Let’s start here: Donald Trump is an abomination. From his slander of Mexicans as rapists to the violence he incites and tolerates at his rallies to his latest outrages of suggesting a database and a ban on admission of Muslims to the United States, there is no public figure more odious or contemptible than Donald Trump. And he is a danger. He incites people to violence, encourages hate and discrimination, and generally contributes to the dumbing down of our culture. The condemnation of Donald Trump has been turned up to 11 since he announced that the U.S. should bar Muslims from entering the U.S.
While Donald Trump has taken hate to a new level, it should be understood that Trump and his ideas are along the same continuum as many practices well-enshrined in immigration law that discriminate and disproportionately affect Muslims. Immigration law and its policies have abused Muslim immigrants for well over a decade. The biggest difference is that Trump seems to want to do it explicitly as opposed to sub rosa.
After September 11, the Bush administration detained thousands of Muslims. Nearly all of these people had nothing to do with terrorism. However, their immigration paperwork was put under tremendous scrutiny to find minor and insignificant and ancient errors. The administration used any error it could find to lock up and seek the removal of Muslim immigrants. Hady Omar is an Egyptian who had the bad fortune to be flying on September 11, 2001. He was arrested when his plane landed in Little Rock, Arkansas. He spent several months detained while the government assured itself that he was not a terrorist. However, after his release, the government decided that his marriage to an American was a fraud. Removal proceedings were brought against him and he spent several years defending himself until he prevailed. I was in the courtroom representing Hady that day when the government admitted that there was nothing wrong with the marriage. The Judge then told Hady that he was grateful for his work in a nursing home and gave Hady his residence. Another client, M-N- was a resident of the U.S. and a citizen of Iran. His family suffered a lot more than most when the Ayatollah took over. MN lived a quiet life in the U.S. until a former girlfriend, out for revenge, sent a letter to immigration warning them of the terrorist plans of MN, which, of course, were absurd. The government began to investigate MN and quickly determined that he was not a terror threat. As I said, his family had suffered extraordinarily at the hands of Islamic fundamentalism. Yet, the government did not bring charges against the woman who sent them on a wild goose chase against an innocent man. Rather, the government decided that he spent too much time studying in France as a teenager and that he probably abandoned his residence a decade earlier. It initiated removal proceedings against him that took several years to end. MN is a US citizen now but has not forgotten the terror of men following him around and the agony of a lengthy legal process.
In addition, in those days, the government launched “Special Registration,” which was not all that different from what Trump proposed, when he suggested a database for Muslims. Now, special registration did not apply to “Muslims.” It just applied to the male citizens of 26 countries who were temporarily in the U.S. Students, doctors, lawyers, musicians and business owners. It should not surprise you to learn that those 26 countries were predominantly Muslim countries (and Cuba!!!). Special registration required the male nationals of 26 countries to report to immigration offices nationwide to be “registered.” Surprisingly, no terrorists were found. However, the government did find lots of people who, due to technical violations of visa status, could be placed into removal proceedings. One such individual was our client A-S-, a Pakistani citizen, who had applied for residence through an employer. Although he had a work permit based upon his application for residence, because his original visa expired, he was placed into removal proceedings. This was a sham. He would be able to transfer his residence application to the judge, but the government wanted to be able to say that, through its monumentally idiotic special registration program, it placed certain foreign nationals into removal proceedings. A-S- got his green card after several hearings, appeals, remands and fights. It took nearly a decade and contributed to the disaster that is the immigration court’s current backlog. The Special Registration program absorbed thousands of work hours for immigration employees, disrupted the lives of thousands of immigrants, their employers and their families and produced no benefit for the security of this nation. And, as in the dragnet post 9/11, Muslims bore the brunt of it.
The peculiar and significant problems faced by Muslims in our immigration system did not end in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 only to resume after Paris and San Bernardino. In the Patriot Act era, thousands of Muslims have had their cases wrongly denied, have been detained on flimsy evidence, and suffered through extraordinary delay in getting basic benefits approved. Two of our clients are perfect example. Abdul Hamid, a Pakistani citizen, spent fifteen months in detention in Lumpkin, Georgia because the immigration agency believed that the group that extorted him and threatened him with violence until he paid was the same group that was on the terror watch list. It took nearly two years and expert testimony to explain that the agency just got the group wrong. After reviewing the evidence against Mr. Hamid, the Judge ruled in his favor and granted him residence, freeing him from prison. But he is not the same man who went in. Likewise, Jamal Abusamhadameh had to go to Federal Court to get a fair hearing on his eligibility for citizenship. His case been denied at all levels of immigration based upon whether he had been a member of a certain Islamic groups. He had not and the government relied upon pretty shady evidence that he was. Four years and a 90 page decision from a federal judge established that the government “repeatedly characterized his statements” and “lacked credibility.” Not only did this cause untold stress to our client, but it also wound up costing them government tens of thousands of dollars when the court ordered the government to pay Mr. Abusamhadameh’s attorney fees.
So, yes, Trump is outrageous and deserves condemnation and opprobrium. Perhaps we can use this rodeo clown’s antics to draw attention to the larger point about how the immigration system and the security agencies (did not even get into all the Muslims kicked off flights for speaking Arabic) treat Muslims in the U.S. If you are only outraged by Trump’s idiotic bleating, you are late.