This post originally appeared on AddictingInfo.org.
A strange thing happened when Donald Trump announced his new plan to stop terrorism was to ban all Muslims, American citizens or not, from entering the country: his supporters didn’t bat an eye. Nothing that Trump said – and this is surely some sort of rock bottom even for him – made them recoil in horror. For many, banning Muslims was a refreshingly honest approach to the kind of bigotry more “moderate” Republicans only whispered at.
For the rest of the world, Trump’s comments represented the ultimate betrayal of America’s loftiest values: Tolerance, freedom of religion, and courage.
On MSNBC, a Harvard Law professor specializing in the Constitution pointed out another major flaw. The premise of Trump’s “Muslim ban” is patently illegal.
“I believe Trump’s unprecedented proposal would violate our Constitution,” said Dr. Laurence Tribe. He noted that Trump’s outrageous plan actually violates two Amendments, “both the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses and the equality dimension of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”
He also remarked that requiring all immigrants and visitors to America to be non-Muslim seems to fly in the face of America’s long-standing ban on administering any kind of “religious test” for immigrants. Trump wants to paint an entire religion as inherently suspect and cast them out of the country.
However, Tribe is only human so he couldn’t help but also feel that Trump’s plan was just monumentally stupid. He told MSNBC that a ban on Muslims would be “impossible to administer” and “stupidly play into the hands of extreme Islamic terrorists.”
It was a sentiment echoed by President Obama, when he urged Americans not to give into the uniquely hateful ideology of a guy like Trump. In an address from the Oval Office, Obama showed the perfect balance between condemning radical extremists and standing with innocent Muslims.
“It’s our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently. Because when we travel down that road, we lose. That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.
Muslim Americans are our friends, and our neighbors, our co-workers, our sports heroes. And, yes, they are our men and women in uniform who are willing to die in defense of our country. We have to remember that.”
Trump appears to be playing from ISIS’ playbook. His obsession with stereotypes and prejudice are doing far more harm than good. It’s also having a dangerous effect on his fanatical supporters. It’s probably no coincidence that as Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric has heated up, so too has hate crimes against Muslims. It’s an ugly feedback loop of hate, fear, and violence, and it’s getting worse.
It’s clear, however, that these are the kinds of things that Trump means when he says he wants to “Make America Great Again.” His prejudices recall a much more intolerant time in American history.
In the modern era, federal immigration law has generally cited religion to protect and welcome refugees facing religious discrimination by other countries – not to advance discrimination by the U.S. In 1980, for example, Congress passed an amendment to the Immigration and Nationality Act to protect some potential refugees facing “fear of persecution” on account of their “religion,” among other factors.
Earlier in the 20th Century, Congress did set immigration limits based on what are now considered suspect classes, such as excluding immigrants based on race or national origin. Congress repealed racial quotas in 1952, and eliminated quotas based on national origin, which had been in force since the 1920s, in 1965.
It’s the kind of exclusionary politics that play extremely well to put-upon white conservatives who feel they are becoming the irrelevant “silent majority” in a country that no longer panders exclusively to them. While most pundits and politicians expressed dismay over Trump’s plan, his poll numbers can only go up as what’s left of the Republican Party continues its race rightward to the further fringe it can find.
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