Describing the Trump administration’s second executive order on refugees and immigrants as unconstitutional and heartless, the leader of the ACLU of Indiana has vowed to fight.
“Freedom of religion is enshrined in our Constitution and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of how they look or how they pray,” said Jane Heneger, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. “…We’ll continue to fight this discriminatory ban in the courts, in the legislature and in the streets.”
The Indiana chapter of the ACLU was joined yesterday afternoon by leaders of Exodus Refugee Immigration, Inc. and the Muslim Alliance of Indiana to condemn another move by President Donald Trump to crack down on immigrants and refugees coming into the United States.
The second order, signed Monday, will take effect March 16. It imposes a 90-day ban on issuing visas to individuals from six majority-Muslim nations and halts the refugee program for 120 days. The initial ban resulted in thousands of visas being revoked, travelers being detained at airports and confusion over whether students or employees who traveled outside the United States would be allowed to return.
After the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the travel ban in February, the Trump administration worked on the ban announced Monday. Heneger said the just-signed executive order shows the federal government recognized the original order was legally indefensible.
“But even with this new executive order and the tweak that it made, it is still unconstitutional and it is still heartless,” Heneger said. “The only way to actually fix a Muslim ban is to not have a Muslim ban.”
Rima Shahid, executive director of Muslim Alliance of Indiana, echoed Heneger.
“Our hope would be that the multi-level judicial knockdown of the last Muslim ban would have enlightened the administration as to how these bans are strongly unconstitutional and un-American,” Shahid said. “We’re disappointed that that has not been the case.”
Even with successful court challenges, the disruption caused by the executive orders is landing hard blows to Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc.
Cole Varga, executive director of the nonprofit, explained that much of his agency’s funding comes from the federal government to help resettle the refugees when they first arrive and to provide some continuing support. Already the organization has had to cut 40 percent of its staff and curtail the services it offers to refugees.
In 2016, the Exodus helped resettle 947 individuals and was planning on helping to resettle 945 in 2017. The agency receives about 78 refugees each month but for March, it is anticipating the number of arrivals will be slashed to eight.
Last year the agency served 15 different nationalities and in the past six months, Exodus has resettled individuals primarily from Burma, Congo and Syria.
“Refugees are students, they’re parents, they’re families, they’re taxpayers,” Varga said. “They give back to the community and they’re part of what makes Indianapolis a great global city.”
Apart from the hit of the executive order, Exodus could suffer more if the Trump administration follows through on its intention to slash State Department funding by 37 percent.
“If the budget for refugee resettlement is further cut, that could put more at risk, not just for the refugees that would come here but also for the refugees that are already here in Indianapolis,” Varga said.
The ACLU’s central argument for the courts is that the new executive order discriminates on the basis of religion. Heneger said the fear is the ban could lead to racial profiling and other forms of discrimination.
“We’re not a country built on a religious litmus test,” she said. “Religious freedom and equality are fundamental American values.”