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APABA-DC’s Statement on the President’s January 27, 2017 Executive Order Concerning Immigration

20 Feb 2017 3:28 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

For Immediate Release

The Asian Pacific American Bar Association of the Greater Washington, DC Area (APABA-DC) is deeply troubled by President Donald Trump’s January 27, 2017 executive order (13769) regarding immigration, which arbitrarily blocked nationals from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States, indefinitely halted the admission of Syrian refugees, temporarily barred the admission of refugees from all countries, and prioritized non-Muslim refugees.  

As a non-partisan organization representing the interests of Asian Pacific American attorneys in the Washington, DC area, we represent a diversity of backgrounds and religious faiths, including individuals and families who have come to this country as refugees and immigrants.  Our communities have historically viewed the United States as enabling the pursuit of a better life and as a beacon of hope for those fleeing humanitarian crises.  Immigrants make enormous contributions to our country and add to the richness of our culture.  

Experience from our communities has taught us that blanket discriminatory policies do not achieve the goals of national security and public safety.  We have firsthand experience with the harmful legacy of exclusionary immigration laws and national security programs that targeted our communities on the basis of ethnicity, country of origin, and religion.  The series of laws excluding persons of Chinese descent from immigration and naturalization between 1875 and 1943, the Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924 prohibiting the admission of individuals from Asia, and the forced incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, all expressly discriminated against communities we represent.  Today, these laws and programs are considered shameful mistakes.  

Refugees, who are persons fleeing their home countries due to persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or other factors,[1] already face a rigorous vetting process that can take up to two years and includes multiple layers of background checks, fingerprint screenings, and interviews with the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.[2]  Despite this vetting, President Trump’s executive order targets refugees on the basis that they pose a serious risk to the safety and security of the United States.  Further, the executive order singles out nationals—immigrants, non-immigrant visaholders, and legal permanent residents alike—of the predominantly Muslim countries of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen, citing the same rationale.  However, the Administration has provided no evidence about the risks posed by these individuals.[3]      

This lack of evidence makes the immigration ban a direct parallel to the unjustified incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.  That event, too, was based on an executive order, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942.  When Fred Korematsu, a Japanese American who had been convicted of violating the order, challenged the order in the Supreme Court, the Court upheld the order on the basis that military authorities had determined that internment was necessary to prevent “the gravest imminent danger to the public safety,” including espionage and sabotage.[4]  It was not until four decades later that Korematsu’s conviction was nullified because evidence had surfaced showing that the government’s true justification for internment was racial prejudice and fear rather than evidence of disloyalty by Japanese Americans.[5]

Based on the experience of our communities, APABA-DC is deeply wary of immigration policies that discriminate on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, or religion, and policies predicated on prejudice and fear.  By embodying these policies, President Trump’s executive order risks intensifying intolerance against communities integral to our identity as a diverse American nation.   

For these reasons, APABA-DC joins the chorus of institutions[6] and elected officials from both parties[7] who have expressed concern about the executive order.  APABA-DC commends the attorneys who provided pro bono aid to travelers at Dulles International Airport, and is deeply troubled by reports that detained travelers were not allowed to meet with counsel, in violation of a court order permitting such access.  APABA-DC stands ready to serve as a resource and facilitator of pro bono efforts through its programming and membership.  APABA-DC reaffirms its solidarity with communities in the greater Washington, DC area who oppose anti-Muslim xenophobia and celebrate a diverse America.[8]   

The views expressed in this statement do not necessarily reflect the views of each member or officer of APABA-DC, its Advisory Board, or the general membership.

[1] Immigration and Nationality Act §101(a)(42).

[2] Refugees Entering the U.S. Already Face a Rigorous Vetting Process, New York Times (Jan. 29, 2017).

[3] State of Washington v. Trump, No. 17-35105, slip. op. at 26-27 (9th Cir. Feb. 9, 2017) (per curiam).

[4] Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 218 (1944).

[5] See Korematsu v. United States, 584 F. Supp. 1406, 1420 (N.D. Cal. 1984) (vacating Korematsu’s conviction due to “substantial support in the record that the government deliberately omitted relevant information and provided misleading information in papers before the [Supreme] Court. The information was critical to the Court's determination” of military necessity).

[6] See, e.g., American Bar Association, Resolution 10C (Feb. 6, 2017); Letter from Sally Yates, Acting Attorney General, Department of Justice (Jan. 30, 2017).  Several federal courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, and the Western District of Washington have blocked part or all of the order.

[7] As of January 30, 2017, 24 Republican Members of Congress publicly opposed the executive order, 38 more expressed reservations, and most Democrats have criticized it.

[8] APABA-DC, Organizational Statement Against Anti-Muslim Hate, Bigotry, and Xenophobia (Feb. 2, 2016).

APABA-DC is an affiliate of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association.


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