Reaction to President Trump’s executive order targeting nationals of several predominantly Muslim nations who attempt to enter the United States exploded over the weekend in protests at airports, in courtrooms, and in homeland security bureaucracy as what is being called a “Muslim ban” has caused confusion for people leaving those nations and their families.
Citizens of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are banned from entering the U.S. for 90 days, according to Trump’s order, but the result has been detainments at airports, denial of permission to fly to U.S. destinations on some airlines, and threat of deportations — until an emergency stay was declared by a federal judge in Brooklyn, N.Y., temporarily halting those who had already arrived in America from being deported.
The political conundrum has angered members of Congress who vowed to take the issues to the legislative floors of the House and Senate. Rep. Yvette Clarke, a Democrat who represents New York’s 9th Congressional District, among the most diverse in the nation, and which has multiple families that could potentially be affected, spoke to EBONY.com Sunday night following a community forum on the issue.
EBONY.com: Your district is quite diverse but it also has a sizable Muslim constituency, what types of problems is this creating?
Rep. Yvette Clarke: We anticipate there will be a number of our constituents in transit that are unaware that this ban has occurred and who will be separated from their families, who will be returned back to hostile environments. Many of my constituents are fleeing war torn countries that are engaged in conflicts right now. I had to work very hard to bring in a family from Yemen that was caught at the point where their civil war broke out and they were right in the middle of it. This is something that many (Congressional) members are facing across the nation. Where our nation has its imprint, particularly in the Middle East, we have an obligation to do right by these individuals and they have demonstrated through the process they go through to get visas to the United States that they mean no harm to our nation and that they are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to come and start a new life here.
EBONY.com: Three of the seven nations on President Trump’s list are African nations. Is there a fear that could be extended to other countries on the continent?
Clarke: Absolutely. It could be extended to the Caribbean because many of the Caribbean nations have sizable Muslim populations. There’s no telling with someone as irrational as Donald Trump what he envisions and how far it could be expanded and how what he is saying is being interpreted by these federal agencies. So we have to get to the bottom of it quickly, and really make sure that this whole thing is rolled back and that the proper legislation is in place to make sure this never happens again.
EBONY.com: Speaking of the Caribbean, much of the population of your district is of West Indian heritage. Do many of them believe similar actions could be taken against them?
Clarke: They are very fearful of it. There are nations like Guyana. There are nations like Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica, their motto is “out of many, one people” and that’s because many of their people are of Lebanese descent, Syrian descent, Asian descent, Pakistani descent, Bangladeshi descent, it’s a blend. So even if you were to go by surnames, there is a possibility of this expanding beyond the nations that we’re talking about. The world is intertwined and it can have an impact right here in the Western Hemisphere.
EBONY.com: Have you spoken to your colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus about this? What are they saying?
Clarke: I have been on an e-mail thread with about 12 members of the CBC, all of whom have been at their local airports protesting, many of whom are ready to hit the floor on Monday to express their disgust and dismay with what is taking place. So I think you’re going to see a lot of action coming out of the Congressional Black Caucus.
EBONY.com: Do you believe there will be an investigation into President Trump’s business dealings in Middle Eastern nations that have not fallen under the ban?
Clarke: I think there are going to be investigations into the massive conflicts of interest that Donald Trump has and that will include what was part of his thinking in terms of the selection of these nations and the nations that were so obviously missing from this list and whether he does in fact have any personal financial holdings in those territories.