COLUMN: Campaigns drown out civil rights champions

COLUMN: Campaigns drown out civil rights champions

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Political debates are often reduced to brief soundbytes, stripping away deeper social, religious and moral connections.

Perhaps Iowans are conditioned to think in quick takes, given the steady stream of political ads wrought by our first-in-the-nation presidential caucus status.

Buzzwords and campaign talking points can drown out voices of those who champion civil rights of people from underrepresented cultural, ethnic and religious groups. The result is that we may overlook the nuances of such issues and headlines and fail to see the complex social, religious and economic undertones.

This runs counter to the tendency to make thoughtful decisions when there’s a human impact.

One such issue that has been somewhat obscured is the expansion of U.S. travel restrictions, instituted days before the 2020 Iowa Caucuses.

Opponents say the restrictions unfairly target Muslims and people from developing nations.

In January 2017, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13769, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” In it, Trump instituted a 90-day hold on nationals entering the United States from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia. The order also imposed new immigration guidelines and restrictions and limited the number of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States.

In March 2017, Trump replaced 13769 with Executive Order 13780, which carries the same title. The new order limited entry into the United States by foreign nationals of Venezuela, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and North Korea. Refugees lacking valid travel documents also are denied entry to the United States under the order.

Supporters refer to the measures as “the travel ban,” saying such actions protect U.S. citizens, communities and borders.

Meanwhile, opponents call the measures “the Muslim ban” and/or “the Africa ban.” They say the target is Islam and its adherents, especially people who hail from nations where Islam is the predominant religion, said Gadeir Abbas, senior litigation attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Trump further expanded the order on Jan. 31 to add nationals from Nigeria, Myanmar, Kyrgyzstan and Eritrea. The recent expansion also makes Sudanese and Tanzanian nationals ineligible for U.S. admission through the Diversity Lottery Program.

Effectively, the restrictions prevent Americans from bringing spouses and children to live with them in the United States, said Farida Chehata of CAIR-Los Angeles.

The result of “the Muslim ban” has been separation of families, because it prevents Americans from bringing their spouses and children to live with them in the United States,said Farida Chehata in a live Facebook discussion she hosted with Abbas earlier this week.

Chehata serves as immigrants’ rights managing attorney for CAIR-Los Angeles. She said “the Muslim ban” also deepens mistrust of Muslims and also creates economic strain for employers trying to recruit workers.

She has tried to help some people fight the restrictions through U.S. courts. In a 2019 editorial for the Los Angeles Daily News, Chehata wrote about the difficulties of Hasan, a Syrian-born client, and Sarah, his American wife.

“The ban doesn’t only discriminate; it also prevents hardworking people who could be huge contributors to the American economy from coming here,” she wrote. “(T)he ban doesn’t just hurt Muslim immigrants; it also impacts American citizens like Sarah.”

For in-depth information and statistics on U.S. immigration and related topics, check out The Center for Public Integrity’s “Immigration Decoded” series. You can access it at under the “Inequality, Opportunity and Poverty” tab.

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Karris Golden writes The Courier’s weekly faith and values column. Email her at


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