The nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization said an executive order restricting immigration from a number of Middle Eastern and African countries has nothing to do with national security and is strictly an “Islamophobic” proposal.
The Council on American-Islamic-Relations (CAIR) joined leaders of other civil rights and faith-based groups to condemn President Donald Trump's proposals to stem the flow of immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries, block federal funds from sanctuary cities and start construction of a wall on the southern border.
"Make no mistake – whatever language is used in President Trump's executive orders on refugees, immigration and visa programs – Muslims are the sole targets of these orders," CAIR said. "These orders are a disturbing confirmation of Islamophobic and un-American policy proposals made during the presidential election campaign.
CAIR leaders said the suspension of refugee programs will send a dangerous message and will not do much to enhance national security or public safety.
Nihad Awad, CAIR's national executive director, noted refugees often go through multiple levels of security screening by several federal agencies. The vetting process currently takes almost two years, he said.
“What do we need more? I believe it has nothing with national security. It has a lot to do with prejudice and with campaign slogans that are now becoming policies,” he said.
Awad also called the proposed border wall with Mexico a “multi-billion dollar monument to racism.”
“As Americans we do not ban, register or deport people based on how they pray or the color of their skin,” Rabiah Ahmed, spokesperson for the Muslim Public Affairs Council said. She believes “fear-mongering” policies weaken U.S. leadership.
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump spoke to employees at the Department of Homeland Security after signing two executive orders in keeping with campaign promises to boost border security and crack down on immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
"We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States," Trump said.
On Thursday, the president is expected to suspend the issuance of U.S. visas in countries where adequate screening cannot occur and suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry for citizens of countries of particular concern for 30 days.
That could include Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
Federal law gives Trump broad authority to suspend immigration for groups of people whose entry is deemed "detrimental to U.S. interests." He is expected to specifically suspend any immigration, including for refugees, from Syria.
CAIR asked for members of other faiths to stand with Muslim community groups to protest the proposed action.
“Never before in our country’s history have we purposely, as a matter of policy, imposed a ban on immigrants or refugees on the basis of religion or imposed a religious litmus test on those coming to this nation,” Awad said.
“We cannot allow religious bigotry to affect our willingness and ability to welcome those fleeing violence and persecution,” he said.
The president proposes to reduce the maximum number of refugees by more than half, to 50,000, for the budget year ending in September. Trump has the authority to set the limit of how many refugees can be admitted annually. He can also suspend refugee processing, as was done by former President George W. Bush in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks
Steve Martin of the National Council of Churches said a state-sanctioned policy of banning refugees based on faith is an unbelievable development.
“We explicitly condemn any attempts to place a religious test upon refugees attempting to build their new lives in the United States,” Martin said.
CAIR said any restrictions would not only impact U.S. citizens whose families may be visiting or seeking medical care but will also create an uncaring image of the U.S. with other nations.
Reported hate crimes against Muslims in the U.S. rose in 2015 to their highest levels since those seen in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, according to FBI statistics released in November.
In 2015, there were 257 incidents of anti-Muslim bias compared to 154 incidents the prior year, an increase of 67 percent.
San Diego has been the launching point for the resettlement of 78,000 refugees, according to the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of Muslims living in San Diego jumped 179 percent according to the Association of Religion Data Archives.