Recent executive actions by President Donald Trump’s administration prompted an “Executive Order Teach-In” event featuring Rana Elmir, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. At the talk Elmir discussed the rights of citizens, green-card holders and visa holders in light of an executive order signed last Friday.
The University of Michigan Muslim Graduate Student Association and Arab and Muslim American Studies Department sponsored the event, which was hosted by graduate students Reem Kashlan and Lilah Khoka, filled a classroom in Angell Hall and two overflow rooms.
Elmir examined the executive order signed on Jan. 27, titled “Protesting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” which most notably blocks entry of immigrants and nonimmigrants from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia for 90 days — with the possibility of renewal — and Syria indefinitely.
The executive order also suspends the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program, which works to find and resettle immigrants in the United States, for 120 days.
Elmir said she believes this executive order is specifically a Muslim ban, which is demonstrated by the specifics of the executive order.
“Anti-Muslim discrimination has been a part of American history for as long as Muslims have been in this country,” Elmir said. “And you move forward and put in policies and practices that show that you devalue this community. Well that’s what you have now, with this Muslim ban.”
LSA senior Tamanna Ahad, a Muslim affected personally by the executive order, hopes the event can help nurture conversation and knowledge regarding immigration.
“I come from a community that’s a large immigrant population with a large Yemeni population,” Ahad said. “It’s really important to get to know more about this and get a dialogue about the things that are happening.”
Elmir discussed the vagueness of the executive order and how it was clarified in the following days by the Trump administration and several lawsuits. It was unclear how green-card holders, visa holders and legal and permanent residents would be affected.
“As of yesterday, they put out a memo clarifying the legal, permanent resident issue,” Elmir said. “And what it says here is that the executive order does not apply to legal, permanent residents, does not apply to green card holders.”
Elmir spoke to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the government agency responsible for carrying out Trump’s executive order, about how it exercises its role in airports. CBP often takes travelers to secondary inspection for further examination to determine their eligibility to enter the country.
“Their job is to determine whether non-U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents have the authority, the right, to enter the country,” Elmir said. “CBP does not have the authority to take you to the secondary inspection based on your religion, your race, your national origin, your gender, ethnicity or political beliefs.”
The speakers also offered advice to people directly affected by the executive order, and with what legal status someone should or shouldn’t travel. Elmir highlighted a person’s rights while in secondary inspection, focusing on their rights when CBP asks to inspect their computers and cell phones.
“Whether you have the right to decline your technology to a CBP officer after they’ve asked for it … it’s a contested legal issue,” Elmir said. “Some courts have said they have this right, some courts have said they don’t have this right.”
Public Health student Sami Shalabi is both directly and indirectly affected by the ban.
“I think it’s important for us to know our rights, see how we can help each other out,” Shalabi said. “See when we’re at the airport or when someone’s in crisis, what are different options that we have.”
Elmir concluded by answering questions and addressing concerns from the audience, including discussing specific cases of what somebody with a student visa should do and what actions people should take.
“Our work should be to dismantle this ban, not to add more countries,” Elmir said. “Criminalizing Saudi people by suggesting that they should be on this travel ban is incredibly counterproductive and counterintuitive to our movement to dismantle the ban as a whole.”