ACLU of Georgia

Op-ed: Trump’s travel ban violates the rights of Georgians

By Andrea Young , Executive DirectorFebruary 6, 2017


At the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, our job is to defend the rights guaranteed to all Georgians by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press and the right to due process and equal protection under the law. Protecting the rights enshrined in our Constitution and safeguarding its limitations on government power requires constant vigilance.

Freedom won’t defend itself. It’s up to us.

This solemn obligation to uphold the rule of law is why the ACLU is fighting back against Trump’s unconstitutional executive order on refugees. The order suspended resettlement of Syrian refugees indefinitely, suspended all other refugee resettlement for 120 days, and banned the entry of nationals from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen for 90 days — while giving preferential treatment to refugees identified with “minority religions” in their home countries.

By selectively banning refugees who practice a certain religion — Islam — and not others, Trump’s order violates one of the Constitution’s most important limitations on government power. The First Amendment’s Establishment Clause prohibits the government from “making law respecting an establishment of religion” or favoring one religion over another. Trump may have found it convenient to ignore this fact during the campaign when he pledged to ban the admission of all Muslims. 

But now Trump has taken an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. He is not above the law, and five courts (and counting) have agreed — all issuing defeats for Trump.

Trump has tried to disguise this discrimination as an effort to protect Americans from terrorism. But refugees already undergo a rigorous vetting process that can take up to 18 to 24 months. There have also been attempts to compare Trump’s order to actions by President Barack Obama related to the processing of refugee requests from Iraq in 2011. PolitiFact has rated that claim “mostly false.”

As the ACLU carries out its legal imperative to challenge this order in court, we also have a moral imperative as Americans to consider the human cost of these actions and the message they send about our values. We are a nation of immigrants. And when we detain an interpreter who risked his life to help our soldiers in Iraq, when we turn away children whose parents have been murdered and families whose entire communities have been destroyed, how do we defend our moral courage and leadership in the world?

I would ask all Georgians to join us as we fight to defend our Constitution and the values that make our country great.