Demonstrators call for unity on immigration and other issues that will arise under the Trump administration

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Hundreds gather at Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas Tuesday to stand in support of immigrants and refugees. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

When other people travel, they pack their clothes. But refugees pack their dreams before they begin their new lives in America.

That’s the way a refugee from Iraq described her journey to the U.S. during a rally at Thanks-Giving Square on Monday, Jan. 30.

Immigration-CoupleFor Imam Omar Suleiman of the Valley Ranch Mosque, the protests that sprang up at DFW International Airport over President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the U.S. by Muslims were a sign of hope. “For two days, we humanized each other,” he said during the Thanks-Giving Square rally.

Suleiman described some of the discrimination he’s faced. People tell him to go back to where he’s from; for the record, he said, he’s from New Orleans. He loves his hometown, but prefers living here in Dallas. He also talked about having received a “loyalty test” that was sent to Muslim leaders across the state by Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann, R-Fredricksburg.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called Trump’s Muslim ban executive order a direct contravention to American values. He said nothing like this has happened in this country since 1939 when the U.S. turned back a ship carrying European Jews, many of whom were then killed in the Holocaust.

“We need to be doing more to welcome the stranger, not less,” Jenkins said. “The ban makes us less safe. It lets enemies recruit.”

And for the Rev. Neil Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope, the ban is just the tip of an iceberg full of hateful actions still to come from the Trump administration

Based on rumors swirling around the White House, many LGBT advocates had expected Trump to sign another executive order the day after the rally at Thanks-Giving Square, one which would have rescinded President Barack Obama’s executive order preventing federal employees from discriminating against those they’re serving. The Trump order would have allowed any federal employee to refuse to serve anyone based on deeply held religious beliefs.

Immigration-SignObama’s order was issued specifically to protect the LGBT community and Trump’s would have allowed discrimination against the LGBT community.

But Cazares-Thomas was heartened by repeated calls from Muslim speakers and other at Thanks-Giving Square to stand up for any group that became the target of this administration.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he said, echoing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King.

The immigration executive order that prompted the demonstrations says, “Aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order.” The countries weren’t listed in the order but bans people from Iraq, Sudan, Iran, Somalia, Libya and Yemen for 90 days and from Syria indefinitely.

No immigrants or refugees from those countries have committed any acts of terror on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. Countries from which the 9-11 terrorists and others who have carried out such attacks came from countries not included in Trump’s ban — all countries in which Trump has current and ongoing business interests.

Those with valid visas and already granted refugee status were held at airports across the country, including DFW Airport. The last passenger held at DFW Airport was a 70-year-old man with fractured hip. He was released Tuesday after an eight-hour delay. Others delayed included a five-year-old child, an elderly woman and an Iraqi who spent years working as a translator for the U.S. Army.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings personally welcomed the travelers who were detained and spoke about refugees who have entered the U.S.

“In fact, 800,000 refugees have been admitted to the U.S. since 9-11,” Rawling said. “None of them has committed an act of terrorism on U.S. soil.”

Mara Keisling, director of the National Center for Transgender Equality, said immigration is most definitely an issue of great importance for to the LGBT community, because there are lots of LGBT immigrants and refugees.

“In these seven countries, no LGBT people are safe,” Keisling said. “If they can do a religious test for refugees, what religious test will he put on LGBT people?”

Keisling worried that banning Muslims was just the first step in what would be a series of crackdowns. She could only speculate what the next step would be and when Trump’s discrimination would directed at LGBT people.

As Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, celebrated Muslim Day at the Capitol in Austin, he submitted a House resolution condemning the executive order because, he said, he is sworn to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States and of this state.”

He said he was submitting it to the Democratic and Republican caucuses and expected all 55 Democrats and enough Republicans to sign on to get a majority.

In his resolution, Anchia quotes Trump’s Dec. 15, 2015 speech promising “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” He then cites the Texas Constitution that guarantees “equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.”

But that highlights the problem for the LGBT community: Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included as protected categories and gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender men and women, gender non-conforming and non-binary people can be excluded and discriminated against.

If he gets 76 signatures on the resolution, Anchia said he’ll approach Speaker of the House Joe Straus about voting a waiver of rules to allow a vote on the resolution while it’s relevant rather than waiting until May when most such votes take place.

He said while no protests took place at Austin Bergstrom Airport because it doesn’t have flights from the Middle East, rallies to support immigrants were held in the state’s capital. He described the event as including a number of imams who spoke about patriotism and who thanked the LGBT community for its support.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 3, 2017.