowed back. While these injunctions only scratch the surface of the larger legal battle against the ban, we will resist this latest assault on our liberties, and prevail.”
The next legal steps include oral arguments in front of the 4th and 9th circuits on Wednesday and Friday of this week for both preliminary injunctions. Those courts will decide whether to uphold them or strike them down. If the Supreme Court upholds the injunctions, they will not go back into effect until either the Supreme Court refuses to take the issue on appeal or they grant the appeal request and make a final judgment in the case.
“This decision is nothing less than a dereliction of duty from our nation’s highest court,” said Albert Fox Cahn, legal director of the New York chapter of CAIR. “This ruling reminds us that we can’t simply rely on the Supreme Court to stop President Trump’s marginalization of Muslims and other minorities. It is incumbent on lawmakers at every level to take a stand against this bigoted ban. Let us be clear, the justices have not ruled on the merits of the ban, and this decision is far from the last word. The fight goes on, and we’ll do everything we can to oppose Muslim Ban 3.0.”
As the appeals continue, NYIC, AAANY and CAIR are taking their cases not only to the courts, but to the streets and the halls of Congress, drawing on their mass mobilization skills honed after the first Muslim ban to help fight this one. Murad Awawdeh, vice president of advocacy at the New York Immigration Coalition, emphasized that his organization was activated immediately after the first ban, drawing thousands of people to a protest at JFK Airport on the first day of the ban, 30,000 to Battery Park the following day and nearly 100,000 people participating in actions in the 14 days after.
“It is entirely un-American and unlawful to use the pretext of national security to discriminate against people based on race or religion,” Awawdeh said, and “nearly a year after we rallied at JFK and at Battery Park in response to the first attempted Muslim ban, we will continue to fight against Trump’s plan to turn bigotry into policy, while standing strong for human dignity.”
As of Tuesday morning’s call, Mackler and Awawdeh had not received reports of airport detentions, but said lawyers and advocates are standing by ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice. Non-lawyers in New York City can show their support at a rally against the ban scheduled for Thursday, December 7, at 6pm in Washington Square Park. CAIR chapters across the country are planning a variety of rallies and protests, which will be announced on their website and social media channels.
The No Ban JFK email is email@example.com and the hotline number is (844) 326-4940.
Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.