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Center for American Progress

Anti-Muslim Rhetoric Only Weakens the United States
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A protester holds a sign at San Francisco International Airport during a demonstration to denounce President Donald Trump's immigration executive order, January 2017. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
A protester holds a sign at San Francisco International Airport during a demonstration to denounce President Donald Trump's immigration executive order, January 2017. (AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

If the Trump administration’s previous executive order was a rushed, confusing, and illegal jumble of bad policy, why would anyone imagine its follow up would be an improvement? After all, as a candidate for the White House, Donald Trump made clear that his goal as president would be to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

So, when the White House issued a new and equally horrible executive order on Monday, it wasn’t a surprise that it was more of the same putrid policy that a federal court in Seattle blocked and an appeals court refused to overturn.

This revised executive order seeks to avoid legal challenge and widespread protests that followed the original order by removing provisions that allowed preferential status to so-called persecuted religious minorities, a carefully worded exemption that seemed to favor Christians over Muslims. It also exempts permanent residents and current visa holders, who were detained or turned away at airports under the previous order.

But the damning impact of the policy remains unchanged. The new order bars travelers from six predominately Muslim nations—Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen—dropping Iraq at the urging of State Department officials who argued that including the country adversely affected efforts with Iraqis assisting in the fight against the Islamic State. In addition, the new order continued to limit refugees from entering the United States.

All this amounts to bitter, old wine served up in a glossy new bottle. It still runs contrary to American values. True to President Trump’s campaign pledge, it advocates a policy of hatred, bigotry, and exclusion aimed at Muslims.

During last year’s presidential campaign, such rhetoric served to boost then-candidate Trump’s standing in the polls. As The New York Times pointed out, Trump first called for a Muslim ban, as his poll numbers slipped during the primaries:

Mr. Trump, who in September declared “I love the Muslims,” turned sharply against them after the Paris terrorist attacks, calling for a database to track Muslims in America and repeating discredited rumors that thousands of Muslims celebrated in New Jersey on 9/11. His poll numbers rose largely as a result, until a setback in Iowa on Monday morning. Hours later Mr. Trump called for the ban, fitting his pattern of making stunning comments when his lead in the Republican presidential field appears in jeopardy.

Worse, as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a top Trump supporter, made clear during a Fox News interview, Trump wanted a way to impose a Muslim ban “the right way to do it legally.”

To be sure, no less than Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top advisers, recently said the new Muslim ban is intended to be more palatable—but just as wrong and hateful—as the old ban. “And so these are mostly minor, technical differences,” Miller said during a town hall hosted last month by Fox News. “Fundamentally, you are still going to have the same, basic policy outcome for the country.”

The tragic reality of the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a Muslim ban is that it’s fool’s gold. It neither insures our nation’s safety nor promotes our interest at home and abroad. Contrary to White House arguments that a Muslim ban is needed for national security, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security examined Trump’s original executive order, twice, and both times its intelligence analysts failed to find sufficient evidence that nationals of the targeted Muslim countries posed terrorist threats to the United States.

Rather than pursuing a global, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim agenda policy that harms the United States’ reputation at home and abroad, the White House would be better served by recognizing the many contributions of immigrants to both our economy and our communities. Inventing sorry excuses for keeping them out only makes us weaker as a nation—not stronger.

Sam Fulwood III is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and Director of the CAP Leadership Institute. His work with the Center’s Progress 2050 project examines the impact of policies on the nation when there will be no clear racial or ethnic majority by the year 2050.

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Sam Fulwood III

Senior Fellow

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President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, January 12, 2016. (AP/Evan Vucci)