Hours after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Tuesday, Muslim community leaders, immigration attorneys and advocates from around the Twin Cities decried the decision, saying they fear it will prompt broader immigration restrictions and amplify discrimination against Minnesota’s growing Muslim community.
In a news conference at the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Minneapolis office, a parade of speakers blasted the 5-4 ruling upholding the restriction on travel from several mostly Muslim countries, comparing it to historic Supreme Court rulings that upheld legalized racial discrimination, the denial of citizenship based on race, and the internment of Japanese-Americans. They vowed to turn out in force to elect like-minded candidates in the November midterm election.
“Previously, America had a race-based immigration system, and this decision formally [brings] discrimination back into our system,” said Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, adding that “America is going through a reckoning right now as we battle with racism and bigotry fully in the open.”
Tuesday night, Hussein and several hundred people gathered outside the U.S. Courthouse and later marched around downtown Minneapolis to protest the decision.
“This fight isn’t over,” he said during the protest.
But others who have championed Trump’s immigration proposals as important strategies to combat terrorism applauded the decision.
State Sen. Karin Housley of St. Marys Point, the Republican-endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate seat held by Tina Smith, said in a statement that the ruling was a “victory for the rule of law and the Constitution.” She also noted that the ruling highlighted the importance of the upcoming election, because the Senate will likely weigh in on nominations to the high court in the near future.
“At this critical juncture in our nation’s history, adherence to our Constitution has never been more important; our freedoms, our safety and our security as a nation depends on it,” she said.
“I think the Supreme Court got it right,” said David Hann, a former state senator from Eden Prairie.
“I don’t know if you can draw a direct connection” between policy changes and national safety, he added. “I think, overall, the concept that you should be doing everything you can to prevent terrorist attacks in this country is a good thing.”
Immigration attorneys said the decision makes final a policy they’ve been working under since December, when the Supreme Court allowed the ban to go into effect while legal challenges against it were pending. They said most families trying to reunite with relatives from the affected countries — Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen — will encounter significant delays and obstacles, and they may be unlikely to see their family members in the United States.
The ruling is particularly significant in Minnesota, where tens of thousands of residents have Somali heritage.
Inside an eatery at the Karmel Mall, a hub for Somali-owned businesses in south Minneapolis, customers catching a World Cup soccer match on TV were also watching headlines about the Supreme Court ruling scroll across the screen.
Ali Abdiazis, a construction worker who came to Minneapolis from Somalia with his family as a toddler in the early 1990s, said the court’s ruling “will only add to the religious profiling of people from countries like Somalia.”
“We know there are some bad people in these countries,” he said of the nations included in the ban. “But aren’t there any bad people in the West?”
Restaurant owner Abdi Aziz called Tuesday’s decision “brutal” but said he wasn’t surprised by the court’s ruling. He said he was hopeful the ban would not last long.
“We know Trump is not America,” he said. “This was and will continue to be a great country because of the people here who do not believe in what the president says or does.”
John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, said people from the affected countries can apply for a waiver to get into the United States, but only a handful of people have been successful in getting one in the state. He said the waiver process is difficult to navigate, and he questioned if it was crafted to prevent people from using it to get into the country.
“The process itself is at best opaque, and at worst intentionally misleading,” he said.
Several elected officials and candidates for office reacted to the court ruling, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim to serve in Congress and a DFL candidate for Minnesota attorney general. He said the ban legalizes discrimination “behind a thin veneer of national security.”
State. Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minneapolis, the first Somali-American elected to the Minnesota Legislature, said she was hurt by the ruling, which she said demonstrated that “if you pretend your concerns are for national security and not an irrational fear of the other, you can create hate-filled policy.”
DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in a statement said he was “appalled, but not surprised” by the court’s decision, saying it amounted to a departure from “bedrock principles” that should prohibit discrimination based on religion.
Jim Hagedorn, the GOP’s endorsed candidate for Minnesota’s First Congressional District, said he supported the court’s decision and other efforts to restrict immigration.
“The United States and the state of Minnesota have assimilation, terrorism and welfare problems associated with those who migrate from countries that hate America,” he said in a statement.
Kim Crockett, a senior policy fellow and general counsel at the Center of the American Experiment, said she and others at the Golden Valley-based conservative policy organization were surprised the court’s vote was not unanimous. She said the decision highlights the point that people who are not U.S. citizens do not share the same array of rights provided to those with legal citizenship.
“This case should bring some clarity, though we’re disappointed the court didn’t find a way to reach 9-0,” she said.