ACLU-Hawaii opinion piece: Travel ban – it’s poor policy and offensive

On Sunday, 2/12, the Star Advertiser ran a series of three opinion pieces about the recent executive orders on immigration and refugees, which have been rightly reversed by our courts. The ACLU of Hawaii submitted one of the pieces, alongside another pro-immigrant/pro-refugee piece and a pro-travel ban piece by a local legislator. These are behind the paywall (http://www.staradvertiser.com/2017/02/12/editorial/island-voices/travel-ban-its-poor-policy-and-offensive/), so here is the text of our opinion piece by Legal Director Mateo Caballero:
 
“Travel ban – It’s poor policy and offensive
 
We are a nation that has long welcomed immigrants and refugees, that aspires to treat people equally regardless of creed, color, background and birthplace. Religious liberty, due process and equal protection under the law are foundational commitments of our Constitution. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stands ready to fight for these commitments that define who we are as a people.
 
President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration and refugees, fraught with constitutional issues, are not just poor policy: they are offensive to America’s rich immigrant history and Hawaii’s aloha spirit.
 
These orders seek to divide us and spread fear: fear of outsiders, fear of refugees, fear of our values. We are told to turn our backs on the values of openness and inclusion that are our strength, beauty and identity. As mounting protests and lawsuits against the travel ban around the country demonstrate, our nationʻs inherent values are stronger than fear, and must remain so.
 
Hawaii is the most diverse state in the country. Continuous waves of immigrants and refugees have made the islands their home and contributed to its unique sense of place. We take special pride in honoring our diversity — and our unique history reflects a dedication to ensure and deepen fairness to all. Nationwide, we share a common commitment to treat each other equally regardless of how we worship (or not), how we look, and where we were born.
 
As the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and the recent dedication of the Honouliuli National Monument remind us, Hawaii’s people know first-hand the terrible consequences of judging people by their country of origin and not the content of their character: the shadow of internment hangs heavy as a grave injustice based on racism.
 
Even during the dark days of World War II, the people of Hawaii organized and resisted calls to treat all Japanese and Japanese-American residents as threats to the United States. Now we again must stand up for those being targeted by these executive orders based solely on their country of origin. Again, Hawaii and the nation are answering the call.
 
The ACLU has held every administration accountable over our nearly 100-year history, and our role is no different today. We promised to fight unconstitutional actions by this administration in court, and several legal actions challenging the constitutionality of the travel bans are underway, including local participation in a nationwide Freedom of Information Act request over Customs and Border Protection’s response to court orders blocking the travel ban.
 
Together with our many local allies, we will continue to fight. The state of Hawaii is to be commended for assertively standing up for the rights of immigrants and refugees by filing its own lawsuit as well.
 
Right now, in Hawaii, communities and groups are organizing to oppose President Trump’s unconstitutional campaign promises targeting immigrants, Muslims, women, human rights and the First Amendment. While the courts have so far been an effective check and balance on executive power, putting a stay on the travel ban, these victories are still fragile.
 
The ACLU is focused and determined for the long haul. We will continue reaching out to the communities targeted by the administration so that they know their rights and know that they are not alone, and ask others to organize and join us in this fight ultimately defining who we are as a community, a state and a nation.
 
Mateo Caballero is legal director of ACLU-Hawaii; the group is one in a 25-member local coalition of organizations protesting the travel ban.”
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