Tuesday, 20 August 2019

guide star facebook twitter youtube instagram subscribe

N News

Panhandle Muslims face fallout, confusion

By ERYN DION, For News Herald, On 31 January 2017, Read Original
Star InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar InactiveStar Inactive
 

PANAMA CITY - As the ripples from President Donald Trump's immigration-related executive order spread throughout the weekend, the Muslim community in the Florida Panhandle is dealing with the confusion and fallout.

The order, issued Friday, bars citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States for at least the next 90 days. The countries included in the ban are Syria, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Sudan. The order also suspends the country's refugee resettlement program for the next 120 days.

Left in the lurch are many U.S. citizens who have dual-citizenship with one of these seven countries, and green-card holders, who are legal permanent residents. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Florida Regional Coordinator Hiba Rahim said because the order was issued so suddenly, there's little clarity on how these groups will be affected.

"There was a lot of uncertainty in the Panhandle and in the community," Rahim said.

Rahim said they've been directing people with questions to their immigration attorneys, but legal challenges at the federal and state level make it difficult to give solid advice. Mostly, she said, they're advising anyone who can stay in the country for the next 90 days to do so.

But beyond the order is the sentiment behind it, one that Rahim said does not support the "fundamental values of the Constitution." She said American Muslims are very concerned for their country's safety and will support measures to protect it, but "stigmatizing" refugees who are fleeing violence and who share a common enemy with the U.S. is not that measure.

"This is not a Muslim issue - this is an American issue," Rahim said. "Banning refugees is un-American."

Proponents of the ban said the country is in need of a more thorough vetting system for refugees and visa holders, though the refugee resettlement process takes upward of two years and includes multiple background checks and interviews with State Department and Homeland Security officials.

 
 

In a statement Monday, U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn said it was "common sense" to enact a temporary pause on immigration from countries previously identified by the Obama administration for their links to terrorist recruitment activities.

"But let's be clear that the threat is real, and the terrorists want to use our immigration and refugee laws as a Trojan horse to come here and kill Americans," the Panama City Republican said in the statement. "This measure is a first step in strengthening our vetting system so the terrorists from these nations cannot use our laws against us."

Rahim was taken aback by Dunn's statement.

"I would say that I'm very disappointed to hear Dr. Dunn's statement," she said. "It perpetuates this culture of fear-mongering that's baseless and inaccurate."

There has not been a single fatality in a terror attack on U.S. soil caused by anyone from the seven countries included in the ban in the last 40 years, according to the libertarian CATO Institute, and refugees from those countries accounted for 36,722 of the 85,000 refugees admitted to the U.S. last year, based on numbers provided by the Pew Research Center and the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Rahim said the country needs to move beyond "feeding people fear" and instead presenting fact on which they can use to base their decisions.

"This islamophobic rhetoric is harmful to our nation on many levels," she said. "It divides us at a time that it is crucial to us to be united."

Looking ahead, Rahim and CAIR Florida's Northwest office are looking to build alliances with other local groups and members of the community looking to offer support. 

On Monday, CAIR-Florida announced it was filing a federal lawsuit challenging the ban, joining Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, who on Monday filed the first state lawsuit against the ban.