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Local advocates for immigrants slam SCOTUS travel ban ruling

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Several community organizations who serve local refugees and immigrants are uniting to denounce the Supreme Court decision upholding President Trump's travel ban from seven nations, including five featuring Muslim-majority populations.

They gathered inside the headquarters of Catholic Charities of Buffalo. They represented not only Catholic Charities but also the International Institute of Buffalo, Journey's End Refugee Services, New York Immigration Coalition, People United for Sustainable Housing, ACCESS of WNY, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Buffalo and Erie County, and the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York.

"We don't have an immigration crisis," stated Eva Hassett of the International Institute of Buffalo. "We have a hate crisis."

Several speakers were immigrants who shared their stories and their frustrations. Mohammed Abdullah, a native of Yemen, explained he works and then, with some of the money he saves, is able to go home every two years to visit family. He is trying to ultimately bring his wife, their child and now unborn child to America. 

His homeland, though, is one of the five Muslim-majority nation's on Trump's travel ban list.

"It's a burden on me. It's a burden on them," he said. "I just came back from overseas, spent about three months with them. That's all I could afford because I had to come back and work. But I just got a denial from the immigration office, so I have to start all over again."

Abdullah quoted the late John F. Kennedy on immigration: "Our attitude towards immigrants reflects our in the American ideal. We have always believe it possible for men and women to start from the bottom to rise as far as their talent and energy allow. Neither race nor place of birth should affect their chances."

He then stated that while people like to praise "great presidents and senators," the people do not follow in their footsteps. Abdullah was followed by Isaac Asumani and Kawiye Jumale, both of whom came to the U.S. after spending time in refugee camps in Africa. Asumani spent 20 years in a Tanzanian camp after fleeing violence in his native Democratic Republic of Congo, while Jumale and her family came to the U.S. from Somalia, by way of Kenya.

"Now to hear that people are being stranded and not enter a country where there's security, where there's refuge, a chance to start over and be better than what we previously had, it's a shame, it's a disappointment and it's a disgrace," Jumale said. 

Mohammed Albanna, with the Arab American Community Center for Economic and Social Services of Western New York, said this week's Supreme Court ruling is hardly the first time the panel sided on the wrong side of history. He pointed to several examples including the Dred Scott vs. Sandford decision, which ruled slaves living in free states did not have freedom nor could African-Americans ever become citizens. 

He also said today's immigrants are not looking for a handout and are capable and willing to support themselves, if given the chance. Albanna also took aim at the president's priorities, including his announcement of an upcoming meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

"Mr. Putin said that Russia had nothing to do with interference in 2016 and he believed him. Doesn't he believe us, that our families do not pose a threat to national security? He should believe us more than he should believe Putin," asked Albanna, noting he has been in the U.S. almost 50 years.

Speakers offered some hopeful comments, suggesting there is a chance to change this trend by voting in November's Congressional midterm elections. 

Speakers also denounced current policy separating children from adults attempting to enter the U.S. through the southern border, illegally but in many cases in search of asylum.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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