How Immigrants and Refugees Can Protect Their Rights During Trump’s Muslim Ban

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Teen Vogue – By Aura Bogado

Yesterday (January 28), Customs and Border Enforcement agents at U.S. airports began detaining refugee green card holders born in the seven countries referenced in President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. The unprecedented action is facing backlash, especially since it’s not yet clear what repercussions will follow. At least one of the refugees held at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York has already been released. According to Michael Wishnie, a Yale Law school professor who is also representing some of those detained at JFK, at least 11 others remain in detention at the airport.

This didn’t come out of the blue. After just one week in office, Trump is making good on his toxic campaign promises. As a frontrunner candidate in 2015, he made a call for a total ban on Muslims entering the United States. Trump’s executive order targets refugees from seven countries – Syria, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – where Muslims make up between 93 to 99 percent of the population. The executive order is expected to negatively effect about half a million people. And it doesn’t stop there. After 30 days, the designated countries on Trump’s list could expand to include refugees from other countries beyond the initial seven.

What’s a refugee to do (or not do) in times like these? And what are the fundamental rights and protections that refugees still hold, no matter who’s in office? We asked some experts to find out.

Remember that refugees have rights under international law.

There are several internationally recognized basic human rights that protect refugees – and that doesn’t change just because Trump is in office. “The United States has an obligation to not return refugees to places where their lives or freedoms would be threatened on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, and membership in a particular social group under various UN conventions,” says Prerna Lal, an attorney at the UC Berkeley Undocumented Students Program. Lal points out that the 1951 Refugee Convention also states that host countries afford the most favorable treatment to refugees, and that various international treaties also mandate that refugees be allowed freedom of movement within the host country.

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